Sentinel Poetry (Online) #54 ISSN 1479-425X


Editor-in-Chief: Amatoritsero Ede

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At the Feet of the Muse


Patrick Iberi: Your paintings are quite expressive, with distorted shapes and animated colours as dominant features. What has inspired this peculiar style?


Gizem Saka: It all started as experimentation. The distorted shapes are the natural consequence of using the same canvas over and over. When I am unsatisfied with a painting, I turn the canvas upside down and try to super-impose another image, with the remnants of the previous image still showing. So in a way, the paintings are palimpsest works with several layers of features and shapes, a technique which is open to surprises and excitement.


P.I.: Most of your paintings suggest an overwhelming influence of Henri Matisse who created images of comfort and personal contentment. Is the idea of a didactic work unappealing?


G.S.: At the moment yes, I find didactic works unappealing. This doesn’t mean a work should deliberately be devoid of any message, or that the artist’s aim should be to erase any possible reading of the work. I like the artworks not when they teach me things but when they tell me stories; make me aware of how other people feel, how they live or how they love, so with artworks we can tell each other that we look different but our humanness is the same.


P.I.: You employ themes and imageries of women absorbed in mundane life situations in your work. Does feminism as an idea play any role in creating your art?


G.S.: I don’t have in mind a specific theory on feminism when constructing images. My grandmother had seven sisters, three daughters and each had two daughters. In a family tree that almost contradicts statistics, I observed nothing but feminine joys and sorrows. My canvases are expressions of my colorful past: A tribute to the generations of women who were a part of my household in Istanbul. In my paintings, these women are reading, eating the fresh fruits of colorful orchards, being pregnant, looking out of the window to an Istanbul landscape, and are usually accompanied with fresh flowers.


P.I.: What other forms of art are you passionate about and why?


G.S.: I love sculpture and cinema. I started art with charcoal drawing and sculpture; I’d like to go back to it. In terms of cinema, I completed my first short movie, which got rejected from many festivals (not surprisingly, it was about the life of a painting). I am working on a new short, which is at the casting stage and a narrative feature, which is at the writing stage. I am a true beginner in these art forms given that I haven’t accumulated enough rejections (for me, always a signal of insufficient body of work). However, I am fond of these two art forms and I appreciate the artists who produce genuine work in them.


P.I.: Visual art is boundless insofar as the human imagination is potent, are there any self-imposed restrictions to what you can express in your paintings?


G.S.: For me, the formula for freedom is the knowledge that I can always cover a painting. My art teacher used to say: “The palette knife is used to mix paint, but you should use it more often to scrap the unwanted paint off.” The idea that “not everything has to work out” is truly liberating. On the other hand, I feel like one day I might be restricted by my own previous work. That’s why I believe it is a curse for an artist to hear always flattering words. It might lead to the false conviction that there is only one style that is the best. It is important to remember that the point of doing artwork is to experience freedom.


P.I.: Turkey, your country of birth has a rich and vibrant Fine Art movement. Do you feel it is essential to carry on with this tradition as a painter?


G.S.: I am happy to reflect my culture and upbringing as far as it naturally comes out. I don’t believe in deliberate impositions of cultural elements in artwork. Neither do I feel the responsibility to do so. What they say for literature is also true for visual arts: every artwork is necessarily autobiographical.


P.I.: Do you have an opinion on the impact of mixed media in visual art?


G.S.: I think each media brings possibilities; therefore combining them could bring even more. I think mixed media enriches visual arts, but the artist needs a lot of courage and experimentation since there are usually not many precedents.


P.I.: “Ayna” one of your most exquisite works is loaded with imagery. Does it have any other aesthetic significance other than that enforced by the image of a mirror?


G.S.: I made it after I saw a Peruvian sculpture, in a museum in Washington DC. I was very much affected by the sculpture – a small piece depicting a surprised face. I spent some time in front of it, and the guard came to me and asked if I could see myself in the mirror. It was a nice metaphor I wanted to use in painting.


P.I.: What sustains your motivation to paint?


G.S.: Colors. Oil painting is incredibly rich in possibilities; there are infinitely many colors one could mix and use in harmony. I think I work in an inexhaustible medium- possibly other artists think the same for their media.


P.I.: Are you working on any other project at the moment?


G.S.: I am always working on painting every day. I am also currently working on my second short movie, which hopefully will be completed before fall.


P.I.: Thank you Gizem, wishing you all the best in the future.


G.S.: Thank you Patrick.


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 Gizem Saka


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