On Misyalı Series and Transformations with Saliha Yılmaz
As one of the earliest members of the Art50.net family, Saliha Yılmaz currently stands out with the brand new series she has recently produced during her artist residency at the Misi Village in Bursa. We had a pleasant conversation with the artist about the details of her Bursa experience as well as the technical and stylistic transformations in her art.
You are one of the longest-term members of the Art50.net family. Can you summarize your journey for us from the very beginning? What has changed and developed since then? How did Art50.net influence your career?
When I joined Art50.net with Marcus Graf’s recommendation, I had just started my graduate studies and realized my first solo exhibition. Thanks to Art50.net, I became acquainted with numerous collectors and artists. During our collaboration spanning six years, I was featured in several events and exhibitions including a project in Beijing, China, as a result of the collaborations they established with various institutions and galleries. To see that I had an active career, that I received support whenever I produced new works, encouraged me to be even more productive. At this point, I think we are truly a family; as we have spent this much time together, we now speak the same language and we understand each other much better. This makes me feel safe in the field where I exist as an artist. On the other hand, although I think that an artwork’s quality cannot be assessed from its sales performance, the subject of art and sales is generally approached with caution; despite that, we finalized many sales together.
In your recent works, there are some apparent technical and stylistic changes. For instance, your focus has shifted from paper to canvas and ceramic. You began to use a more painterly language compared to the illustrative approach in your paper-based works with figures. Particularly the figures on canvas are no longer placed in a void and they are surrounded with a rich texture. What would you like to tell us about this?
My purpose in turning to ceramic was to present my figures in a sculptural form. I decided that materials such as wood or marble did not reflect me, and compared to all these, ceramic’s plastic texture appeared much more suitable to me. Ceramic is a field with an outstanding richness of material options where you can combine a great variety of mud and glaze types. Technically, it also gives the feeling of a more dynamic and tidal relationship compared to paper or canvas. It contains a constant feeling of excitement with its production stage, decisions about form and its execution, followed by stages like biscuit firing and glaze firing. Returning to the subject of paper and canvas, this time I wanted to depict the figures in a space with a more apparent texture, so that I could place them within a certain time frame. As a next step, I intend to create real textures in the exhibition space using ceramic sculptures and materials like granulated glass or sand.
I would also like to talk about the artist residency program you have recently attended in Bursa. How were you selected to take part in it?
The Municipality of Nilüfer invited me and two other friends of mine to the Misi Village Artist Guest House. The program is open to the emerging and mid-career artists, designers, photographers, curators and researchers above 22 years of age. In addition to research-oriented projects, they also support various activities like site-specific works, performances, experimental projects, screenings and educations programs. Starting from 2021, the applications will be received via an open call, and they will be selected with an evaluation by a national committee of academicians, professional artists, curators and art critics, the members of which will change every year.
What was it like to spend part of your creative journey at this program? And if I am not wrong, you produced a special series during that period. And here, instead of the typically urban profile we are used to seeing in your earlier works, there are characters with folkloric elements specific to Bursa and its surroundings. What was these works’ departure point?
It was a different experience for me. The history of the Misi Village goes as far back as 183 A.D. The region has a historical importance thanks to the Bible Council that took place here. A priest named Alex and eighty-two other Christians settled in the place called Mysia at that time. The region is still very important for the Christians as they believe a copy of the Bible is buried in the village’s monastery area currently marked only by ruins. However, the architectural heritage and the vibrant grape and silk trade of the past have mostly disappeared. Thee Misi village that was commercially and religiously active once upon a time, is now resuscitated in other aspects thanks to its natural landscape, historical houses and initiatives kept active by the Nilüfer Municipality, like the Literature House, Photography Museum and Children’s Library. The main theme shaping my works here, on the other hand, was the daily life of the Misi dwellers. With my ceramic sculptures and drawings on paper where I turned Misi’s disappearing sericulture and wine industry into hybrid human forms, I wanted to invite the contemporary viewer to revisit the village’s history. Also departing from the topic of the Bible I was inspired by the Exlibris technique, an important communication tool of the past. The figures I drew in the Exlibris series represent the individuals that gathered at the Bible Council of that period.
Where would you like to go and which culture would you like to examine if you had a chance to produce a similar body of work abroad?
I have attended a great variety of artist residency programs. At times, I used them to continue producing my already existing works in progress, and at other times I worked on brand new projects specific to the place that I visited. Nowadays, such programs in various formats exist in many regions of the world and they offer the artists some heaven-sent opportunities to get to know new cultures and people, and to have some eye-opening experiences. As my mind has been busy with Asia for quite some time now, I wish I could examine the Chinese or the Japanese culture, and work on the ceramic and porcelain techniques specific widely used in these regions.
And your projects for the near future?
There is always some exhibition that I become part of. But these days, the main subject that keeps my time, my mind and consequently my studio’s daily routine busy is the preparation of my third solo exhibition.
Click for the artist page.