all works © Bahar Yürükoğlu
These days it's really hard to stay positive about Istanbul and its vibrant art scene. Thanks to Istanbul-based artists such as Bahar Yürükoğlu, who was born and grew up in Washington DC, we can take a moment, celebrating the idea for other possible lives. Her current solo show "Flow Through" allows forgetting everything about reality for a while. Despite being located at ARTER, an institute for contemporary art centrally located at Istiklal Street, where an attack just happened a few days ago, the bright pink light shining from the gallery's entrance promises a travelling through time, to a space where there is still hope. This is because Bahar Yürükoğlu literally brings bright lights to our dark times. Her videos, site-specific installations and geometrical landscapes transfer us to completely other corners of the world, such as the Arctic. In our interview, we talked about how she started this journey and where she is heading.
Mine Kaplangı: Bahar, you were born in Washington DC then studied in New York and Boston, and participated in exhibitions all over the world. How did you end up living and working in Istanbul?
Bahar Yürükoğlu: I was fortunate to have grown up with a strong connection to Turkey, traveling here every year and speaking Turkish at home. Living in Istanbul had been a dream of mine for a very long time, but the timing was never right. After I earned my MFA in Boston I had a solo exhibition at Nesrin Esirtgen Collection in May 2013. That experience left me really inspired and excited about making art in Istanbul. As soon as I returned to Boston I applied for a residency at maumau [here is an interview with the founder of the residency], so I could be more immersed in the arts here and to test the waters and see if I could live here. The 6 weeks at maumau confirmed my love for the city and showed me what an exciting city Istanbul is when it comes to art. The day after I got back from the maumau residency I started selling all my possessions and six months later, in June 2015, I jumped on an airplane to Istanbul with no return ticket.
MK: You use light as a medium. Playing with it, you create shapes and spaces within installations, videos and photographs. What role does geometrical language play for your practice?
BY: I view the world through a geometric filter, mountains take the form of triangles, buildings the shape of rectangles. These forms come alive through light and colour. The work I make is an abstraction of the representational world. I just so happen to find solace in open spaces and the challenge of finding or creating form in a natural landscape.
MK: As a visual artist you attended many residencies in different countries, last year you joined the Arctic Circle Residency. How do these residency-experiences affect your work?
BY: The artist-in-residency experience is important for my practice for a few of reasons. Firstly, it allows me to enter a new landscape and immediately respond through my work. Secondly, it gives me a focused period of time to work on my art. And thirdly, residencies allow me to connect with like-minded artists from around the world and start a continued dialogue about art and life.
MK: Your upcoming solo exhibition “Flow Through” will soon start at ARTER in Istanbul. Duygu Demir curates it. Could you tell me more about the exhibition's story?
BY: "Flow Through" is inspired by two visits in 2015 to Svalbard, a group of islands located far above Norway in the Arctic Circle. It is a place I had dreamed of making work in for a few years and I was fortunate enough to visit it twice in 2015 for this purpose. I went in the summer, when the sun is out 24 hours a day, and in the winter when it is complete darkness. I am drawn to the Arctic because of these extremes in the landscape. With these changes in light comes an altered perception of time. I made photographs and videos concerned with perception and light. Some of these works are part of "Flow Through". I took inspiration from the landscape of mountains, glaciers and icebergs and have translated this into the space of the gallery through installations made from MDF and Plexiglas.
MK: You seem to be a searcher of light in cold lands, having spend time in Iceland and the Arctic last year. These places are cold, icy landscapes with little human population. What inspires you about these places?
BY: I am drawn to unsaturated landscapes because I am taken out of my everyday environment. It is in these places that I become more aware of how my cultural conditioning impacts my experience of a place. This includes sight, sound, and smell. In these moments of heightened awareness to my own senses I can more clearly see the relationships I have to the environments around me. My reading of space is heightened. Also, places like the Arctic and Iceland challenge me physically through the cold, and mentally through the solitude I choose to pursue. I am also drawn to these landscapes because of the contrast they evoke when I create installations in these places using highly saturated human made materials. The temporary installations and eventual photographs that I make create a space that is full of contradictions: between natural and artificial, desire and repulsion. I want the audience to question images through these dichotomies; to consider if what they are seeing is real or false.
MK: You work with very bright neon colours, which are almost impossible to ignore. What is your relation to colour in general?
BY: Colour is something I am very aware of. Colour is a subjective sense, dependent on culture, history and of course how the brain reads what the eye sees. The colours I choose to work with are references to my childhood in the 1980’s in America. Because I grew up in the 80’s in the suburbs of America, I also identify as a consumer. As an artist I am highly aware of the visual language employed in media and advertising to attract the attention of potential customers. However I use colour to attract the attention of my viewers and then subvert the image in order to draw closer attention to the relationship the viewer as with their own perceptions.
MK: What will be working on after your solo show?
BY: Hopefully more residencies and exhibitions. I’ll start a new body of work and I’d really love to get back into analog photography and darkroom work.
30th of March - 15th of May 2016
Curated by Duygu Demir
Space for Artİsti̇klal Cad. No. 211
Opening Hours: Tue-Thu 11-19h, Fri-Sun 12-20h
Artist Website: iambahar.com
Portrait Bahar Yürükoğluall works © Bahar Yürükoğlu