On Material and Artistic Practice with Merve Dündar
Merve Dündar is an artist with a strong relationship with the material, open to new experiments and confident in her instinct. Although she had formal art education as late as her master’s degree, she constantly invested in her self development. Ve talked to Merve about her creative process, the place of material in it and her other important sources of inspiration.
How did your artistic journey begin? Your B.A. is in administrative sciences; at what point did you decide to pursue an aristic career path and receive formal education in art?
It is very hard to establish the begininng. I was a quiet child who enjoyed being alone, daydreaming. I remember various scenes. The image of that glass mosaic sailing boat our neighbor made in Avşa Island when I was around 5 or 6 is one of the most unforgetable ones. I remember having watched it being made for hours. I have many such memories from my childhood days. Materials alternative to painting have always impressed me. I used to collect and paint dry tree branches of various forms and sizes. In high school I went to Çizgi art workshop. Mahir Güven used to teach there back then. At that time I wanted to become an architect or a graphic designer. Of course the key question that I myself ask here is: how come did I end up studying economics? We had a family business, there was production, so the idea of continuing that business and being inolved in the production process was also interesting and I think beyond all this I was also carried away. I call it as such because I worked in so many different sectors… But painting has always been a part of my life. It sometimes covered a big portion of it; other times it accompanied me as a thin route beside me while I got carried away. In the meantime I continued attending various artists’ workshops: Başak Avcı, Nurettin Erkan, Orhan Taylan, Mehmet Güleryüz… I attended Emre Zeytinoğlu and Serap Yüzgüller’s seminars at Simya Gallery, Ali akay’s lectures at Sabanci Museum and MoMA’s online courses, as well as Atilla Erdemli’s philosophy classes. But since I felt the need of a formal education despite all that, I decided to pursue an M.F.A. degree at Yeditepe University Department of Plastic Arts; I also participated at Irina Nakhova’s workshop at Salzburg Academy of Fine Arts.
In your works the unit has a prominent place. From which currents, artists of thinkers does your inspiration in this direction come from?
Units, repetitions and the resulting rhythm are important for me. In the Postmodern world everything is in units; they come together to create the whole and the whole is redefined with every new piece; each piece carries its own reality in itself; consequently, we live in an age of plural realities. Talking about a specific artistic current that influences me is nearly impossible. But in some of my works it is possible to find the traces of minimalism. I can only say that I enjoy reading thinkers like Zygmunt Bauman, Eric Fromm, Foucault, Lacan, Merleau-Ponty and Guy Debord. I’m interested in the rhythm/repetition in works by Gertrud Goldschmidt, Yayoi Kusama and Rona Pondick.
You approach the material from an experimental point of view. Which ones impress you the most? And why?
I think I’m both curious and a bit whimsical. I don’t begin working with a specific material in mind. I usually start from a concept that I question and while I explore that concept the need for a certain kind of material emerges. But as I think about the range of materials I currently use, I see that I’m interested in transparent ones such as glass, plexiglass and acetate, and this is competely about the subject matters I’m focusing on right now. On the other hand I keep collecting those materials that mesmerize me as I encounter them. For instance, I built a mini series with the shopping receits I had collected. A friend of mine works with concrete. I recently took a piece from my friend, it is awaiting its destiny at home.
You often produce women/portraits. Does your preference have a special meaning?
I use the woman/portrait theme but this is not due to a particular preference. I can’t define myself as a feminist; I believe that every kind of discrimination should be abolished. I have a higher tendency to feature female portrait and female body in my works, probably because I myself am a woman.
Who are the artists, both in Turkey and abroad, that you feel close to?
It is hard to limit them to a few; different aspects of each are interesting to me. İnci Eviner, Rona Pondick, Jenny Saville, Annette Messenger, Mona Hatoum, Selma Gürbüz, Giacometti, İrfan Önürmen, Louis Bourgeouis, Ayşe Erkmen are only some of them.
Which material would you like to experiment with if you had the chance? What would be your leading utopia/project?
I would enjoy working with glass and building a living space of glass within a gigantic sphere of glass. An installation composed of several spheres the insides of which are visible from the outside but whose transparency can be modified.