At the Atelier with Leyla Emadi

Toplumsal cinsiyet, kimlik, cinsellik ve beden konuları üzerine eğilen sanatçı, cinsel kimlik ayrımlarının keskin olmaması gerektiğini vurgulamak adına, resimlerinde de modellerini bulanıklaştırıyor, ayırıyor ve böylece sınırları yumuşatıyor. Toplumun belirlediği ana şekillendirmeler üzerinden yola çıkan Toraman, birey üzerinde baskı kuran ayrımları, resimlerinde kendi diliyle ifade ediyor.

Toraman, kadın ve erkek kategorilerini nasıl anlamlandırdığımız ve ayırdığımız üzerinde durarak, bu ayrımın bu kadar keskin hatlarla ayrılamayacağını söylüyor. Aynı kimlik kartlarımızda olduğu gibi, resimlerinde kullandığı kadın ve erkeği sembolize eden bebek mavisi ve uçuk pembe tonlarıyla cinsiyet kategorilendirmelerine vurgu yapıyor. Kadın ve erkek portrelerini birleştirerek cinsel kimliğini okuyamadığımız androjen portreler yaratıyor ve bu portreleri kusursuz olarak bize gösteriyor; bu anlamda cinsel kimsiksizliği yüceltiyor. Özer Toraman ile atölyesinde buluştuk…

Röportaj: Polen Korkmaz

We talked to Leyla Emadi, one of Artnivo’s successful artists, about her touching subjects, the meaningful materials she uses, her atelier with lots of energy and many more… Of course, we didn’t forget to ask about her work that will be exhibited at Contemporary Istanbul very soon…
Rana Kelleci: Let’s start with a very general question. Could you tell us about your production process; What is the force that drives you to start a business, then how do you process it?
Leyla Emadi: I can say that I don’t have a problem with the subject since I focus on social issues in general… We are very lucky, especially considering the wealth of current news from living in Turkey In short, the issues are always in my mind and I only go back to the atelier on a regular basis as I proceed through the situations that affect me. All you have to do is go and find the work. This is maximum a ten-day adventure for me if I concentrate.
RK: There are topics that you often focus on in your works: restraint, women, violence, censorship… What is the issue that impresses you the most? Is there a goal or a message you want to achieve with these issues, such as awareness?
LE: The subject that impresses me the most is the human being and the injustice done to him/her… I cannot tolerate injustice, in fact, what is done to any living thing, not just humans…
For example, in my early works, I was obsessed with animals, and I was dealing with pigs being associated with religion and declared as evil beings.
Later, we got bird flu, poor roosters and chickens perished, I included them in my paintings too… I apologize to them by putting them on canvas in my own way… We shouldn’t be so wild… Of course, if we look at the point Turkey has come to lately, I am most affected by the gradual deprivation of human rights and freedoms, and I even become irritated… Actually, I don’t care about raising awareness. My problem is with myself at the first stage… As for why I insist on violence and suppression, I think this is the desire to express the pain of not being able to solve these issues in my mind again and again… Evil, hatred, war, torture, injustices will never end… I am very impressed by some of them, while others do not touch me. . The one who touches it hurts me, I guess I want to hurt others by transferring it to the canvas 🙂 So yes, it seems like I have a little message anxiety…
“The subject that impresses me the most is people: the injustice done to people.”
RK: So how much are you affected by the restriction of these freedoms as an artist, is there any self-censorship?
LE: I’d be lying if I said I’m not impressed. Inevitably, the human relinquishes a little, but I still think I delivered my message. Especially in my first works, I was more concerned about messages, but now I seem to have simplified a little more… The person who has a deeper understanding, would understand. Self-censorship is not just in art, it is now ingrained in everyone’s private life… What could be worse than not being able to say, write or draw what’s in one’s mind, in ‘democracy’…
RK: Women and injustices against women also find a great place in your works. What do you think about feminism?
LE: I certainly don’t consider myself a feminist. Feminists may be angry with me here, but accepting being a feminist means separating, isolating and seeing oneself as different from the other. I don’t think that women should be positioned differently from men… Yes, we may have physical differences, but women complement men and men also complement women… I have recently covered the subject of women a lot because hundreds of them are exposed to injustice and violence every day. In my first solo exhibition, Blockade, I included only men… So I only look at it as ‘human’…
RK: You are of Iranian origin, but you were born in Turkey, you are a mother and a female artist in Turkey… How does all this affect your art, how does it change your perspective?
LE: I am originally from Iran, but I can say that I see myself more Turkish… We came to Turkey at a very young age, and this was a decision taken only by my father’s admiration for Atatürk… Of course, as a person who embodies both cultures, I have many riches. It’s not without its disadvantages, but I think it feeds my art with all it adds to me… I think motherhood is a divine thing, I was very clear before children… So there used to be black and white for me, now there are colors in between… I feel like I have softened and my work has softened with them… It is not possible to fully concentrate on work when there are children around, they and their work are always ahead of mine… Therefore, I have to be very programmed to keep up with everything.
RK: As for your technique… We often see your canvases, you also have works such as installation and sculptures. In which medium do you like to produce the most, which medium best conveys your subjects?
LE: I have been working with acrylic on my canvases for the last 4-5 years, before that I was painting in oil. When the waiting process in oil painting started to distract me from painting, I switched to acrylic and pattern on canvas… This way, I can quickly transfer what I feel to the canvas without the effect of it… Of course, the use of materials is also something that excites me and I still add three-dimensional materials to some of my canvases… I also have a love of installation and canvas painting that I never gave up 🙂 I started installation at university and I enjoy it immensely. One does not come before the other, so I cannot say that I prefer this. I’ve been spending a lot of time on paper work lately. Drawing makes me a little more comfortable, like the fun part of the job, it is a kind of the preparation stage for the new painting…
RK: Your installation titled “Girift” attracted a lot of attention… What kind of feedback did you get from this work? Will we see this type of installation more often from you?
LE: “Girift” was an installation that I worked on for about 1.5 years and it had such a beauty for me… This work consisted of colorful crocheted breasts that I made with the women in my family and my very close friends… Coming altogether with them and knitting continuously with wool and crochet in our hands, we went to the old times, it was as if we were performing a life section that belonged entirely to us women. As you can see, there was a tremendous entertaining and peaceful production phase… Later that work was exhibited at the Baku Biennial, and then in a gallery in Istanbul… The feedback was great, I think it attracted a lot of attention. In the meantime, those breasts were also talked about by a few people with malicious intent, but I’m just saying that actions speak louder than words… Of course, I will continue to make installations, and I already do… In fact, I have a work that I am preparing for Contemporary Istanbul soon…
“The thing that bothered me the most about art from the beginning is that it is intangible. I want everything I do to be touched.”
RK: What is the place of the material in your works? For example, in “Girift”, you interpreted your use of crochet as a woman’s delicate and patient weaving of her life. Which materials do you prefer, what do they indicate?
LE: The material is one of my must-haves. My topic at the university was “The Use of Materials in Turkish Art and Door-Themed Paintings”. In other words, material has been in my life ever since… When it comes to material, it is necessary to touch it, to feel it. Well, if we are doing this in art, it seems absurd to me to say “don’t touch this piece of art”… Because when I touch it, I can feel something different from what I see… I made my first installation with wool at school and for a long time I continued to use wool, rope and twine both on canvases and in three-dimensional works… For example; The “Gallows” work was done with ropes, the “Alice in Wonderland” installation was a house built entirely with wool… In short, ‘rope’-like materials are loaded with meanings such as ‘tying, joining’ for me, so I like to use it… In the installation I made for Contemporary Istanbul, I used iron, which is the opposite of soft rope… I used iron once in previous years, but it did not satisfy me as much as rope… This time, I wanted to express the anger I had accumulated inside of me with a hard material, I guess it was iron…
RK: You studied at Pierce College in Los Angeles and Yeditepe in Istanbul and worked in various artist ateliers. How do you see the contribution of your entire education process to your current art?
LE: I believe that not only academic education, but everything I have experienced and seen has contributed to my life, my art, for good or bad. All of them will be useful to me one day, if not that day… Is education in art a must? No, it’s not, but if it does, it’s a big plus.
RK: There are so many different art mediums emerging today. Video art is one of them. What do you think about it?
LE: Innovations are never ending 🙂 Especially in the age of technology we live in, something new is popping up from everywhere… I can’t keep up with all of them even if I try to follow them… Also, I’m one of those types who can’t give up their habits quickly… I can’t adapt to the new, especially the technological ones… I am one of those who say I wish I still wrote letters with pen and paper… There are amazing artists who make Video Art, I’ve never tried it… Let them do it, I’ll watch it
“This is my temple where I can be alone with myself…”
RK: The energy of your workshop is very good… How does it reflect on you?
LE: I love this place… I’m a very ‘home’ person… I can say that I have created a small house for myself here too… When I am an artist with children, there are very few moments when you are alone, this is my sanctuary where I can be alone with myself… I try to come regularly every day… Some days I don’t feel like producing at all, but I can still nourish myself by staying in the atelier and thumbing through books somehow…
RK: You have a huge library, almost entirely filled with art history books…
LE: I love books, especially art history books… The lives and works of artists… It is very entertaining… For example, I can make a whole series out of a word they say…
RK: How much time do you spend there?
LE: I try to come regularly every day, except weekends… Those days are for my children… Because if I’m not programmed, I stay behind of everything and can’t finish anything…
RK: Have you ever thought of working at a Home-Atelier?
LE: My home was an atelier for a few years at university and beyond, but one day, when I came home and saw my son’s magnificent colorful work in one of the series I was preparing for my final thesis, I realized that I had to put an end to this work and set up a separate atelier for myself… I worked in that atelier for 5-6 years, enjoying being alone, and now I have been in this atelier since May…
RK: What if I asked you to compare the art world of old times with the art world today… Which would you choose?
LE: We already said that we are in the age of technology. Everything that will make our lives easier is in front of us, but we still can’t socialize with each other, yet we still can’t catch up anywhere… It’s like we’re always lagging behind… Human relationships are almost non-existent… I feel like we’re being pulled into a strange, artificial world. Returning to the question, of course, I would prefer old lives, I would like to live in the age of artists who spend hours around a table on a subject, people who manage to unite in poverty, real artists who can discuss and produce together…
RK: Let’s talk a little bit about the future… In the short term, we have the Contemporary Istanbul fair ahead of us. You will take part in the fair with Artnivo and you are preparing a special work here. What would you like to say about this work?
LE: I am currently preparing for my second solo exhibition and the topic is “people who talk too much and nonsense” 🙂 In short, I can say that I focused on “Gossip”… I had a few installation ideas related to this subject in my mind and they were ready for my drawings. When Artnivo asked me for a work for Contemporary Istanbul, I realized one of those installations. I created letters that I made from profile iron and brought these letters together to form a word.. I won’t give any more information 🙂 Let’s say we talk about it again after meeting with the audience at Contemporay Istanbul…
RK: Do you have a specific date for your planned solo exhibition?
LE: Unfortunately, since I am not an artist affiliated with any galleries, I cannot give an exact date at the moment… Considering I mostly make large canvases and installations, I contact galleries that have space to exhibit them… I really want to hold this exhibition like April, let’s see what will come up 🙂
RK: In the long run, are there any points you would like to improve or change in terms of your own life and art?
LE: There is nothing that I want to change at the moment, I think that I am progressing slowly but digesting… As for what I want to do in the future; I want to make very large installations, that is, I dream of it…Sponsored gigantic installations with architectural dimensions… I have lots of drawings and calculations that I have collected, but I don’t know when they will take place… I sent it to the above, the rest is up to him.
RK: We talked about the digital world, what do you think about an artist using social media?
LE: It is inevitable in this age… We cannot refuse it when everything and everyone is there. Social media has now become a completely socializing medium, we can talk more comfortably from there than when we meet and talk physically. Those who are not included in this are completely out of the agenda and the environment where they are based in. Although I’m not very active on Twitter and Facebook, I love Instagram very much… I like to share photos and be informed about the accounts I follow in the same way… I find Instagram more sincere..
RK: Artnivo is an online platform and your work is displayed here. What kind of experience is it to be involved there? What advantages or disadvantages does an online art platform have for artists, art buyers and art lovers?
LE: I am incredibly happy to be with Artnivo. I have never been to an online platform before, this is my first experience. Artnivo has entered this market very quickly, I feel as if it has been around for many years… In my opinion, they did a great job, creating a comfortable and satisfying platform where everyone can easily access art and artists. It seems impossible for those living in the metropolis to follow the openings of galleries and museums and be present in all of them, especially when they do not have enough time to spare for themselves. Therefore, a wonderful comfort has been added to our lives… With Artnivo, art can now reach everyone…