OMM Studio IV: Q & A With Gülcan Şenyuvalı

A meditative day in the studio with Gülcan Şenyuvalı

Gülcan Şenyuvalı’s works are theatrical visualisations of womanhood and the work behind maintaining societally prescribed feminine roles. She draws attention to the forcefulness and malice underlying accepted and incessantly repeated cliches. These works between realism and romanticism bring to light the labor involved in protecting the socially constructed ideal of “being a woman.” We discussed her current theoretical explorations, the state of artists in the pandemic, and her dedication to the craft.

Can you tell us a bit about your practice? What were the biggest influences as you developed your style?

In addition to traditional elements, my practice tends to involve a lot of secondary materials like pen, pencil, lace, string, or cloth. I work with collage and create my compositions over multiple iterations. I start working on a few projects at the same time, which can be tiring, but it’s the only way I can delegate my focus.

Besides my personal observations, my practice has been influenced by movies, music, and books, as it is for most of us.

Did you have an upcoming exhibition or project that was cancelled due to COVID-19 and subsequent global crisis? Will your works be shown in the near future?

I consider myself lucky in that regard, because my personal show Garden of Hysteria was exhibited at Ferda Art Platform from February 12th to March 4th. So I got to experience that right before the pandemic. The World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic on March 11th. But some collective events I was scheduled to be a part of, like Step Istanbul, have been postponed. I received an offer for a personal show in 2021, but since we still don’t know how this situation is going to develop, I can’t make any concrete plans. But I’ve still been producing new work.

What do you foresee for the post-pandemic art world? How has this period affected your practice?

I don’t think artists are the worst off in this situation. Even before the pandemic, our future wasn’t looking very bright. There aren’t any organizations that protect and defend the rights of artists, and if there are I don’t know of them. It’s hard to get by as an artist in Turkey without a source of additional income. Though some private organizations offer forms of support, they usually end up being short-term and insufficient. One has to be dedicated in order to stay productive because art isn’t a priority for societies like ours. The pandemic has exposed once again the fragile workings that surround artistic production. If, like me, you’re trying to make work on the periphery, it becomes even more difficult. But it’s not impossible. You can sustain your dream if you are curious and passionate about it. Plus there’s the internet, so we can visit exhibits and events around the world even if we can’t see them personally. Since the pandemic started, most art events take place online. I try to stay informed. In short, the pandemic hasn’t really affected my production space. I lived a pretty isolated life before this. But it has increased my worries for the future.

What are you currently focusing on in your work?

Through my work I usually try to analyze the concept of womanhood presented to me by my environment and the ready-made impressions placed upon society. I’ve recently been researching and working with themes of nature and evil in addition to my focus on the circumstances of women. I don’t understand how humans, a self-proclaimed rational species, can do so much damage to the environment without any regret or self-reflection. I am questioning ideas of women, nature, and evil, and am shaping my work around these interrogations.

Have there been any artists or exhibits you’ve been especially moved by since the beginning of isolation?

Ipek Duben’s Angels and Clowns at Pi Artworks, and M.K. Perker’s Night Shift exhibits at Pilot Gallery. I keep coming back to Louise Bourgeois's The Red Sky at Hauser & Wirth.

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