My ideas started with an image that I visualized while listening to music. It was the duet of a string quartet and a percussionist, playing two different pieces “The Old Istanbul” and “The New Istanbul”. As I heard the harmony of the eastern and western tunes, I started to think about Istanbul’s in-and-between evolution over time. It felt like walking a tightrope over the city, seeing all the historical texture from a birds-eye and experiencing the rope swaying up and down with my heartbeat synchronized with the beats of the Doumbek. This brainstorming made me realize that I usually use the image of a rope to visualize my feelings and emotions. Therefore, I decided to have the common element of rope in my artworks rather than a central theme. I used rope for the metaphoric depictions of some different situations that I have been into. Like a rope made of many twisted strings, I thought to use each of the ropes in the artworks with a different message and theme symbolizing a section of my life, and in the end, combine all the strings to constitute the rope of my entire life.
The rope in the first painting was symbolizing my past with the hanged traditional carpet and my future with the unknown darkness. As the feet go away from the carpet, it describes to exploring new cultures and experiences. In the second work, the rope represents the undesired responsibilities to adapt to the society that is impossible to get away. The third work stands for the unfulfilled expectations, like in The Dinner of Trimalchio, moments that start with pleasure end with pain. The rope in the last work symbolizes the obstacles restricting freedom. However, the power of creativity, showed with the shadows, overcomes the obstacles.
Since each piece had a different message, I used different techniques -such as watercolor, acrylic, and sculpture- that would support the mood and the atmosphere of the artwork the most.
The exhibition is held at a dark room illuminating the works with colored lights. Hence, I used light as a visual effect to make shadows falling on the pieces, and creating a deeper and more realistic sense on the audience. Moreover, the lights led me to canalize the focus of the audiences on the more illuminated parts and helped me convey the message.
Acrylic on canvas
The hanging carpet on the rope symbolizes my home, and past because of the cultural motifs on the carpet. The background of the forepart of the rope is black and empty, indicating that I am going towards an unknown in the future with barefoot, meaning defenseless; and the rope that I am walking on will be harder since the carpet will no longer be there to soften my steps. In this work, the rope symbolizes my growth over time and it also connects my past and the future.
Wood, cloth, rope
Although this work looked like a shroud and created a negative atmosphere at first glance, the main thing I tried to explain was acceptance. Under the white fabric surrounded by rope, it seems as if there is a human figure who wants to get rid of everything on it. Here the rope shows our responsibilities from the moment we were born to be accepted by society. When we remove these responsibilities, a ghost is left with a white fabric. At this point, what I accept is that if we do not want to be a ghost in the society, we can never avoid some of the responsibilities reminding that we are still alive and we are there.
When the fisher’s anchor gets in the beach’s eye, it awakens the beach. As the beach stretches, the fisherman is drawn deep into the water. The rope used in this work symbolizes the unfulfilled expectations.
Watercolor on paper
A multi-layered image has emerged as the hand, butterfly wings and butterfly body are drawn on different pieces of paper and presented in different planes. The image is deepened by the shadows of the hand falling on the wing of the butterfly. While the rope in the work expresses the restrictions of the freedoms of people and the obstacles encountered, the butterfly figure created with shadow in the background shows that there could always be a solution.
Ever since I was a kid, I was being bombarded with ideas and ideas and beings surrounded with death. Every summer, my home would be infested with mosquitos, which was common in my culture. I witnessed the first deaths of my life whenever my parents killed those mosquitos. Whatever moved only moments ago no longer moved. Its parts were scattered on the surface where they had met their demise. After that, I asked myself: “What lies beyond death?” Everyone had their answer. Some would say that a God awaited us after death. Some insisted on a return to nature. Others concluded that everything would be lost forever after death. While these opinions did not seem to agree on a select answer, listening to them gave me an idea: An artistic take on what lies beyond death. Death is the cessation of life in an organism. It is the most visible inevitability that every human must experience for others before they themselves go through the same process. The dead body attracts detritivores and saprophytes, creatures that consume dead material to survive. Layers of the body shed and get eaten by these organisms, eventually leaving bones and fossilized remains. Warzones, severed bodies, decaying remains, all were either before or after we start to look at death as what it is. However, because of its material inevitabilities, death became a part of every culture. One of the few species to mourn their dead, humans created elaborate ways to experience and express their losses. Over time, religions appeared and gave humans a way out. They believed that the essence of a human lives on and perseveres in an afterlife, where the dead would be responsible in their previous lives. Some others thought that our lives are endless cycles, and that each person’s actions in their life would determine their next life. I intended to capture the process of death in a four-step manner: Fatal events, death, decay, and new life. I chose war to depict the first step, as it is one of the most graphic representations of a cause of death. Then, I focused on the rituals surrounding death and what happens to the body. Surprisingly, I had found more life in death than I expected. Because the physical exhibition was canceled due to the recent pandemic, I and my classmates created a virtual exhibition on the school website.
1- Last Men Standing
Digital photography (print)
Derived from the term “last man
standing,” the work intends to express the violent connection between war and
death. The figures are scattered around the surface; the closer a figure is to
the candlelight, the more likely that it is standing, therefore alive. The
candlelight is to represent the still-persevering life, faintly shining through
amid the chaos and death that surrounds it. However, its dim light also points
out the apparent absence of life. Thematically, the work represents an event
2- The Rest
Acrylic on canvas
Influenced by Ancient Turkic
funerals, this work depicts a newly dead man lying on the ground. While reading
through a history magazine, I found some ancient Central Asian customs
interesting and decided to draw some things based on their looks. I used
animalistic carvings on the stone nearby to represent animal spirits generally
present in shamanist culture. It represents the first apparent consequence of
Sculpture: Plaster, acrylic
The third step to the journey
beyond death, this sculpture represents the graphic aspect of decay. The
sculpture is colored black due to its association with death, which contrasts
to the alive maggots left white. The holes in the eyes and the maggots convey
that the body had been dead for a long time. Its jagged edges further express
the advanced state of decay. I deliberately used my hands while applying
plaster to give it a rough texture.
This animation depicts a small
plant growing inside a hollow skull. The body that housed the skull is long
dead, leaving a relic of its existence behind. The rest, completely decomposed
into the soil, nurtures the plant’s growth. The animation loops, because this
process happens indefinitely; life returns to death, and death returns to life.
This is the final piece of what lies beyond death: Life itself, which begins
the cycle anew.
Dreams are the expressions of our subconscious. We dream not because we want to, but because we have no other choice. However, the concept of “dream” is not limited to what we see while we are asleep. We dream of a better future, in which everyone receives good healthcare or education for free; we dream of having a good job and a big house. When a dream becomes true, it is a truly magical moment. However, we cannot always accomplish our dreams. Sometimes, we fail miserably. What fascinates me about dreams is their uncontrollable nature. Because each person is unique, their dreams are different from each other. Our dreams are shaped by who we are, yet we have no control over them. So, in my exhibition, I decided to reflect on this uncontrollable nature of our dreams, with its sides that are too dark or depressing to be included in a children’s book. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the exhibition could not be held and the artwork was published on a school website. The digital pieces that were supposed to be printed were included in digital form with their predicted size if printed.
I believe that to understand an idea, one should begin by reflecting on themselves. Therefore, the exhibition starts with a reflection on myself, Leave Me Alone!, as I question what I want, or dream of, in my life, during this period of time. It is a manifestation of my unwillingness to share about myself. I want to be left alone. I dream of peace and quiet. The second and third pieces in the exhibition help develop the story through the idea of reflections. Total Internal Reflectionconnects my unwillingness to share about myself to the lack of communication between people in our society through the buildings we live in. I believe this lack of connection with other people is a result of the urbanization after the Industrial Revolution. The next piece, Reflections, concludes this mini-journey through the idea of reflection by connecting to the theme of the exhibition: dreams. I believe that we are often too busy following our dreams that we do not have enough time to reflect on what we have done. Therefore, we become alienated from the concept of reflection. In Reflections, I try to communicate this idea through the abstractification of reflections on water. In the first three pieces, the medium used gets less reflective progressively as it goes from graphite to ink, and from ink to charcoal.
The fourth piece, the Essence of Life takes us back to our
childhood dreams. When you ask a child where they want to live in 30 years,
they will probably say: “a castle”. No ordinary family car ever adorned the
bedroom wall of a child in the form of a poster, it has always been an exotic
one, probably a Ferrari. Therefore, the Essence of Life delves
deep into our childhood dreams through the image of a child in the act of
eating, and the origins of our attachment to consumption.
The next two pieces highlight the coming of age, when we learn that our
dreams probably will not become true and the reasons for that. While Burnt,
Chained & Broken expresses this realization on a personal level, the
Intergalactic Bedouin explores what prevents us from
achieving our dreams as humankind.
The seventh piece in the exhibition, “a blessing and a
curse” focuses on those highly privileged people who are “living the
dream” of consumption while making others live through hell. The next piece the
House of God connects to those who live through hell and what keeps
them going on even if they are battered and bruised.
The Girl in the Gallery is the last piece in the exhibition, and it aims to evoke a sense of mystery and curiosity we feel when looking at art in the viewer. However, this time the art is not what is hung on the wall. The focal point now becomes the girl and we try to figure out what she thinks about the artwork she has seen. We will never know what goes through her head, but we can keep dreaming.
1 – Leave Me Alone! (Self-portrait)
Graphite on paper
With this piece, I have tried to create something that
reflects my personality as someone who does not like to share about himself,
and my insecurities about having my photos taken. By covering some of my face
with my hand, I wanted to express that insecurity, but I have left enough
indicators for someone who knows me to understand that this is a self-portrait.
This piece was also an exercise in foreshortening as I have drawn the hand that
covers my face true to size and adjusted the proportions according to the hand.
2- Total Internal Reflection
Ink on paper
Total Internal Reflection is defined as the complete reflection of a ray of light within a medium in physics. In the piece, we can see the reflection on the building, but we cannot see what is inside. As our cities developed through time, we became more oblivious to events happening around us and people living near us. The process of urbanization has killed the connection between people and we entered a state of total internal reflection, disconnected from others.
Charcoal on paper
We are too busy following our dreams; we usually do
not take the time to reflect on ourselves. The piece tries to communicate this
message through the abstractification of reflections on water. The
abstractification is achieved by eliminating the midtones and establishing a
matte surface area through the use of charcoal. Even though the reflections are
“abstractified,” their presence in the piece is established by the balance of
negative and positive spaces. Therefore, it is the balance between black and
white that establishes this mishmash of abstract shapes as the water surface
and gives depth to the piece.
4 – The Essence of Life
This piece is heavily inspired by Barbara Kruger’s
work. It focuses on personal origins of consumerism. We define ourselves by
what we consume. No child dreams of living in a shed. No child’s bedroom walls
were ever adorned by posters of family cars. Everyone dreams of being wealthy,
having a big house and a nice car. Our dreams are built upon the concept of
consumption. However, we, as individuals, have nothing to do with the fact that
our dreams are built upon consumption. The concept is slowly instilled in our brains
from the moment we are born. The background is an edited photo of 2-year-old me
eating corn on the cob, emphasizing the idea that our connection with
consumption starts when we are very young and highlights our desire to consume
in a raw, untouched manner, seen through a child’s eyes.
This piece represents how the struggles in our life
shatters our innocent, childish dreams. I started Burnt, Chained & Broken
with the goal of creating a bust of myself. I have then discovered the rough
texture I could create with plaster and really liked it. I have decided to
embrace the rough texture and build on it as I went forward; I wanted to
express the rough patches I went through in my life. I applied two coats of acrylic
paint with a painting knife to preserve and emphasize the rough surface as the
painting knife did not completely fill the dents in the surface. The first coat
was a pink between a skin tone and flesh. The second coat was a dull shade of
dark green to create a contrast and establish the base for the burnt look. I
have then lightly spray painted the outer coat with black to complete the burnt
look. White wire was added to create more contrast with the dark painted head
and a brain/cloud-like outer shape represents our innocent dreams and ideas. I
shattered a glass pane and added a few shards that I have picked into the wire
structure. Finally, the chain around the neck was added to represent the
conditions that prevent us from accomplishing our dreams while adding more
visual weight to the lower portion of the sculpture and preventing it from
becoming too top-heavy.
6- The Intergalactic Bedouin
Acrylic on canvas
Bedouins are nomadic North African people. The nomadic
nature of the Bedouin symbolizes the aspirations of humankind about going to
space and exploring beyond the Earth. However, we built more obstacles ourselves
because of our attachment to traditions, unwillingness to work together and accept
change. We seek progression as we aspire to explore the universe and maybe find
a habitable planet, yet we are attached to our values that prevents the
progression we want. Instead of trying to create depth in the background
through the variation of color, I tried to achieve the same sense of depth by
incorporating the lighting while displaying the piece. A real light source
interacts with the texture of paint on the canvas to establish the depth in the
7 – “a blessing and a curse”
Ink on paper
Oil is a blessing and a curse. It is a huge resource
of income that could help build better lives for everyone in oil-rich
countries, but that is definitely not the case. Instead, a handful of people
control the oil reserves, making millions that fuel their luxurious lifestyles,
and are “living the dream”, while the public continues to live in poor
conditions. The people who control the oil also tend to control the politics,
leading to an endless loop of corruption. The figure in the piece is depicted
as a rich Middle Eastern man whose brain has been replaced by an oil pump. As
the oil pump works, oil drips out of his mouth to fill a tank. I wanted to
represent how the oil-rich people, oblivious to all struggles the other people
have, are driven by their lust to earn more through oil.
8 – The House of God
Digital photography (print)
The concept of religion is an intriguing one, as it exists in some form in every culture in the world. Even if they differ vastly in terms of rituals and obligations depending on the cultural origins, all religions are similar in terms of their social functions. Religion is a comforting concept that tells you that you will be rewarded if you are a good person, gives you a psychological shelter when things are bad and hope that better days will come if you endure the struggles: “Your dreams will come true if you are good enough.” The piece focuses on religion as a shelter that protects people. Written on the sign in front of the First Baptist Church in America, “Mi casa es su casa.” emphasizes this approach that indicates no matter how bad things get, God will protect and comfort you, and you will always be welcome in his house.
9 – The Girl in the Gallery
Digital photography (print)
This piece focuses on the sense of mystery and curiosity we feel when we look at art. Art is not a part of our animalistic nature, but a product of our need to self-express. Therefore, it is not easily recognizable as our animalistic actions. We can easily understand the message a facial expression displays without any other information, but we need more information to process a piece of art, which can be our previous knowledge about a topic. Therefore, everyone can have a different conclusion about what a piece of art expresses. This photograph captures the moment in which someone is trying to process a piece of art. As the secondary audience, we are trying to process not only the piece she is looking at but also her looking at the piece. We do not know who she is, what knowledge she has that connects to the piece, or how her facial expression looks like at that moment. We will never know what goes through her head, but we can keep dreaming.