Interview with CANAN

You just signed and exhibition that took place in Arter, from September the 12th to February the 18th, entitled “Behind mount Qaf”, staged on three levels and englobing works from 1998 to 2017. How does the idea of that kind of solo-show comes up?  

Surprisingly enough, they were many different dynamics in this exhibition. Indeed, I was first told about this exhibition one whole year before it opened. In my creation process, I am more or less very intuitive, so I began to think about designing the whole exhibition on this intuitive process, even by giving “Ah” for the exhibition name, as the most perfect intuitive exclamation. But while I was undertaking all those artworks, I was suffering from a kind of a traumatic phase that made me realise this “Ah” could have an infinite number of meanings that I didn’t want. For instance, you can experience joy, pain, surprise, deception, compassion with this exclamation, and I wanted to give a comprehensive guide-line to the exhibition. At the meantime, several artworks began to emerge in an imaginary mood, to the point they were catching up some of my old works, seven of which were chosen for the exhibition. By the way, I was first astonished to realise that as human beings, we do not really show that much variability as spiritual change. It was really surprising to see that productions of twenty year ago still fitted in my physical, emotional and subconscious mood. I understood it still in that intuitive process I am talking about. Nevertheless, the seven old artworks chosen were small-sized compared to the large artworks that were all of new production, so it’s not a retrospection nor a fifty-fifty gathering of works, just an exhibition that could be completed by old works of mine in the same artistic perspective.



With all of this going up, the exhibition turned into an epic and mythic narrative language where dreams, fairy-tales and mythology from Islam had a very important meaning to me. I started to see this as a demonstration of the collective subconsciousness we all experience through our live, with for example all these ontological questions on the Being. That’s how I interpreted this “Mount Qaf”, that creates a quest about ourselves in its most deep perspective. Then, I followed a very intuitive display that put altogether the artworks as a whole. . 


The exhibition creates a very personal universe using at the meantime videos, sculptures, installations, photos, miniatures and etching on paper. All these media indicate the diversity of your universe but they still enhance your faculty to display a coherent world. Then, how would you explain the use of that many media in your production process?


Well, I suppose, as I said above, that I am trying to be as intuitive as I can in my artistic creation process. Hence, I don’t want to define myself either as a contemporary artist or as a traditional one, nor do I want to limit myself in one medium out of another. I am an artist, in its most neutral meaning and that is why I use the media only as possible tools. In this perspective, I wouldn’t feel comfortable if I had to face a situation where I would have to define myself as an artist but through the media I used, for example only as a “sculptor” or a “painter”, when I can express myself through all the other media I feel the need to.



Sometimes, if I don’t know perfectly a media technique but I still want to use it in an artwork, I call some assistant to whom I explain in details the idea in my mind, and it still works perfectly. It was for example the case for the hand-sewed installation “Animal Kingdom” on the first floor in the Arter exhibition. I perfectly trust my intuitions and never restrain myself in the creation process. I think that’s why so many media are used at the meantime, but still all express the same way my artistic universe.  


Do you think that this exhibition made you learnt something about you or about your artistic approach ?  


Actually, I think that I would define this exhibition as a step forward in my artistic maturity. First of all, because it was my first biggest solo-show and I had more experienced group exhibitions so far. Maybe it can appear silly at first sight, but indeed, I had the opportunity more than never to be aside with the public, and to have their global comprehension of my work. It was the first time I had that many contact with the audience and this relationship to the public, to their emotions and to the ideas that come up into them aside my works was a very precious contribution to my future intellectual process. They gave me a lot of ideas for future works and I don’t know how to thank them back. It was a dialogue between the artworks I had created, with their current feelings upon them and with the replies I had in my head at that moment thanks to their questionings.



SThen, I also realised, as I said previously, that one can still learn from its former states of mind. Here, when I was looking back to artworks of ten years ago, they could still give me some clues and information about my current self. So, I think I will go on following my intuitions for future artworks by expressing both level of consciousness, mine and the one of the collective.  


In this exhibition, one of the remarkable themes was the one of motherhood, as well as women figures were omnipresent. How would you explain that choice while dealing with spiritual and ontological concepts? 


I think that I was more or less trying to deal with Body not only as this physical substance we are often tempted to reduce it. Body doesn’t only consist in the physical primary sense but is also relevant when it is about to show emotions. In those words, gender or genitals isn’t really appropriate as a distinction. For instance, in many of my artworks in this exhibition I interchanged the sexual most socially-accepted concepts of femininity and masculinity by showing up some hermaphrodite and transgender characters, like in “Cybele”, in “Heaven” or in “Purgatory”. And here I just used some random built concepts to express two energies that are absolutely equal. In the brain, for example, the masculine side would be the left one, with the speed and the conscious instincts of surviving or being aware, whereas the feminine one would be the right side, with its more emotional talents. No matter whether this is true or false, some obscure statements still occur when we talk about femininity. One of the most striking one would be about pregnancy, and that’s where Cybele’s figure makes sense. In Eastern societies, and in Turkey as well, pregnant women are depicted as a shame, the shame of sex, the shame of something women would have to be blamed for. And all of these statements put so much pressure on our mind and on our body. In Western societies for instance, woman body is often hyper-sexualised and idealised as an object of pleasure, as it could be seen in the Orientalist’s movement with the erotic bodies of oriental women. But on the other hand, people still put the blame on the feminine sexuality, to the point where being pregnant could be a possible pretext of shame and disgrace.


Women and their bodies are totally trapped into schizophrenic perspectives. But when we go to the point of the spirituality, of course the female body has also the most powerful ability of fertility. And Cybele’s figure epitomizes those inclinations for female body: desire and fertility alongside with power and feelings. Similarly, “Fountain” tried to summarize those so-called antithetical perspectives. Often people denaturalizes female breastfeeding body from its sexuality, as if it had suddenly become the body of a woman without desires. Through those works, I just wanted to get people to stop separate one out of another, desire out of fertility, and to take femininity as a whole and sometimes as a contradictory process. 


Serginin adı, “Kaf Dağı’nın Ardında” ve bu ad; Rumi, Feridüddin Attar veya el-Kazvini de dahil olmak üzere, tümü Kaf Dağı, Cinler, Cennet ve Cehennem hakkındaki sorgulamalara dair önemli ipuçları veren İslâm kozmolojisine atıfta bulunuyor. Tüm bu mitolojik anlatılarla ilişkinizi ve Kaf Dağı ile ilgili kişisel vizyonunuzu açıklar mısınız? 


The exhibition is intitled “Behind Mont Qaf” making reference to the Islamic cosmology from, among others, Rumi, Al-Din Attar or al-Qazwini, that all give comprehensive clues about Mont Qaf, jinns and the questionings about Heaven and Hell. Could you explain your relationship to those mythological narratives and your personal vision of Mont Qaf ?



Mount Qaf mythologies tell us universal, timeless and boundaryless stories about Humanity. In our daily life, in our living experiences, there is always the metaphor of climbing some hills, and to reach the mountain’s summit. But it always appears as an inaccessible mountain. Mount Qaf Islamic mythology is telling us the opposite. It’s not the mountain that is inaccessible, it’s the idea of the mountain we created entirely that is inaccessible to us and to our mind. One Turkish version of Mount Qaf goes the same, using the metaphor of a man that has to reach his mind while another one would be to succeed of being entirely free of emotions and feelings in order to become the most mature human being. All Mount Qaf writers structured their talk with a journey, and in fact it’s about a person’s self-journey. Even in Dante Divine Comedy, the man eventually finishes his journey at the time he has eventually reached his own self. It’s about wandering through the world and then discovering who we are.

That’s why I don’t think it has to be associated only with Islam, it is just lying in our collective subconsciousness. Every culture tells tales with their own language upon the same symbols, and if you look to any part of the world, you will retrieve devils, demons or witches as objects of fear. And it is the same for concepts such as hell, heaven or purgatory, as concepts that are all in our minds, giving us some clues and symbols to reach our own self, whatsoever we come from.



Could we say that your exhibition followed the “Conference of the Birds” by Al-Din Attar where you gathered several points of the Islamic cosmology together to create your own one?


Well, I played again with different concepts that lay in our collective subconsciousness. In the “Conference of the Birds”, each bird is looking for Simurgh before they realise they are all Simurgh at the meantime. And it’s only when they realise it that their intimate journey is over. It’s again about a self-journey and it comes back to the idea that people have to put aside their emotions in order to know themselves totally. In the first Valley, birds are overwhelmed by the sea of love, and when they fall into it, they can’t never complete their self-journey anymore. I am really inspired by such mythology.  


That’s why I followed a very simple logic with both the “Heaven” floor and the “Hell” one, according to common sense. In the first floor, I used the ethereal concepts of beauty, of happiness within human relationships, of love, of food profusion… And all of these can be easily experienced in the world as Human beings. And then, in the “Hell” floor, I brought fun by making people facing their fears for only a minute until they discover it was pointless to be afraid because the light was putting on again in the room. This twenty-second lighting aimed at showing them how their first fear was unnecessary to their conscious of themselves. And this was funny to the point either adults and children were playing this game the same way: first, experiencing the fear of darkness with the sewed jinns, and then relieving themselves while discovering it was just a trick. And even though we warned the exhibition with signs such as “Be careful of children”, any age was feeling the same, like a universal irrational fear at first sight.  


Mont Qaf is sometime depicted as the land of the Demons, the Jinns. What are your relation to them and why in your work do they often take the shape of a snake?


This shape doesn’t really belong to me inasmuch as it’s more or less a basic image rooted in our collective subconsciousness in order to describe the Devil side. But the symbol of the snake contains so many contradictory meanings at the meantime. It’s a physical energy that can be either taken as something to be afraid of, because of the bite, or either as a healing, as we can see the shape sometimes on a pharmacy signage. Mythology again gives us so many pieces of information. For example, I used the tale of “Şahmaran”, in the “Purgatory” floor, that is the Goddess of Snakes in Persian mythology, and that has the power at the meantime to poison someone and to heal another one with the same venom. It’s another symbolical way to warn people on the fact they are at the meantime their own injurer and healer. The symbol of the snake is a very important one when it comes to psychological antidotes. 


But again, all these images, these irrational fears we can experience throughout some symbols, it’s also important to create a balance out of them and to confront them. In this exhibition, snakes were on every floor, on Heaven, Purgatory or Hell, alongside with birds, phoenix, angels… Sometimes you will see their devil side, sometimes their purifying part, and that’s how they live in a happily balance altogether round Mont Qaf, and how you will understand yourself completely.



Röportaj: Manon Grodner

Çeviri: Verda Sigura

Mayıs 2018