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INTERVIEW WITH ÖZGE TOPÇU

You are a young artist that just graduated 4 years ago in Istanbul, how did you manage to be that renowned in only 4 years to the point where you had the opportunity to exhibit approximately 20 times of which one was a solo exhibition?

Until you asked this question, I was feeling I graduated 40 years ago! Probably the answer is that I was already feeling and living in that way even before I started to study art. 'Studying art' gave me more opportunities to get practical experiences as well as a more defined vision of my artistic guide-line. But I believe if someone does not take time to practice their art with conceptual and unique experiments in their mind since then, it’s hard just to rely on the academic process.
Secondly, before I started my art school, I graduated from a natural sciences and mathematics’ bachelor degree, that’s why, as soon as I changed my working field, I committed into art in a more professional way than some other students straight away, I suppose. I produced a lot and tried to experience all the media I could with a scientific method in order to create a kind of an inter-disciplinary way of thinking. And it helped a lot! Besides, I put effort not to miss any open call and my works resonated way more than I could even imagine among the art professionals and intellectuals’ scene.


About the media you just mentioned, what does it mean to you to use a variety of media to express yourself and how does the choice of one over another come up in your artistic path?

I think it’s because I focus on the point of view to express something in a comprehensive way of thinking, more than trying to fit in the standard definition of being a painter or a sculptor. I feel myself more as a messenger between those conceptions that are in my mind and the outside. Quite surprisingly enough, most of the time, the medium appears naturally! I do sketches in various media when I am in the creation process, and at some point, one medium becomes dominant over one another to express the best the idea behind and to represent it as an artwork.


At first sight, what can be striking in your universe is the quite rational link you created with constructions, in an urbanist and architectural way, could you explain your relationship with the building process? Can we say that this metamorphosis of landscapes is something that worries you? 

It is true that I feel close to various types of constructions because they are the witnesses of the human beings and I really value these witnesses in my art. But it’s also because architectural constructions take part to the process of building the future of human beings as well. They are the proof of different existences at the meantime in one peculiar space. In this perspective, I feel also an archaeologist as a pre-civilisation position in my work. 

As a witness to the changes of civilizations and human beings, I think it is something that amazes me more than it worries me. I see those metamorphoses as a spiritual challenge, the one to accept to get down on the control of our heritages in order to create the landmarks of our own civilization. For sure I would prefer that the changes appear in some new spots instead of destroying the previous memory of old places. However, if we focus on places such as capital cities, the civilization develops the metamorphosis around or inside those cities, they rarely develop somewhere new around. But if we talk about modernism, usually this movement tries to create new spots out of none previous memory, not to destroy any heritage and to bloom out of none of the previous cultural leftovers. Hence, I am just trying to show as much as I can the objective process of building and rebuilding landscapes that occurs nowadays, without really taking a political point of view on those topics. 


To portray the link between nature and space, you often use materials that contrast with, on one hand, raw materials like glass, wood, metal, ready-made or concrete, and then on the other hand, the smoothness of fragile paper, of the pencil and frottage on it, how do you explain this both organic and industrial characteristic in your art?

I perceive these materials as archaeological witnesses of the human creativity. City is my archaeological exploration field. I like to create alternative existence made from ready-made, founded objects or raw material which were already created or used previously for another usage. But I also want to touch and experience them by feeling their texture, transferring the medium into one another, in a nutshell, to play with them and with all the opportunities they can give. I like to challenge their functionality or non-functional absurdity, because for me, there is no difference between genuine fictional world or playful fictional world. 


Now we got to know your more, I would like to focus on the paintings we can find on Artnivo platform. Your paintings are almost monochromatic, what does it mean to you to use only whites with blue shades?

Blue is the colour of the sky that symbolises the transcendency. Besides, white accompanies the blue with the most minimal form of constructional surfaces. In a more practical thinking, white is also the standard colour of paper or architectural sketch. It helps me to create almost transparent landscapes. 


Specifically, on your “Absolute Corner” series, you decided to show the folding paper in 7 times with the same dimensions, what was the purpose of such a sequel?

These seven paintings represent one paper image which is folded to double by seven times. Seven is the absolute figure while folding one paper to double... There is no opportunity to fold paper more than seven times, and this experience is turning the corners into absolute count on the paper: two dimensional corners, like an element which generates the duality of existence in one of the creation theory, or also a kind of abstract "différence" like in Derrida's deconstruction... 


Similarly, in your A4 series that associate a letter to a figure, you decided to emphasise with the same manner the shapes a sheet of paper can endure, how is this idea of transformation upon a same object important or poetical to you? 

Paper is the considerable media of the information age. My purpose was to represent the reality of this era as an illusion. I created some models and sketches made out from paper sheets and turned them into something that looks like a construction again. Some shapes were already shaped such as envelopes, origami airplanes and some functional packages. These shapes also had special names for example A4 size paper, C6 size envelope or B2 model fight plane... By naming the works in this way, I also wanted to represent the numeration system of the industrial-information age. 


Comparing your installations to your sculptures, the first are often created from ready-made or concrete whereas the latter from varnished graphite like in your Mandalas series, how do you explain that choice of materials?

I feel freer if I use any unusual materials to create my artworks. I feel more productive and innovative, even if I use experimental material from the ancient ages. Most probably, it comes from having grown up in a post-industrial age. I studied in schools which served that era, tried to be liked by people of this age. I feel myself each time that I try to create something completely new but in the end, I always realise it already exists. It is a cycle, the world, the ages, the systems... Besides, if I do something in two dimensions, I always try to refer from a three-dimensional process. For instance, the frottage of the manhole cover is trying to turn the third dimension into a second-dimension process on the surfaces. This kind of experience excited me a lot. I don’t know the reason yet, however I guess it is because I am also into geometry and topology, which shows us the illusion of the universe and proves it.


Also, in your “Sahip Çıkmaya Gelince Yoksunuz” installation made out of flat names, did you want to denounce something relating to housing in Istanbul or about the rationalisation of every panel of our lives? 

In that work, on the main signboards it is written in Turkish: 'When it came to do something, you were never there'. This sentence had been told to me by an Armenian traditional sign painter. He wanted to denounce the common attitudes toward his ethnic identity from the public. As you can see in this work, there are various different typologies on the glass signs. They are also the name of the buildings which are mostly in a process of being demolished by urban regeneration. Simultaneously, the urban characteristic was taking over the traditional crafts of the golden sign paintings, making the different ethnicity in the country to disappear little by little. In the end, the sentence of the sign painter became more meaningful in multi-perspective to me. 


You are based in Lisbon now, however I realised you were often travelling. I was wondering, do you have any forthcoming exhibition or another project being realised soon?

Yes, I am one of the participants of the London Art Night 2018 that will occur on July the 7th. Currently, we are developing the site with specific installations to build around Lambeth Walk. Besides, I am publishing my artist book in Istanbul and preparing a public-speech in the Salt Galata about the book as well. Also, I am going to perform my new solo exhibition next year. It is going to be out of a big production with funding and exhibited in multiple locations. I am really excited about it and looking forward to see it happen.

 

Interviewer: Manon Grodner

Translation: Verda Sigura

May 2018


 

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