For SEVENTYFOUR’S first new STUDIO VISITS feature, we were invited into the quarantine home studio of Turkish visual artist Burçak Bingöl. Tucked away in the side streets of Gümüşsuyu, just a stone’s throw from the bustling streets of Taksim, Burçak’s studio room looks out onto an unexpected city oasis of towering pine and palm trees. Here, she’s hidden out through quarantine making use of this rare pause in a stretch of many busy years of constant production to take a step back, analyze her practice and ruminate on new projects. The walls are lined with whimsical looking mind-maps in cursive handwriting and watercolors, little paint pots and brushes are clustered over the floor. Burçak’s instantly recognizable Turkish iznik motifs are found in the tests and trials tacked in various places, as well as on a few Dior bags, stowed in the corners of the room, from a collaboration with the French brand that took place last year. On this still summer day, we speak to Burçak Bingöl about her latest projects, on how she’s spent the last months, and on what’s coming next.
Quarantine has provided an interesting opportunity for everyone to slow down, and take a break from the pace of hurried production and deadlines. Not to mention the added dimension of facing the unprecedented and surreal effects of a global pandemic. How has this time affected your practice and process?
As an artist I’m quite familiar with being in an isolated mode of living and working. However, in this pandemic, being isolated felt different; during this period when everything stopped globally, I enjoyed working on my projects without any deadlines or rush. There were (and still are) tragedies and uncertainties caused by this pandemic but in my own small world I liked discovering an inner calendar, an inner rhythm of mine, which is not defined by outside conditions.
I am an artist who not only needs time for making but also, time for research. So, this period was very helpful in order to elaborate on new projects, make sketches and drawings, as well as find time to work on my uncompleted projects. Having said that, I must add, just before the quarantine, I was in Stockholm for four months for an artist’s residency and my routine there was more or less the same, so I was able to adapt quite easily.
You’ve just recently returned from the Iaspis residency in Sweden, can you describe the experience and the resulting project you’re currently working on?
Before going to Iaspis, I had heard many good things about this residency funded by the Swedish Government. It is a research-based residency, and they work very seriously on introducing the international artists to the local art scene through many studio visits. I should say that I was quite impressed with the professionalism, open-mindedness and intellectually nourishing environment of Iaspis and am very grateful for this grant.
My initial plan was to work on an artist book, “Hatayi”, but instead, I felt the necessity to review my own production history and started to work on a visual archive, a sort of a mind-map represented in small images and texts. During this process, I realized that I have been producing art uninterruptedly for twenty years. Strangely, this data visualization of my twenty years of work just fitted on a twenty-meter long roll of paper.
I completed my residency by receiving an invitation to hold a solo show in Gustavsberg Konsthall, which has now been postponed due to the pandemic. This show, when opened in September of 2021, will be a large scale, site-specific installation that is responding to the history of the hall as well as the interrupted operations of the nearby ceramic factory since 1825.
You spoke of being particularly intrigued by the spiritual practices and shamanism present in Nordic culture as well as the rituals and celebrations you witnessed while in Sweden. Can you tell us a little more about that?
Nature and culture have a very strong connection. My practice is a lot about the geographical significance of visual heritage(s) and how these different visualities influence one another. In Sweden, I noticed how rituals and celebrations are valued and how they function in the social sphere. I started to research some of them to understand Swedish culture and found many Pagan rituals, which have a strong connection to nature. This research then inspired me to start planning another project to be displayed in a rural area in Turkey. It’s still in its very early stages and I’m working on it.
You shared with us during the visit an incredible extensive project on your personal archives, mapping in detail the extent of your entire output and projects. How did this come about? What was the process like and how has the result directed you in moving forward?
This study came about as a result of my need to review my past works during my stay in Sweden. I spent 2019 working on collaborations with Dior and other solo and curated exhibitions. When it was all done, I felt overwhelmed and wanted to step back and take a look at my creative production. This turned into quite a project that consumed most of my residency period in Sweden. Looking back to my twenty years of work and making sense of the relationships between them was a fascinating journey. What helped me pull my thoughts together was the chronological guide I wrote and brief explanations of some significant works. At the end, what this process revealed to me was the importance both location and time have played in the evolution of my artistic quest.
Last year you were invited by Dior’s creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri to reinterpret the iconic Lady Dior Bag, alongside eleven women artists from different generations and backgrounds. In the great company of Olga de Amaral, Polly Apfelbaum, Lee Bul, Isabelle Cornaro, Haruka Kojin, Li Shurui, Mickalene Thomas, Janaina Tschäpe, Morgane Tschiember and Pae White, you put forward a completely unique and bespoke design for the timeless bag. How was the collaboration with Dior and what was the idea behind your concept for the bag?
When I received this invitation, the first thought that came to my mind was to reflect on this iconic bag the subject matters I have been already working on in my projects, my own personal statement so to speak. I made two different designs and they wanted to produce both of them. They were both employing the floral vocabulary of Iznik. One bag titled, “Cobalt Course” was texturally playing with the blue and white color scheme of Iznik ceramics. In order to create a contrast between hard and shiny surfaces of the ceramics, I used an acrylic and aluminum blue floral detail – which was taken from a tile made for Süleymaniye Mosque, on a furry white background in the body. The other bag, titled “Iznik Enchanted”, was a composition where the traditional floral vocabulary translated to neon colors tufted on a shiny dark brown patent leather surface. I wanted to use the familiar in an unfamiliar way…
Collaborating with Dior for a product was truly amazing. After my sketches, they provided me with a very large spectrum of materials and techniques. These materials and prototypes frequently went back and forth between Dior’s atelier in Paris and my studio in Istanbul. I must add, Dior was extremely accommodating and respectful to my artistic vision throughout the project…it was a pleasure to work with them.
Despite what many familiar with your work expect, you spend significantly less time on the actual production of works, than on the process of research, conceptualization and planning. Can you speak a little bit about your process and how you work?
Most of my works are designed and visualized first in my mind and my sketchbook. I like working in the mornings during those free-floating hours where I find myself most receptive to research, thinking and imagining. I am inspired by various readings especially of history, architecture and literature and by spending time with my books which helps me crystallize my thoughts.
I like to orchestrate ideas, mediums and methods; therefore, my production requires lots of technical know-how that I have to plan beforehand. My making process usually includes other people; technicians, factories, and lots of logistics to and from industrial zones as well. So this usually necessitates detailed programming and fast realization. Even if I make small-scale sculptures in the studio, I usually work on series and produce multiple works at the same time…
Can you share with us any other upcoming projects?
This duration of the pandemic accumulated many projects in my sketchbooks. I don’t know how many of them will be produced but, there are some I know I will produce for sure. My solo show in Sweden has now been postponed to September of 2021. If things go as planned, I will also be a part of a group show at Tiergarten Kuntsverein, Berlin, and some other group shows later this year. Other than these shows, the preparation for my artist book “Hatayi” is still in progress and I’m in touch with some publication houses for the production…