An Educator and Artist Analyzing Identity Formation Processes: Canan Çakar
As an artist drawing particular attention with her paintings that satirize the male-dominated structure of the professional and academic worlds, Canan Çakar is also a researcher and an academician candidate studying education’s role in the formation of identity. We talked with Çakar about her artistic journey, the relationship between education and art, as well as her ongoing projects on the concept of identity in both areas.
How did your interest in art emerge? How did you decide to take this path despite not having received formal art education?
Just like any other artist, my interest in art is inborn. I have been painting, making sculptures of clay and sewing things for a very long time. Everyone who is familiar with me knows that I am engaged in art. I have not gone through a process of deciding to continue to do it or not; art has always been a big part of my life already. This is why I have constantly been educating myself informally on the subject although I have not received a formal art education. And not so only technically; I have also developed myself academically by reading books on art criticism, art history and artists as well as visiting museums in different parts of the world. Therefore, there is a difference between where I used to position myself as an artist in the past and the one in which I position myself now. Yet, there has been a period during which I decided to concentrate on painting. I guess it was a few years before I applied to Mamut Art Project.
In your formal studies, you specialized in education sciences and you have an ongoing Ph.D. process. How does your background in this field contribute to your art, and vice versa?
In my opinion, you need to possess several qualities to become an influential artist. An artist must be able to perceive the world she lives in, analyze it, digest it and reshape it. The outcome can be a form, an idea at times, and an emotion or an experience at other times. The artist’s creativity steps in at this point. The greater the variety of the individual’s experiences, fields of interest and types of knowledge, the greater the variety of the stimuli she has exposed her mind to, the more creative her mental reactions become. On the other hand, my background in education sciences contributes a lot to my art; my field is closely related to the education of thought, humanity, society and history. Thanks to my graduate studies, I learnt to identify cause-effect relationships, to consider that my thoughts on a subject might be shallow, and to make future predictions by examining the historical evolution of a sociological, philosophical or educational concept. In this sense, it is no coincidence that my style and my subjects of interest changed once I started my Ph.D. studies. In fact, the “Analyses” series emerged during this period. There my main influences were Jung’s personality types and Kohlberg’s ethical development theory. I had to read articles and books on various subjects like globalization, psychology of learning and European Union. Now, all these things I have learnt are somehow embedded in my artistic oeuvre. On the other hand, I also hope that my art will contribute to my works in the field of education. These days, I am working on a concept that that is difficult to define and I am planning to express it via painting. I think that my painting will help others that are trying to understand that concept as well.
You build your artistic statement on the image of “man”. This seemed rather interesting to me; female artists generally focus on the issue of women. Why did you choose such a path?
This is a great question. In fact, I have focused on the issue of women as well; but to do so, I chose a way that can be considered indirect. Women are still at a disadvantaged position in most parts of the world. It is particularly difficult to see them in managerial positions. My paintings are about the authority figures, their little games, weaknesses and stupidities. But when I think of these figures, I can only imagine men. I am surrounded by a male domination and dominant masculine discourses pushing women to a secondary position and ignoring them. And you may see them reflected in my paintings.
In your works, there are some implicit sociopolitical criticisms, especially about the identities imposed on us. How do these criticized elements relate to education? How should education change so that the society can reach a better point?
In my Ph.D. thesis, I concentrate on hidden curriculum and teacher identity. I can say that, although analyzing someone’s identity is very much like solving a riddle or a puzzle, the individuals’ identities are for the most part shaped by the society and the environment. Almost all social identities and roles are cast for us and we are asked to wear them like a shirt. These identities reflected on the individual’s external appearance, behavior and words are implicitly transferred to the students via education, deliberately or not; this process is referred to as the “hidden curriculum”. And I make use of these elements in my criticisms on religious, political or military leaders. Unfortunately, the dogmatic roles of the past are being imposed on today’s youth, and schools become the instruments for the re-enactment of the existing system. The answer to the question on what should change in education, on the other hand, is rather long; but the answer’s most important part is about the education of teachers. The society can reach a good point only if we manage to educate good teachers.
Your paintings have stylistic affinities with illustrations, comics, and even caricature drawings. How is your relationship to these fields? Any artists that are inspirational for you?
I love caricature like everyone else does. As a child, I somehow received a series of Fırt magazines. There were around thirty of them and I read all the volumes several times. I enjoyed the idea of deforming the figure for the purpose of criticism and irony. After that, I occasionally drew some myself. The figures in my works that were most reminiscent of caricature appeared in my “Analyses” series. Around that time, I discovered the British comic artist and illustrator George Cruikshank, and the French painter and comic artist Honoré Daumier. I was inspired by their artistic personae and the way they approached social issues, and I identified a parallel between their works and mine. I cannot think of other illustrators or comic artists that have been influential on me; but there are some artists like Florine Stettheimer, Martin Wong and Greyson Perry whose works I follow with admiration.
How did Mamut Art Project influence your career?
I believe that one of the best decisions of my life was to apply to Mamut Art Project. There, in addition to working with a professional, transparent and trustworthy team, it was very pleasant to receive the approval of a highly qualified jury. Moreover, I received such positive feedback, that it gave me a driving force beyond imagination. After Mamut, I received offers from several galleries; they even continue to come after so many months. Also thanks to this, I am able to undauntedly prepare for my next solo exhibition. I work day and night not to miss any idea that comes to my mind.
How did your paths cross with Art50.net? Your thoughts on online art platforms?
I was introduced to Art50.net thanks to Mamut Art Project. I already had some familiarity with the platform; they are quite good at selecting the artists with a promising future and to bring them to public attention. Furthermore, you are able to access all art news via Art50.net under one single roof. Their Artlog page offers such great content that it can be followed like a magazine. In my opinion, online art platforms are a necessity for today’s artists, art enthusiasts and the art market at large. Not only can the artists present their works to a larger audience, but the art enthusiasts can buy original works with one single click as well.
Your projects in the near future?
I am planning to open my third solo exhibition with a series of works on neighbor relations which I hope to complete within a year. I will inform the viewers as soon as its location becomes clear.
Click for the artist page.