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  • On Art and Empathy with Erim Bikkul

    Interview: İpek Yeğinsü

    Erim Bikkul is not only a creative artist but a sensitive one. He respects nature’s harmony and the circle of life; he is also fully aware that each and every one of us has a responsibility in increasing social awareness around these issues. We embarked on a deep questioning with Erim regarding his areas of interest, his art and the future of the planet.

    How did your artistic approach change over time? Where this this change come from?

    As one’s life experience becomes rich in variety this is also reflected in what one creates. My approach towards life and art must have evolved in similar ways. This can be summarized as the disappearance of those extremely self-confident attitudes coming from naive youth while increasing technical abilities. Now there is more room in my life for surprises and the effort to discover new viewpoints.

    What would you like o say about your choice of materials?

    In my paintings I used acrylic paint for a long time. It appealed to me with its water-based and quick-dry and odourless character. I still use it in combination with spray paint and sintetic inks. Even if I used oil paint for a while I don’t think it had a contribution to my technique. Lately my two favorite techniques have been watercolor and paper cutting. I enjoy watercolor’s transparency, its simple quality and the surprises that come from its independent behavior on the paper. The negative spaces that emerge in paper cutting give me the satisfaction of working with the void, the feeling of elaborating it. Additionally, I feel like having left the absolute paper surface and entered the third dimension. I experience sweet moments of excitement thanks to this situation that allows me to use many surfaces in juxtaposition.

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    Beyin Bilir, 2013, kağıt kesme

    You manifest an authentic approach towards paper cutting/collage and the notion of void. We can also say that you make macro and micro-universal patterns overlap in your mind and combine them in your works. How is your relationship with science, especially with the sciences of nature? How do they affect your art?

    I studied math and science in high school; I maintained my interest in these subjects afterwards and I couldn’t make sense of the division between art and science. Knowledge is knowledge. If you can maintain your flexible attitude as the areas you are informed in increase in number, you can evaluate everything as a whole and look at this whole from a variety of angles. I underline once more the issue of viewpoint, because the way to keep our perceptions open and to widen our horizons is to be able to look at phenomena from multiple angles. Lack of empathy is one of the greatest problems of our era and the way to empathy lies in openness to various viewpoints. For instance, geometry is not part of art education anymore; but 100-150 years ago they could not have been thought separately. Geometry matters a lot in helping us understand the relationship between the macro and micro-universes. Mental exercise around these issues is not only useful for an artist but for everyone, whatever their specialization is. It would be great if chools didn’t present these topics in such a boring way, alienating so many people.

    Who are the most influential artists for you, from history or from present day? How about philosophers?

    When we talk about influence, I am equally interested in great masters whose names survived to this day and anonymous works that generally come from Eastern culture. Architecture, music, literature, films, and most of all, sounds, forms and structures in nature; all of these can inspire me and push me to create. Thanks to the Internet, I browse what has been done in the fields mentioned above, nearly every day. Something I find takes me to something else. Internet is a blessing, since it allows you to closely follow your favorite living artists , or even establishing friendships with them. On the other hand, I can mention Lao-Tzu, Buddha, Plato, Spinoza and Buckminster Fuller as the philosophers I am interested in.

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    Değişmesi Halinde, 2015, suluboya

    Where do you think the humanity is going? Many artists believe in dystopia while some spiritual leaders argue that we are preparing for a much more advanced level of consciousness and these are its birth cramps; which viewpoint is closer to yours? Do you think our civilization will be able to reach a more mature level respectful of nature? What is the role of the artist at this point?

    The damages done on nature are completely irrational. This is an amazing planet; I wish we could manage to live on it correctly. There is only one point that gives me relief: as I don’t attribute a special importance to humanity and human consciousness, if we go away, even if the entire biological life ends on earth, the remaining is still a flawless order. I don’t believe that humans are capable of bringing an end to all forms of biological life anyways. Because of human carelessness many plant and animal species became extinct; we lost half of the forests. But, at some point, the planet will impose its own rules on us and that process as already begun. Regarding expeditions to other planets, this situation is similar to someone staying at a hotel room, destroying it, leaving all his garbage in it and moving to another hotel. first of all, the Earth is not a hotel room; it’s our home. Second, wherever we go, we should at least leave this place behind in orderly fashion. Third, if we behave like humans there ill not be the need to go somewhere. In short, humanity needs to get out of its adolescence and assume responsibility for its actions. The role of the artist or anyone who notices the nonsense we are in is to show it to other people as well. This doesn’t have to be through messages and didactic works; it is even better that it is not. But everyone can share with others the intellectual conclusions they reach, and can spread the word to their social circles. We have no salvation other than collective awareness. Of course this is a road that demands a lot of patience. An individual must evaluate himself or herself first before trying to change others.

    How did you meet Art50.net?

    I had friends among Art50.net artists and employees; thus I had the chance to closely observe the projects being done and I became interested.

    What is your dream project?

    It would be a lot of fun to gather all the globally powrful politicians businessmen, soldiers etc. at a summer camp, releasing them from all their duties and making them work together. A bit of gardening, building walls, planting trees, a little bit of housekeeping and playing bingo and eating popcorns in the evening would be good for all of them, I guess.