Today’s guests at The Globe Times were sculptors Ayşe & Mehmet Sağlam. Sağlam siblings are young and very passionate artists. Investigative in nature, their art opens windows to the soul of Turkish society in transit. Both graduates of Marmara University Fine Arts Faculty, Ayşe studied in wood and small sculpture workshops where Mehmet concentrated on industrial ateliers at school. Here is what they had to say on their artistic approach and the state of the union in Turkey:
Ayşe Sağlam: My graduation piece named “exiting through glass” was a turning point for me. For the first time I realized the importance of craftsmanship and experiencing a process in collaboration with a master-hand. Learning how to get a full body mould in building this piece, I have realized the lack of academical approach in contemporary art schools in Turkey. They are limited to passing on mundane technical info to students. As a student the gap between the artist and sculpture gets widened. “Exiting through glass” is now exhibited at Erenkoy Psychological Ward in Istanbul.
In Turkey with the exception of a small minority sculpture means creating Ataturk statues. I’m in a war to expedite the production and sustain myself as an artist. I worked with director and producer Ezel Akay in the movie picture “7 Husbands of Hurmuz” as assistant to Bahattin Demirkol, the art director. Purely fictionalized in the mind of the director, that movie contains sets realized directly from his imagination. I had the chance to work with great masters of their craft in that set.
Mehmet Sağlam: Perception of art in Turkey is so superficial. Sculptures are sold before they are molded. Prices are fixed. I don’t even call myself a sculptor. I don’t consider my pieces as a form of art. I created a gallows for my third year project. It was a political satire. And naturally it didn’t survive the bureaucracy of the university system in Turkey. It was somehow destroyed. I then realized it would be almost impossible to do the stuff I want to do. An artist needs security for that. Therefore I elected industrial design for my future projects. I graduated with honors in my department. After I completed a 6 inch Artemis statute for the documentary “Ancient Ephesus” I recognized I enjoyed my profession immensely and concentrated on 3 dimensional forms.
I created sculptures for theme parks, architectural dressing projects, movie theater and karaoke saloon designs based on works of International designers. In addition we have worked on animal sculptures in different sizes for cafés with theme concepts with Ayşe.
Ayşe Sağlam: I write, too. I started writing in Cumhuriyet (Daily) Journal and Book Supplement. With my brother Murat Sağlam, I worked on a movie for which I wrote the script. We always collaborate in and outside the family to broaden our horizon, to see if we can do new stuff and end results were very satisfactory.
This year I contributed to 11th Buyukcekmece Sculpture Symposium in Istanbul as an assistant to my professor Kemal Tufan. I had the chance to work with stone material for the first time there. If you don’t have your own studio in Turkey, it’s not easy to work with stone. But once I had the chance, it was crystal clear for me; I had to work with stone as well as wood. Material is endless, especially in Turkey.
My influences are rather varied. Acceptances derive from events and subjects that touch my perception in life. In everything that forms me there is a blend. I cannot deny that, therefore sometimes I have a hard time producing. The thin line between chaos and simplicity is a risky process. My past in archeology, my training in forensic sciences and my relations with cinema, the books I read as a child with the help of my grandmother and uncle; my incredible in-family training defined my current perception. Greek music my father made me listen shaped my soul: Rembetiko music nourished me with its melodies although I never understood the lyrics. Throughout my voyage in arts education and literary adventures those elements thrived for a way to disperse into many languages within one. As life gave way to reality shaping classical, my perception became increasingly metaphorical. Writing played a special part in that process. The physical and visible aspects of nature and my communication with concepts will continue editing both literature and sculpture in me resulting in different styles.
Mehmet Sağlam: I created tattoos for a while. In Turkey being able to produce does not mean you’ll get anything back. Sometimes you even go negative after you finish a job. The exploitation of young graduates by businesses extends into art world as well. I’m breathing polyester gas for three years now without any health benefits. Even when the job succeeds it is harsh to continue living on credit drawn on my life. But even then, freedom is the most crucial handicap.
Ayşe Sağlam: I started writing long before sculpture. The literary universe is unlimited. I travel between the dimensions of writing and sculpture. The world you feel inside when you write finds shape in sculpture. I love pieces that live touching as many people as possible. I thrive for pieces that challenge rules of physics. I know I can create a non-existent world with my words, I also aim the same with sculpture.
I am working on a piece for an exhibit right now. My background, stuff I read, the way I perceive life pushes me to question notions. I can reflect those notions through sculpture or installations or even through video art. Or maybe I may choose to do nothing. Working with galleries is different in Turkey; you have little access to people with the exception of a small group. It’s very restrictive for an artist. Alternative exhibitions, symposiums are more exciting. That’s why I’m enthused about the exhibition at Austrian Hospital in Istanbul. 400 patients visit the building on an average day. Maybe 5 are related to art. Because of this exhibition the rest will be exposed to something they never looked at before. Some of them might love it, and get interested; or maybe some might hate it. Both would be great. Producing in isolation without sharing it with no one is rather pathological. In Turkey that isolation persists everywhere in art. Because art is far from being common. Art is not an accepted form. Turkey is a society living without ‘concepts’ while artists strive for conceptual works.