Seçil Alkış: If we’re sitting here a year from now, celebrating what a great year it’s been for you, what did you achieve?
Halil Vurucuoğlu: I have a lot of new plans for the next year. Though the material (paper) I’m working with is delicate, it offers many possibilities and I like to experiment and come up with new ways of utilizing it. I assume I will have completed the paintings for a project exhibition that I wanted to work on but have been postponing for a while. We celebrate the opening of this project show –accompanied with live music– comprising three paintings and installations. I also intend to work on a solo show in New York, which I think is the most important art center of the world. I start working on it, everything is going well, and if we can agree on the details, it will be possible to realize this show in 2015. The exhibition goes as planned, then I start filming music videos for the bands that I like: I make a music video for “Federaller”, a band comprising four beautiful people, and we watch it together.
S.A.: I’m sure you’ve had many beautiful things in your life; but when have you been most satisfied?
H.V.: I’ve had many moments of satisfaction, I don’t know which was the happiest of those. Life would be better without expectations, but they exist unfortunately. If you’re aware of your expectations and ready to be satisfied, then you’ll be happy. On the other hand, I’ve also had experiences I wasn’t satisfied or happy with.
S.A.: Are there things that you don’t like to do?
H.V.: Arguing; having to argue with someone. Speaking the same language but not being able to communicate; the moments when one can’t keep calm; I find these situations unacceptable. And postponing things, places, people or plans.
S.A.: We know that you had many solo and group exhibitions. Can you tell us about the project or accomplishment that you find the most important?
H.V.: Though I should accept that art fairs, shows and auctions abroad help a lot with my career, I’d like to talk about my project exhibition “Intoxication” that took place in the Elgiz Museum in 2010 – it was a special show for me. I had prepared its preliminary sketches four years ago, and had been waiting till I found the right time and space to realize it. Focusing on the adaptation problem the modern human has with the dilemma of city vs nature; the exhibition comprised light and sound installations in such a way that they pulled the viewer in – thus the works spread over three rooms were perceived like a single work consisting of paintings, light and sounds. In order to emphasize how the modern citizen can’t adapt himself to neither the city nor nature; and the disorientation and chaos he finds himself in; I wanted to name the exhibition “Intoxication”. It was good to see this project come alive after it had been waiting for so many years.
S.A.: You have a diary of drawings, which inspire many of your works, and sometimes they are transferred directly to your paintings. How do you define these diaries?
H.V.: It’s true that I have notebooks, diaries that I sketch on whenever I’m not working on a painting, to calm my mind down. With my diaries I wanted to expose the guts of everything that leaves one breathless, makes one queasy, or causes blackouts. Of course, in this country with a constantly changing agenda, the crappy news I read or hear about help with this process as well. The corruption of the public, the fetishism for power and the games played on the perception of the masses were issues that I’ve been thinking about for a long time. With the “Discharge” exhibition I created pictures of those wearing ties on TV, who are only as respectable as sewer pipes beneath asphalt; each portrait came from drawings in these notebooks that I drew in the last few years.
S.A.: Do you intend to deliver political messages with your pictures?
H.V.: I don’t understand this deal about political pictures, nor pictures limited by definitions. A picture is either good or bad. There are experiences, feelings and reactions. One already has a political attitude, defined by what one does or doesn’t do.
S.A.: Tell me about a recent project or problem that you made better, faster, smarter or more efficient.
H.V.: I try to be more practical when I make a mural using stencils outdoors (anywhere outside my studio). In my studio I find solutions that will minimize problems concerning time and space, and then I execute these solutions outside. For example, I needed eight stencils for eight different colors for the work I created for the shop window of my close friend Hair Mafia, but I found a practical solution and created the mural using only three stencils. This way, it’s been a project that was completed in a short time and was pleasant for both me and them. It was a good and different experience to prepare for and realize this project.
S.A.: I know that you have your own unique, individual and secret world. Super heroes are also important for you. Do you think that you possess a super power?
H.V.: I sometimes think it would be quite nice to be Wolverine. Till the age of four I thought everybody in the world including me were super heroes, I was surprised to hear that it wasn’t the case. As I grew up and found out that life is different from that in comics, I began to draw pictures of heroes. Later I liked anti-heroes more than heroes. Maybe this is a super power in today’s world; I find easily what I look for; or maybe my power could be to turn things into different things, to transform them…
S.A.: Can you summarize your story for someone who has never met you?
H.V.: My story is about the battle of the good and the bad, just like all the old stories. Though I may get madly excited or make excessive leaps from time to time, I’m after calm happiness and peace. I sometimes feel as if I’m the soundtrack for a good movie, which is interesting. Vibrations are always there, but I still try to find my inner balance.
S.A.: The most disturbing thing about the art world is…
H.V.: It’s good that you said “art world” as I don’t like the word “market”, “art market” doesn’t sound good at all. There is no union in the art world that really encompasses, supports and reassures the artists, I think of this as quite an important shortcoming. And if I were to talk about what I find disturbing; there are moments when people forget we’re creating art. Even if it has a material dimension, I find it unnatural when people discuss numbers instead of the pleasure they get from a work. As Eileen Fray stated, the value of an artwork is determined by how much it’s loved.
S.A.: Do you like to snack while working?
H.V.: Yes, I always have dried fruits, nuts, pretzels, carrots, brownies and croissants in my studio.
David Lagares:Today I am having a conversation with Ryan Paul Simmons, world-renowned artist, in regard to his current exhibition at ALAN IstanbulGallery. I would like to ask you some questions about your selections for this show. It seems to everyone who has seen the show, that Ataturk is the main focusof the show. What inspired you to paint Atatürk?
Ryan Paul Simmons:I felt that, Ataturk, during his time, was a very powerful man, a man before his time, who was not afraid to speak his words that were important to the people that they could relate to, and in that sense, he was a very well – rounded, colorful and bright man. So I made him colorful
D.L:I saw the piece and it is a marvelous piece, but I noticed that you covered his mouth, why?
R.P.S:Because I believe, with all respect, and I was hoping that the people of Turkey would get this message, that there are still hangingflags of Ataturk… He is no longer with us. He cannot speak anymore and now it is your turn.
D.L:There is a piece, which happens to be one of my favorite pieces of your collection, which is called “Up in Smoke”. What inspired you to create this piece?
R.P.S:Well, “Up in Smoke”… The hookah seems to be the norm here. It is no different than having tea. So, I felt that, during the show in Istanbul about Istanbul, it is a must.
D.L:I’d like to ask you a question about a piece that has become very, very popular, because it means a lot to this country. It is called “Living On APrayer”. What inspired you for this piece?
R.P.S:“Living On APrayer”… I have been painting for many years but I don’t or haven’t considered myself an artist in my head. Other people have, which I think is very important because it allowed me to stay humble. And I want to, for myself, earn my place to call myself an artist. It is not just a label.
D.L:But you have, in fact, been an artist for a long time. But, you didn’t see yourself as an artist.
R.P.S:I’ve been painting for many years…But, No, I have never considered myself an artist.
D.L:When did you first discover that you are an artist?
R.P.S:This was October 8th, 2013, 05.03 AM, New York City.
D.L:What happened at that moment?
R.P.S:It normally takes me, say a month, four weeks, 5 weeks, to do a piece. But, I allowed myself 5 weeks to do the entire 12 pieces. I mainly work best under pressure.
D.L:But how did you manage that? It is nearly impossible.
R.P.S:I have waited years to do a gallery show. When the opportunity presented itself with Alan Istanbul Gallery, at that moment it felt right and then I had earned it. At that moment, I broke down, and I said I can’t do this. And I turned off all the lights, and as I was getting ready to close my studio door, I turned the lights back on and I had two brushes in each hand…
D.L:That’s terrific. So, “Living On APrayer”?
R.P.S:It is the basis of the entire show.
D.L:That’s terrific. Let’s talk about another piece, which seems to have a very significant value to this show. There is a piece and it is in collection that is very important, and it seems to be very important to you. It’s called “Respect”. What can you tell me about the piece?
R.P.S:That would take me back to childhood. Growing up, raised with the religion I was told to believe in. Respect wasn’t always present. People tried to follow it, but a lot strayed from it.
D.L:How old were you when you noticed this?
D.L:And you noticed this they don’t know it?
R.P.S:Yes I did. Things that interested me at this age, which is why I said that I was an outcast, other children at my age, were interested in other things and I was, I tried to play with them and my interest was somewhere else.
D.L:So bringing it back to the church, you were noticing a lack of respect. Can you expand on that?
R.P.S:For example, when you walk into the church, you’re supposed to take the holy water, and place it on your skin. Some did, some didn’t.
D.L:Did you find that interesting?
R.P.S:I was confused.
D.L:Because some did and some didn’t?
R.P.S:Yes. I was very confused but then I was very clear. After you’re inside of this building, this church, this place of worship, many times, there is a lot of money being exchanged. So it was more like people were allowed to sin and it was ok to come to this…and put money in the basket and everything goes away, they go back to their normal life and they can sin again.
D.L:So how does that relate to your painting of “Respect”?”
R.P.S:In Istanbul, when one is entering their place of worship…a mosque, I learned a lot. I learned respect.
D.L:Tell me about it.
R.P.S:I stood in front of a mosque for three hours and I watched. And when every person walked up to that mosque, there is a ritual. There was something that they had to do before they could even get close to the door. The cleansing. They sit down, remove their shoes, they wash their face, they wash their hands, they wash their arms, they wash their feet, they wash their legs, then they go to the front. They remove their shoes and you leave whatever you have behind you and then you go pay your respect and to stay focused. The difference between America and Turkey is: this is a way of life for them. In the streets of Istanbul you can hear the prayers, they happen five times a day…
D.L:It sounds to me as if, you have been transformed by this.
R.P.S:I have. So respect is always present, so it needs to be a part of the show.
D.L:And having just arrived here, been here for few days, I have already started to get that feeling. And there is a great level of respect. Talking of respect, you have a piece that may seem very controversial here, called “Never Give Up”. Can you tell me a bit about that piece?
R.P.S:This piece was not originally part of the show. But within those five weeks I was painting it became a very important piece for me. Again, Ataturk was not afraid to speak. To speak doesn’t always require words. There are a lot of people in this world that should be allowed to love whoever they want to love. Some believe it is not the way, but these are opinions. So, my painting of “the stairs”, which took place in Istanbul and created a mass spread for media, was an outlet of speaking. This is whom I choose to love, this is the way I live, I don’t tell you how to live.
D.L:That’s amazing. There is one painting which I find extraordinary because it is so simple yet carries such a big message. It is called, “This Way”.
R.P.S:In society, again speaking for myself, there are so many signs that tell you no parking here, can’t walk here, one way…Why?
R.P.S:Why? Why? So you maybe told you have to go to college, you have to do this, you have to bring home the money to put bread on the table. Why? Why do I have to do that, these steps in order to become successful? Why don’t I just do it my way? So, I created the piece, “This Way”, because it needed to be created that way. Because dreams are all around us, there are no arrows that say your dreams are over there go get them. There are windows of opportunity in every conversation you have with somebody. I could be an old man who may enlighten you by one word, one look, one spark, etc. And you’ll know which way your dream is.
D.L:I happen to agree with you on that. There is a piece that yet again I find controversial but enlightening at the same time. “Unveil”.
R.P.S:“Unveil”. Let me start off this way. By creating this show I wanted to push myself more. You’re going to call yourself an artist? Ok. Let’s see what you’ve got. There was the challenge.
D.L:We see a woman who is covered up. But yet you’re giving us a chance to see her.
R.P.S:The issue with this piece which is why it is a part of the show is I feel people judge people by what they see. There is an old saying, I am not sure if it translates into Turkish, but in America, “never judge a book by its cover”.
D.L:So in other words everyone will have their own opinion of what lies behind…
R.P.S:I would hope so…I’m not the one to tell somebody what they should feel. If it moves them in a good or bad way, that’s the message.
D.L:Thank you. “HiStory”… What is all about?
R.P.S:It’s a double entendre. It is either history or his story.It is one postcard. But you are seeing two postcards because it is defined in the back. I want to welcome people to Istanbul that are not interested.Because, they are missing something special.Every experience that they have ever had its origins here. It is the only place in the world that seats on two continents. East meets west.
D.L:The flowers, what do the flowers mean?It seems that someone is holding a weapon.
R.P.S:Well you have to shoot the flowers somehow.The flowers are maybe a government authority welcoming people to Istanbul. It is supposed be my version of a tear gas launcher. I prefer not to use a gun. It shouldn’t be just used for tear gas.And I didn’t send the postcard, Ataturk did.
D.L:So it’s about belief… I want to switch you to “Resilience”. It is somehow related to history and it is a very current theme here. Tell me about it.
R.P.S:Istanbul is very old. The Turkish are very proud. There is art everywhere. Graffiti is amazing. There is graffiti that on buildings or were on buildings that have been knocked down and nobody will ever see again, but I got to see a lot of them before they were demolished.
D.L:I saw some graffiti today and they were beautiful expressions.
R.P.S:Yes.There is barbed wire in the front so I wanted to create a perception but also a message. The people of Istanbul protect Istanbul, they welcome everyone but they still protect. There is pride there. The yellow barbed wire is there, not only to balance the colors for me, but they are not harsh barbed wires. They can’t hurt you; they are implied…
D.L:That is a very interesting analogy. Now I must ask you about a fun piece, in my opinion, “Bring It Home.” What is the message in this piece?
R.P.S:“Bring It Home”… It is something in America, as you understand, that if you want something bad enough you go out and get it. You follow your dream whatever way it points and you go get it;then you bring it home.
D.L:I think that’s a great answer. How do you feel about overall about the show?
R.P.S:I can’t believe it. I cannot believe that I pushed myself and gave myself five weeks to paint. And I did it. What can’t I do?
D.L:That’s probably true, but it seems to me from our conversation that you have no limits.
R.P.S:I don’t think I do.
D.L:Because you covered so many topics in this collection, topics people wouldn’t even try to broach. You have dealt with them head on; that shows courage. Would you becoming back to Istanbul?
D.L:Sounds great. It’s a beautiful collection. I thank you so much for your time.
Yahşi Baraz: The job of a gallerist is actually quite hard…
Efe Korkut Kurt: You have dealt with its challenges, and thanks to you, we’re now enjoying its benefits. How do you think one should operate a gallery these days?
Y.B.: It’s necessary to come up with new things within the institutional field of art. Success comes from doing what hasn’t already been done. I think he who intends to open a gallery must build a space with depth and height, and have a master architect draw the plans for the gallery. A gallerist has to think universal, not local. One of the most difficult things is to become world-renowned. It should be the goal of a gallerist to buy and sell paintings at an international level. His biggest accomplishment would be to sell paintings to international world museums. For example, for a musician, a physicist or an operator, it’s always a challenge to make a successful career. The world famous gallerist Andre Emmerich says “a gallerist should be with the rich, but shouldn’t live the luxurious life of the rich”. Which means, a gallerist should keep in contact with the rich in order to sell art, but should stay within the art world rather than living like the rich. I always tried to accomplish this.
E.K.K.: Having found the chance to talk with such an experienced person, I would like to ask you something. There are people that regulate the contemporary art market; and not just the market, also the art scene. How does the relationship between young artists and these people –who shape the market– develop?
Y.B.: This depends on both the economics of Turkey and the intellectual background of the artist. Hand skills are of course important, but it’s not enough to be talented and to come up with good work. When an artist possesses intellectual knowledge and is social and communicative, it’s a significant factor. Just because an artist seems to be on the rise, doesn’t mean that his works will be acquired by world museums in the future. One can continue to produce decorative work and sell hundreds of paintings during one’s lifetime. One can get rich, make one’s gallery rich. The biggest wish of an artist is to have a retrospective exhibition in one of the world’s prominent museums and be part of the largest 400 private collections. However no Turkish painter has accomplished that yet, not even a solo show. For example Dogancay had a photography exhibition in Pompidou in 1982 titled “Les Murs Murmurent, Il Crient, Ils Chantent” (Whispering Walls).
Then we have other problems arising from the fact that the world has become quite a materialist place. Even though materialism has been going on for 100 years, it’s in the last 10-15 years that materialistic thought has become even more prominent, it’s now much more important for rich people to support artists. Artists have to make their works part of the 5-10 top collections. When they succeed in accomplishing this, they will have supporters, which will prevent the artist from going back. For example, there was an article about Rothko, in which an art writer stated that Rothko was a terrible artist, but because the investment made on him was so huge, nobody would be able to say that he wasn’t good. Nowadays he’s considered one of the most prominent American abstract painters.
There are two types of artists in the history of world art; the founders of a school and the followers of a school. There hasn’t been a painter in Turkey, who established a movement and managed to make it accepted worldwide… If we consider the fact that our painting is only 150 years old, which is a short time for the artistic development of a country, this is normal. Recently young artists have brought new energy to the art scene. With the opening of new museums and art spaces, the obstacles preventing young artists from becoming known worldwide will disappear. On the other hand, while there were 3-4 Art Schools 25-30 years ago, the number is now 85. Each year hundreds of young artists graduate from these schools, and some of them have the opportunity to study abroad. The education one receives abroad, the museums and galleries one visits, meeting museum curators and gallerists, making researches in university libraries can turn a young Turkish artist into a world artist. Everything is global now. Identity doesn’t matter much. You could be from Poland, Bosnia-Herzegovina or Iraq; the important thing is to develop a style and make a contribution to world art.
E.K.K.: In the past there used to exist many handicaps for artists who lived in periphery countries.
Y.B.: The reason was that the centers were Paris, London and New York. But now the art world has become global. From the past up until today, it was first Italy and then Germany, England, France and Spain, that was the leader in art. And after 1960 America became prominent. Today however, the world has become multi-polar concerning art. If you were to look at the artists and the works in collections in these countries, you’d see that they are all from the aforementioned 5-6 countries. There can also be a few Japanese, Dutch or Belgian artists. Nonetheless, America is the center. They put the most important art works of the world into their museums and thus became the center.
E.K.K.: After the Second World War, as capital stock was entirely in America, they purchased all the artworks through galleries. As you know, America is the only country in which the state has no budget for acquiring artworks, but all artworks are still in museums, because rich people donate their collections to museums. It’s why most of World’s art is in American museums. I guess such an equation has formed.
Y.B.: When the Second World War was over, the intellectual circles were mostly in Europe and the communist countries. In America however, which had won the war, there wasn’t much progress in this field. CIA noticed this shortcoming, and American art began to be supported with the Kennedy Laws. Thus American Abstract Expressionism (artists such as Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Robert Motherwell, Clyfford Still, Arshile Groky, Willem de Kooning) was born, which had a significant influence on the world art. After that, American Pop Art (Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, Roy Lichtenstein, Claes Oldenburg, Rosenquist, Frank Stella) became the center of attention worldwide. This was accomplished as a state policy, and thereafter American art began to lead world art. Josef Albers and Hans Hofmann left the pessimistic atmosphere of Europe, they traveled to America and had an important influence there.
E.K.K.: So countries without a powerful bourgeois class have issues in this system; concerning being effective in art, influencing world art or creating their own national market.
Y.B.: For example, within the various art categories, theater, film and opera are the ones that address the masses. Fine arts is a category that entirely aims the relatively limited audience of the elite bourgeois.
Besides, art progresses in continuity. This progress is different in Turkey, unfortunately. As an example, the predecessors of a Turkish artist are a carpet artist, a rug artist, a copper artist or a ceramic tile artist. But before Clemente came Raphael and Leonardo. Before Francis Bacon came Turner and Gainsborough. Before Cezanne came Ingres, Jacques Louis David and Delacroix. Before Anselm Kiefer came Abrecht Durer and Lucas Kranach.
What you said is quite true, but we can’t expect artists to be successful by themselves. We need collectors who buy art works worldwide and exhibit these works. We need art writers writing in magazines worldwide, we need curators working with prominent world museums.
E.K.K.: In the past, a great talent could with his introversion create a resistance to a situation that had no equivalent in the society. This choice had a cost regarding the personal life of the artist. We know of artists who committed suicide… Maybe one of the reasons that significant actors, collectors or the great bourgeois purchased works was their respect and esteem to this life-style and situation. Nowadays we’re living with a post-modern market rationality that is way beyond this matter.
Y.B.: Because there was no art market in Turkey then, our painters began by teaching at the academy. First they traveled to France with scholarships from the government or private scholarships. Artists such as Feyhaman Duran, Namik Ismail, Ibrahim Calli, Nazmi Ziya and Avni Lifij traveled to France in 1910 and they had to return in 1914 when the First World War began. After the Second World War only a few traveled to Paris and chose to work and live there. Artists such as Avni Arbas, Selim Turan, Abidin Dino, Hakki Anli, Mubin Orhon, Nejad Devrim and Albert Bitran lived there with financial problems. Some of them couldn’t get passports, couldn’t do their military service, couldn’t return. A group of artists also traveled to America. Tosun Bayrak, Burhan Dogancay and Erol Akyavas went to New York.
E.K.K.: And they couldn’t be a part of the art scene?
Y.B.: No, because they were immigrants. Paris had just experienced a war, and the artists also had issues regarding the problems of the country in addition to being strangers. Because the country had its own problems, one had to be a great genius to be known. Because the Turkish artists couldn’t return to Turkey, they had to live there, yearning for Turkey. Following this generation, artists such as Komet, Utku Varlik and Mehmet Guleryuz traveled to Paris. Omer Uluc went to Paris in 1982 by himself; he lived in Paris and sold his works in Turkey. Therefore they weren’t able to establish important contact with museums, galleries or collectors there.
E.K.K.: So is there a commercial equation of art today? Is there anybody working on this? Someone who thinks how one could profit from art? Let’s assume he doesn’t like art. He considers it more like stocks. He maybe works with his instincts or his thoughts; but is there such a person working like this?
Y.B.: An artist and a gallerist should have a long-lasting relationship; and even if the works aren’t sold in a short period, they should continue to work together and be patient. It’s of great importance that they trust each other and be around the same age as one another. When there’s too much of an age difference, problems arise in establishing dialogue. The equation forms itself with the development of a good relationship between the artist and the gallerist.
E.K.K.: So, that is the relationship between the artist and the gallery owner. How about the world of auctions?
Y.B.: The dynamics of a gallery and an auction are different. The auctions in which many works were sold have in the last ten years benefited Turkish art market greatly. It helped auctions develop further and new collectors joining the system. However, there has also been speculative efforts.
E.K.K.: So it’s beyond being a matter of supply and demand.
Y.B.: Though the Turkish painting market has grew after 2007, newcomer collectors caused the system to develop in the wrong direction, by making false decisions about which works to purchase. It was unhealthy for the new market in Turkey to grew to a few times its original size in just a few years, and therefore works that even wouldn’t be able to be a part of the art history were marketed as masterworks. Works of artists were sold for way above their actual value; this was later found out by collectors, and it caused people to be hesitant about acquiring works, they realized this development was in fact a bubble.
E.K.K.: When money is involved, everybody wants to take part, I guess. Such a bubble going on until this day… Even though it’s like supply without the demand; does demand catch up later? If we’re to create a sustainable market, it has to be based on trust. If such institutions could be established, do you think it could be real?
Y.B.: I’d like to look at things from a wider perspective. First one has to consider, whether one in the million of rich people in Turkey has ever acquired a painting.
E.K.K.: How many people are there, how many artworks were sold until now?
Y.B.: In Turkey there are 10 million people who are doing pretty well. But a total of 76 million people live in Turkey. Within the 10 million, there are 1000 people who are significantly rich, who control the Turkish economy. 5-6 or 10 of them have acquired more than 100 works.
Who’s a collector? Collector is one who acquires works for himself, and after a while, when he reaches a point of satisfaction, he wants to share it with the public and he establishes a museum. However most of those who buy artworks in Turkey are involved in art trade. It appears as if they’re collectors. They just buy. They buy with the intention of establishing a museum, but they don’t, and then they sell the paintings.
E.K.K.: As a gallerist with 39 years of experience, what do you think about your profession now?
Y.B.: I can say that in our profession one doesn’t have the luxury of making mistakes. As long as you don’t make material goods a priority, it’s quite a pleasant job.
Seçil Alkış: As an Art Complex, what are the distinguishing features of the Zorlu Center Project compared to the other large scale architectural projects in Istanbul?
Mehmet Even: The Center of Performance Arts –a first in Turkey– is one of the most important divisions of the Zorlu Center built in Zincirlikuyu by Zorlu Real Estate with 2.5 million dollars of investment, which hosts a mall, residencies, offices in addition to the Raffles Istanbul Zorlu Center Hotel. It is one of the best art complexes in the world thanks to its technical specifications, scale and contents. Thus, the fact that it’s a living platform for art, distinguishes it from the other architectural projects in Istanbul.
The center has cost a total of 300 million dollars and is operated by the 101-year-old Broadway company Nederlander Worldwide Entertainment, and all the shows and art activities hosted in this Center will also play a significant role in helping Istanbul become a center of cultural tourism. Thus, Istanbul will be able to compete with many European cities in the fields of culture and arts as well.
Ray Cullom: Even though Broadway musicals have occasionally been performed in Istanbul, there used to be no theater in compliance with the Broadway standards concerning stage size, audience capacity, technical equipment required by the shows and the overall experience offered to the audience. This resulted in the shows being presented at lower standards than required, for both the performers and the audience. The Zorlu Center – Center of Performance Arts will overcome all the shortcomings in this regard and host the significant shows that have defined Broadway. The large hall (main theater) has a seating capacity of 2,262, while the other drama stage has a capacity of 738. Reinforced with high tech equipment, these theaters have been designed to handle the acoustics and the grandeur of many different venues ranging from musicals to classics, from concerts to ballets.
S.A: Can you talk about the technical specifications of the Zorlu Center – Center of Performance Arts?
M.E: The center has a total 50,000 square meters of interior space, with two main halls that differ in size and purpose. Similar to how a tourist visiting New York, London or Paris includes in his travel plans to see a musical or a play, guests visiting Istanbul will see the world’s best shows at the Zorlu Center – Center of Performance Arts. Istanbul will be the new address for musicals other than Broadway and London – West End.
With their unique architectural designs, our public foyers are spread over 3 floors with a total 5,200 square meters of space, and have the necessary infrastructure to host a wide variety of events ranging from cocktail parties to opening ceremonies, and from temporary exhibitions to art galleries. Featuring a huge 180 square meter LED screen that is 30 meters wide, the foyer is an attractive and functional space. Influenced by the Siena Square, the stairs at the entrance of the Zorlu Center – Center of Performance Arts have been designed like a small amphitheater. Therefore we have a small public performance space open to anyone visiting Zorlu Center, and not just guests who have bought tickets to see a show. This space will be kept available to young artists with the intention to present performances.
R.C: At the Zorlu Center – Center of Performance Arts we have two halls designed to meet the different requirements of different types performances. The large hall (the main theater) is one of the best theaters of the world, concerning its seating capacity, stage size and high-tech equipment. It has a 550 m² stage and a 1044 m² backstage. Stage height is 30 meters, while the carrying capacity of the stage ceiling is 46 tons. The main theater can descend to 1 floor below – a total of 4,5 meters. The front 3 rows of seats can be lowered by means of a special mechanical system, in order to have the necessary space for the orchestra pit, and it can be reorganized according to the needs of the orchestra. It offers a performance space large enough for a 70 piece orchestra. Because the hall is amplified (with reinforced and enriched acoustics) it’s extremely suitable for shows that require a high standard regarding technical specifications, such as musicals, ballets, dance, opera shows, musical concerts and many different kinds of shows. The whole infrastructure of the theater is designed to provide zero degrees of sound, and is thus ideal. It’s possible to set up three different sceneries at the same time. One is the active set for the stage, while the other two are for two different shows, ready to be used. The sceneries for three different shows to be staged on the same day can be installed in just one hour. This is the first theater in Europe that’s completely equipped with a LED lighting system. A subtitle system is installed on the curtains next to and above the stage. There’s also the necessary infrastructure for translation in 8 languages. The main stage allows the entrance and the loading and unloading of 6 large trucks.
In the main theater there are 24 dressing rooms for a total of 286 people, the biggest of which is 56 square meters large. Additionally there are 150 screens and 16 broadcast IPTV channels.
The drama stage has a seating capacity of 738. The 11×12 meter stage has an area of 132 m². With its natural acoustics, it’s particularly suitable for acoustic concerts, theater shows and corporate activities. The drama theater has 13 dressing rooms with a capacity of 119 people.
S.A: How does the project intend to relate to the city? Do you think culture, art and malls could support each other in a complex?
M.E: In addition to comprising five functions that support, complete and bring synergy to each other, the Center will become a new meeting point at the heart of Istanbul. And our relationship to Istanbul will consist of breathing together and helping its social life develop. This unique project is our gift to Istanbul. We spared no expense in providing easy transport, by building beltway connections in addition to “Zorlu Center Metro and Metrobus Pedestrian Connection Tunnels” which will serve pedestrian transport between Zorlu Center and Istanbul Metro Gayrettepe Station and Zincirlikuyu Metrobus Station. We call it unique, because bringing together five functions, this project will create a new living area that will enrich Istanbul. It’s because the main square in Zorlu Center has been planned to be around 10 thousand square meters. The area that connects the Center to Istanbul will be full of vegetation. In the 72 thousand square meters of green space surrounding Zorlu Center, people will be embraced by stone pines that Bosphorus is identified with, in addition to redbud trees. We will keep alive the vegetation of Istanbul’s Bosphorus area with 60 different types of plants and trees. In this regard, there’s nothing similar even in Europe. We will be able to see every possible color the nature has to offer during the 12 months of the year. A guest of Zorlu Center will be able to accommodate right next to Bosphorus, pick a restaurant according to his wishes, shop in a mall just like the ones in world metropolises, then maybe visit an exhibition at the Center of Performance Arts and see in the evening a Broadway Show without even leaving the Center.
S.A: We know that the Zorlu Group supports contemporary art events such as Contemporary Istanbul. What are the reasons for doing so? What are your plans for the future?
M.E: We have supported the development of art as it has been one of our aims at every stage in building Zorlu Center, and we will continue to do so. The most obvious proof of that is the Center of Performance Arts, which is the result of the social responsibility of Zorlu Group. We’d like to make our support to art sustainable. We keep working to make it true. Before Zorlu Center was opened, it started its activities in the field of art with sponsorship and publishing. The first step of Zorlu Center in publishing was with the book “Unexpected Encounters – Contemporary Art Works of 2000’s in the context of their relationship to architecture”. Presenting a selection of contemporary art works made in 2000’s, “Unexpected Encounters” was one of the rare books that presented architecture and contemporary art together. Zorlu Center’s second book “Object” was launched at Contemporary Istanbul, November 24th, 2012. Cemal Emden’s “Making of: Architectural Objects” is our third book. We renew ourselves with each new book and boost our excitement. We have sustained our support to Contemporary Istanbul in 2011 and 2012 as one of the sponsors. In addition to the events we organized before the opening, we have provided the visitors with a distinct experience with Cemal Emden’s works that bring together architecture and photography. Alongside all these things, we have provided our support with various other sponsorships as well. We’re ambitious with other projects in the field of art that we support.
In the past years we have also worked with IKSV and Istanbul Biennial. Our support in this context will continue in the future.
S.A: How do you plan to handle the art direction of the center?
R.C: As you know, the operator of the Zorlu Center – Center of Performance Arts is the 101 year-old US firm “Nederlander Worldwide Entertainment (NWE)”. Directing one of the world’s biggest live entertainment organizations, NWE manages over more than 30 Broadway theaters in various countries such as USA, UK, China, Singapore, Taiwan, Brazil and Cuba. The arrangement of the artists to work on our stages will be made with the help of the close relationships of the Nederlander management with the US and world art market and with our experienced crew. With all this experience and connections, we will be presenting the most prominent artists and productions of Turkey and the World on our stages with perfect harmony.
S.A: Can you elaborate on your process of coming up with a program?
R.C: Working on a program to determine the artists to perform at an international performance arts center such as Zorlu Center is quite an elaborate and time consuming process. For some of the shows, the planning stage begins a few years prior. For the large scale and significant Broadway and West End productions that are to be presented in the main theater, one has to make reservations and arrangements 3 years in advance, and sometimes even earlier than that. With Nederlander, this coordination is possible thanks to their strong and well established relationships with the significant artists, producers and managers of the field. For all the other kinds of shows that will be presented on our stages (dance, opera, symphony, international events) the required preparation and reservation periods will differ, but we work in extreme detail for each single event.
S.A: What kinds of performances will the Zorlu Center – Center of Performance Arts present?
R.C: Our program at the Zorlu Center – Center of Performance Arts will comprise a wide range of different “series” or performance types. Our main series of performances will be “Broadway is in Istanbul” which will take place in our main theater and present three or four large scale Broadway / West End productions each season. One of our Broadway musicals to be presented this year is “Cats”, one of the most acknowledged and loved musicals in the history of Broadway. Other series in our program are as follows: “Classics” series, “Dance shows”, “Family Events” series, “Turkish Music and Culture” series and finally the “International Events” series which will include internationally famous solo artists and groups that will be on the stage in Turkey for the first time. We will be hosting different artists and productions each year, however the types of series will stay the same each season, and will grow and develop over time. During our first season we will be presenting 50 separate events in the aforementioned different performance categories and more than 400 performances to the audiences in Istanbul. A lot of world famous artists and groups will take stage in Istanbul for the first time at Zorlu Center – Center of Performance Arts. The first event of the Center is the concert of the world famous Italian composer and pianist Ludovico Eunaudi. The Nutcracker Ballet, master film music composer Ennio Morricone, 2Cellos, Forever Tango, and “the man with the golden flute” Sir James Galway will take stage during the first season of the Zorlu Center. For the “Kavafis Project”, which is organized to celebrate the 150th year of the birth of the great poet Kavafis, George Dalaras’ songs and the poems read by Okan Bayulgen will echo in Istanbul.
S.A: Was the interior architectural design of the center planned with focus on contemporary art, or are the works to be set up later?
M.E: The architectural design of the Zorlu Center project was realized by “Aga Han” award winner famous Turkish architect Emre Arolat (EAA) and International RIBA award winner Turkish architect Murat Tabanlioglu (Tabanlioglu Architecture) who was chosen the best architect of the Middle East. The Center of Performance Arts within Zorlu Center has been designed with both functional and unique architectural solutions, to serve the needs of many fields of art. The Center of Performance Arts provides the visitors with a special experience starting with its stairs located at the entrance which were inspired by the Siena Square. It can serve the requirements of not only contemporary art, but also a wide range of events with its theaters which can host various shows and its wide foyer spaces. In addition to the superior architectural design, this magnificent structure has been the result of our work together with the best advisors of their own fields in the world, regarding all the details ranging from lighting to sound.
Seçil Alkış: In addition to your work as an artist, you’ve been working and designing for institutions in the field of ceramics for more than seventeen years. As the Design Manager of Bien Ceramic Sanitaryware, do you come up with all the designs yourself?
Tolga Berkay: At Bien Ceramic Sanitaryware we have a Design and CAD/CAM department. As a team, we think that the design, research and development stages are very important. I work personally on all the designs, and we’re also a source of inspiration for other designers.
The Lotus Series that I designed for Bien with inspiration from Lotus flowers has received the “Platinum Award” last year at the “A’ Design Award and Competition” withheld in the Italian city of Milan, by “Como Cultural Department, The Bureau of European Design” (which is one of the notable organizations worldwide) in the “Decorative Products and Bathroom Category” that had 3653 design applications from 140 countries. Furthermore, the bathroom series titled “Fracture“ inspired by fragments of broken glass has received the “Golden Design” award. Yet another award is the “Best Bathroom Designer” award by ELLE Decoration Magazine in 2012, again for our Lotus series.
“What the world thinks about Turkish design has changed owing to our awards.”
As an example, last month I participated in the Milan design week, and I was flattered by what I saw there. As a result of the golden award I received for the Fracture series last year in Italy, I witnessed that there is a new trend of Fracture movement in Milan this year. Additionally I’m also coaching junior designers. Soon they’ll be recognized as well.
As for the creation process of my designs, I can talk about the contribution of interaction, inspiration, ergonomics, manufacturability, knowledge of materials, fashion and many other things. My biggest source of inspiration is nature. As I owe my designs to nature, I make products that are environmentally friendly and sensitive about natural resources. Therefore, I think that Turkish designers should be counted on and given opportunities. Because most civilization has spread out from Anatolia, we have in our genes inspiration from all these mosaics.
S.A: How does the design process take shape? Do you take part in the architectural and interior design stages?
T.B: During the design stage, I make pencil sketches of the object that I’m using as my source of inspiration. Making these sketches is a spontaneous process. I always carry papers and pencils with me. Sometimes it can even be a napkin that I’m drawing on. When the sketches are developed to a certain point, it’s time to model them in 3d. I do these modeling and rendering tasks myself as well. When I’ve carried the modeling to a final stage as I had imagined it, then comes the “rendering” stage, which is when I polish the design. After the rendering, the design is ready to be presented to the Bien Marketing and Sales Department. I’m thankful as they’ve really liked all my designs so far. I participate in construction fairs and contribute to the architectural and interior designs for our presentations aimed at our vendors. I take part in arranging the space according to the designs we present.
S.A: Bien has become one of the leading establishments in the world ceramics market, by exporting its products to 55 countries. Can you talk about the world trends and your position in the market?
T.B: In the old days, we used to follow the trends in the world; but now the world follows us with interest. It’s the designers who determine the domestic and international elements in the works and the visual quality of firms. The interest and the praises of the public and our competitors about the domestic designs at the Bien stall in Tüyap Unicera Fair –the largest fair arranged for the construction segment– are a very good example. This of course makes both Bien and me proud and happy.
S.A: Do you create custom projects/designs for individuals/institutions?
T.B: Of course we do. Bien is a leading firm in digital technology. By the help of this technology we can make custom design implementations. Additionally we can apply gold, platinum and silver platings on our designs, on request.
S.A: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
T.B: I will continue to work on new design projects. In addition to ceramic sanitaryware, I’ll be creating designs for armatures, bathroom furniture and bathtubs in support of bathroom designs. I will also continue on my attempt to make the world know about Turkish design. I have complete confidence in my young colleagues studying at design departments in Turkey. These people will soon be determining the world trends.
Seçil Alkış: It’s been known/said for a long time that architects are influential in giving direction to the tendencies in Turkish art. As an architect/collector/museum owner, what do you think about this notion?
Can Elgiz: The influence of architects on Turkish art begins first and foremost with the works they place in architecture. The way art works are placed in the space (which is now a part of interior architecture) has become quite important. I think the contributions of architects to contemporary art are determined by the art works they place in spaces… We can see this in a larger scale in the world. Religious structures used to be the structures that the architects designed most freely. There used to be contests between architects involving religious structures, for which they came up with various projects. Lately the same can be said for museum buildings. When designing museums, architects reach the highest point of their skills. This is the source of the word starchitect. Such architecture has lately begun to attract more attention than the works shown inside. Even though the existence of these structures indicate a wide support for art, sometimes the negative aspects should be considered.
S.A: What’s the mission and attitude of Elgiz Museum of Contemporary Art in this context?
C.E: Our goal used to be to show the works of young artists, since the opening in 2001 up until today. During the period we worked with Vasıf Kortun, Fulya Erdemci amd Melih Fereli, our intention was to organize curatorial exhibitions for artists who weren’t able to show their works in any gallery. But at a certain point, we wanted to return to our collector identity. Meanwhile galleries and institutions had begun to show the works of the artists we supported, and thus we put our emphasis on collecting, which is what defines this institution. But in addition to exhibiting collections, we still continue to organize shows in our project rooms that support young artists. We have a new terrace that is 1500 square meters wide, in which we host sculpture exhibitions of works selected by a committee – we have about two such shows a year. Thus, to a certain degree we keep pursuing the goal that we set out in the beginning.
S.A: As an architect, which artists do you think are prominent with regard to their understanding of space in their works?
C.E: Erol Akyavaş is one of the artists I find significant, as he’s an architect. He organizes all his work according to the perception of space; he achieves a unity with the space. Regarding this criteria, he’s one of the most successful artists, as he became an artist after working as an architect. His exhibition in Aya İrini is therefore significant. In this context, the same can be said for Mehmet Gün. Especially due to the material he used, his works looked very impressive in that historical space. There are quite a number of artists who do this, but if we take the same space (the Aya İrini church) as an example, Fabian Marcaccio is also one of the prominent artists. His works were hanged ten meters high, and at the same time the work of Michael Lee covered the floor. It was integrated with the space in such a way that the visitors could lie on the work on the floor, and watch the ceiling.
S.A: Both in the world and in Turkey, specifically during the postmodern era, projects aimed to be elite and unique, and this turned out to be an attractive field for artistic and architectural concepts. What do you think of this, and of the examples made?
C.E: This is completely an architectural movement. As Charles Jencks defines the history of architecture; We’re living a life that has already been lived before and reproduced bearing no reality except the recreation of an image of the past. As Postmodernism isn’t concerned with destroying the past, it attempts to tell of today and the past. After the 1970-80s, during a movement of a return to contemporary, came postmodernism, an era with emphasis on transforming the past, adding things to an internalization of the classic period. Michael Graves is a significant person for this era. But I think this era is now coming to an end. Now a contemporary and beyond-era avant-garde period has begun again. Things are a bit different now. Postmodernism has been a period of transition. The same can be said of art. It affected them both.
S.A: As an Istanbul based organization, and concerning how the city changes and develops with respect to the world, what is the planned perspective of Proje 4L/Elgiz Contemporary Art Museum?
C.E: It should be accepted that Istanbul is a rising value. In addition to being a city that attracts quite a number of tourists, it’s also a city that combines the old and the new. Therefore, contemporary art is a good match for Istanbul. It’s because art has became a rising value in this historical city. That’s why the artists living in this peninsula have an advantage concerning creativity. In addition to the artists being creative, the people visiting the city also want to see contemporary art. 15 years ago, when we first started collecting art works, foreign collectors we stumbled upon used to ask if there was any contemporary art made in Turkey. Now everybody is finding out where it’s made, and how much of it is made. They now have a more concrete idea. As for the future plans of Elgiz Contemporary Art Museum; we would like to continue organizing shows comprising collections. We don’t exhibit anything but collections, except for the terrace and the project rooms. We will continue hosting project and terrace exhibitions, together with collection shows, which is our main mission.
Seçil Alkış: You are known for your works relating to city and urban sociology. Can you tell us a bit about these works?
Neriman Polat: Since the beginning of 2000s, I’ve been working about the subjects of city, street, district. The Excavation (hafriyat) group that I used to be a member of (but not anymore) and have worked together for years, must have played a part in directing me to these subjects. In my 2005 video, İki Keklik (Two Partridges), two very modernly dressed girls eat and have a conversation in a restaurant decorated with plastic flowers and an artificial stream, while a Turkish folk song plays in the background. There’s an ironic connection between the lyrics of the folk song and the scene; it causes the viewer to smile. Here we see both the aesthetics of the migration from village to city, and a plastic version of the longing for nature.
The contrasts, conflicts, hybridism, people who lost their land, and also demolition in the last few years. These are a part of my life as well… A few fundamental subjects for me are; the codes of patriarchy, social sex and discrimination. I had a solo show in 2007 titled Babaevi apt. The exhibition began with a glass mosaic wall; I made a copy of a wall that I saw in the street. It’s just like the “Mülkiyet Allah’ındır” (Property of God) text in a previous exhibition in Hafriyat Karaköy. Glass wall mosaics that are normally used on the exteriors of buildings has become the material of choice for this work. I like the idea of transforming sometimes exteriors into interiors, and sometimes interiors into exteriors. Changing the context with very little intervention plays with our notion of reality. My work titled “Ev” (Home) begins with bricks that form a house; continues with a house the bricks of which have no mortar applied, but it has a window made of beautiful iron bars; and ends with the bricks forming a 1 square meter space, and a photo into the boundaries of which I barely fit. Our struggle for a most fundamental right, the right to housing, people losing their grounds, social injustice. My works about TOKIs (buildings built by the Housing Development Administration of Turkey) can be analyzed in this context. The things done in the name of urban transformation concerns us all, it should concern us all. My work “Özdönüşüm Emlak” (Transformation Real Estate) comprises of a fake real estate agency. For this work, I used actual information as the starting point. I wanted to point out the problems the people living in TOKI buildings have, in order to make the victims of urban transformation visible. I’m not the kind of person who makes art in an atelier, therefore my activist side takes over in my works.
S.A: What do you think about the production and the presentation of art in urban public spaces; semi-public places like museums, galleries; and private spaces (homes, art storerooms, collector properties) with regard to your own work?
N.P: Institutionalization has increased in the last years, causing a very problematic situation. It is problematic because these institutions belong to private equity and banks. Thus they can manipulate things as they wish, even the galleries depend on them. For example when you compare the list of artists of a gallery with that of an institution; you see that they’re almost the same. I’m not an artist who can have good relations with institutions; for example the Istanbul Modern protests… I believe that the artists need to be independent. In last March, Arzu Yayıntaş and I have made a work titled “Acı Kahve” (Bitter Coffee/Café). We have written the names of the women and children killed by men during the last year on the windows of a man-only café in Tophane. These names were kept on the windows for a while, the frequenters of the café had to live with these names, and afterwards we made an open call to women, inviting them for a coffee. Thus we invaded the café, however briefly. If we were to realize this work on a gallery window, I don’t think it would have any meaning. One can not always work this way, of course, but we should be able to work in public spaces as well. Therefore I don’t want to limit my work only to the rescued spaces of art.
S.A: What do you think about the media utilized more frequently by contemporary art, such as space-based works and installations, as ways of expression? In which direction can contemporary art proceed from this point on?
N.P: I usually create space-based works. But I see that these kind of works are becoming rare; artists began to prefer works that can be hung on a wall, that can be sold –or they’ve been directed to do so. Concerning this matter, galleries aren’t innocent either. Sometimes it’s hard just to paint a gallery wall a different color, let alone doing installations. The question of how contemporary art can proceed is a hard one, as it has lost its opponent attitude and surrendered to the art market.
S.A: What are your thoughts especially on the architectural production in Turkey? As an artist making critical works, what would you say about the large-scale building complexes with their own security crew that combine residencies+shopping+social life?
N.P: I don’t have the knowledge to evaluate the architectural production in Turkey, I wouldn’t want to come to conclusions about it. But we’re surrounded by malls. The ruling government doesn’t care about a thing, Istanbul is marketed as a source of income. They keep marketing secured building complexes, in which you can even choose your neighbors. The district culture has vanished, and they intend to take over the last remaining places. What will be left behind; a terrible place. Maybe an unlivable place. Those who buy an apartment in these luxury complexes can live happily in their homes.
S.A: As a result, the art production in the whole world is limited to visual merchandise. Is it the depth of the relationship between art and market that causes this?
N.P: Beyond all, the twisted relationship between art and market prevents the artists from creating good work. I think this is the worst of all.
Efe Korkut: Dear Hale, first of all you are an Academy graduate painter. We also know that you are from Neşe Erdok’s atelier. Where do you place yourself within the current paradigm?
Hale Işık: I believe in interdisciplinary interaction and its importance in arts, and I have always had my own world outside the Academy while I was a student there. A person is guided by his or her excitements and instincts for finding new resources. Therefore, I did not experience restrictions that may be encountered when a person is nurtured from a single source, such as the Academy. I have always had close friends around me from the realm of literature, theater and music. And I had the opportunity to pursue new interdisciplinary channels, to share experiences in our respective areas and to produce in collaboration with these people. During my education at the Academy, I attended the meetings held at Ahmet Cemal’s house for two years, as part of a theater research team. In addition to young artists, a professor who was in touch with the world and conducted psychoanalytic readings also participated in these meetings. I spent all of my weekends and nearly all of my time reading and discussing theatrical texts, and I was nurtured by a formation outside the Academy. I was always encouraged to create my own language, my own world. Therefore, I had the opportunity to nurture myself with the developments and contemporary trends in the world. Today, I feel the positive impact of that interdisciplinary interaction in my painting. What has remained with me from those days is the feeling of ‘playing’ and establishing a relationship with painting, by renewing myself and avoiding lethargy.
E.K: Including the modern period, we see a bi-directional thrust into the present and the future throughout the history. In other words, we can talk about a dialectical process. However, the axis of artistic production has been shifting since WW2, along with all other paradigms. How do you reconcile with the realities of the age in terms of your own art?
H.I: Looking at the world from where I am at the moment, I think that this axis will reach a point of saturation and shift towards a more instinctive area that is more associated with ‘the underground’. I believe that the perception of time and speed brought about by the current era has become a sort of prison for people. And I think one should pursue ways of escaping from this prison. I believe in the reality of the underground, rather than the visible world and its images. In my paintings, I strive to establish connections with what is more archaic and instinctual. And the most modern overlaps with the most archaic in a strange way. Today, we are subject to a different perception of nature, different types of images. We are all surrounded by a cloud of digital images. I am trying to associate myself with what is wild rather than acting on a mentality domesticated with speed. I am producing a new series from the bodies of wild animals, with the aim to read into the signs of the age and to understand the new form of humankind which has lost its earlier form. These are enlarged bodies that are lost in the cloud… I think that by using oil paint, I produce works in a field that is not really recommended in this age. Oil paint is a material that can take any form, be it mud, corrosion, dirt, meat, spirit, etc. Therefore, it can be very contemporary and fluid. It depends on how you use that language.
E.K: What kind of an audience does your work address? And what type of space does this relationship require? Do you think about these issues?
H.I: We just talked about speed… I am in favor of establishing a long-term relationship with a painting or any contemporary work by making an effort, just like establishing a relationship with a person. Understanding the conceptual requires this effort. I do not know if today’s audience has the time or patience for this, but I neither like deification of art nor its transformation into a disposable commodity. The audience must look at the work in the eye, at least for some time. There is no other way to really get to know a work except by making contact, eye contact with the work itself. The matter of space is also very important. Space is involved in the work. The gallery is also an important component of this matter as it carries an authority of representation. And yet another component, which is also the most important one, is the distance between the work and the audience. This distance is always a different spatial attempt that is reconstructed each and every time. Actually the produced work carries its own space within itself.
E.K: Did you have ateliers in different parts of İstanbul? In buildings with particular characteristics? Beyond your daily life, how does your neighborhood, street, the building you live in, etc. contribute to your paintings?
H.I: I am someone who physically experiences the state of being in the painting. I have nearly always lived in home ateliers and I have always been close to buildings with an identity, with a past. Nearly all of the ateliers I have lived in were buildings with a hundred-year old past. And my current atelier is located in a building that was constructed in early 1900s. However, choosing to live in such a building means accepting to live under difficult conditions and requires self-sacrifice. These are usually problematic, uncomfortable spaces. However, this is a way of life. I think that settling in such spaces provides one with a protective shell. I think this is an instinctive way of constructing one’s own world. Comfort may be sacrificed willingly in order to establish a personal world. After living and producing on the island for four years and settling in an old Greek house in Fener, I realized the decisiveness of space. One realizes his/her personal limits, after colliding with the hard side of life and leaving one’s comfort zone. The most important turning points in my painting are those moments of impact arising from such ambient conditions.
E.K: What can you say about your late work?
H.I: I am currently working on a new series of large format works. When I create my paintings, I reconstruct the physical world by changing its signs. The new series I’m working on, the ‘Body/Forest’ series, is based on the association of wild animal bodies and the chaotic physical material of the forest with intensively applied painting materials. Works in the series are about reading into the new nature perception we are subjugated to in the contemporary world, in light of this association. I think the perception of the new age and the images of the habitat we live in coincides exactly with the perception of that wild life.
I am collecting everything about the archaic and the roots of human beings in order to use them in my paintings. And I have been looking for sounds, in addition to the works in the series. I have come across the sound recording of what may the last shaman family in the world, recorded by an American researcher in 1977. I was really excited by this sound recording. I have never heard such a strange world of sounds. I think that there are incredible similarities between the world of today and the world back then. You lose yourself listening to those sounds. Materials used in painting may include paint, sounds, images or anything. Producing works in series provides an opportunity to address the matter in depth.
Seçil Alkış: Why do you think you were recognized for the 2013 International Collecting Award by ARCO? Could you tell us about what this award means to you?
Billur Tansel: IFEMA Amigos de ARCO is a foundation supporting art, based in Madrid. The world art finds its home in the most important art fair ARCO, in a country where contemporary art is rapidly progressing. This foundation, every year, recognize those who support art internationally. They choose the significant national and international organizations in classifications such as corporate collectors, private collectors and individual entrepreneurs. This year, the decision was to recognize Elgiz Collection with the “A” collector 2013 award. The most significant criteria for this choice is to transform the passion to collect into a social responsibility act, helping art be supported and providing local art international display. Collectors Can and Sevda Elgiz were recognized for their efforts in carrying their acts on with a non-profit approach, exhibiting the artworks they collected to public and aiding Turkish art continuously through 12 years. This award reflects the belief to the art that is shared with public through various acts of devotion. It could be regarded as a gratitude shown to collectors’ struggles internationally.
S.A: Being the first contemporary art museum in Turkey should of course bring great responsibility. How would you comment on this?
B.T: Our organization is a private collection museum. Being the first contemporary art museum found in 2001 brings many responsibilities with it of course. Providing young artists and curators with an international exhibition platform is one of our main goals just like making all our collections public. We also continue provide artists with display through the open archive room. The outdoor exhibition venue, formed on the top of the museum in 2012, serves the same purpose. Here, sculptures and outdoor projects that do not belong to any collections are being exhibited. Seminars and happenings executed under the name of the museum also connect the audience to art, as a lifestyle.
S.A: By hosting the Elgiz Collection, you are performing a great deed for the Turkish public. You undergo exhibitions based on projects yet do you intent to continue exhibiting your collection as the main event?
B.T: Exhibition is a mission of being a collector to be honest. Artworks do never belong to a person. Collectors have the duty to preserve them. This is carried through generations many a time. We also do project based exhibitions, but the main exhibit hall was sectioned into two last year. In the continuous exhibit part we will continue displaying the essentials while in the duration based hall exhibitions with changing concepts, new events will be placed.
S.A: Many artists know that they are “artists”. Can we say the same about collecting?
B.T: Absolutely, a collector knows that s/he is a collector. This brings great responsibility with it. Supporting an artist, having an essential input in her/his development is a must. Collecting requires to be a pioneer, following new and different projects.
S.A: There are two grand contemporary art museums that functionally active at the moment. How do you compare/contrast Proje4L with Istanbul Modern?
B.T: Istanbul modern aids the progression of Turkish art in great scale. Each and every foundation is essential at this point for our country. We are in a different segment, as a private collection museum. Our collective aim is to provide our audience with new points of view.
S.A: Do you consider art as an investment?
B.T: I could not speak economically yet art is an investment in this regard: It gives you a chance to provide the upcoming generations with a brand new vision. A child who grows up with art, will have a completely different attitude in life. Providing them with a bright future and awareness, is possible through letting them experience this universal language, art.
S.A: You visit many galleries, museums and fairs, both domestic and international. How do you position Turkish Art in this regard?
B.T: Visiting domestic and international galleries, museums and fairs let us consider Turkish Art more objectively. As borders fade in the world, art is carried through a more universal dimension. Art and artists carry their roles to a grander background. Turkish Art progresses more with every passing day, and we start to get the entire world’s attention. Having a young population and a great cultural heritage goes hand in hand with dissolving of global borders in creating dynamic and exciting novelties.
S.A: What would you like to suggest young artists?
B.T: I suggest young artists to keep their senses open all the time. I suggest them to keep observing and follow the changing world. They are the eyes and senses of our upcoming generations. They carry on a very important mission. They should be aware of their responsibilities and with it they should bring greater success to our art with every new day.