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“Hypochondriac”: Turkish artist Seçkin Pirim about art, design and minimalism – interview
Art Radar speaks to Turkish artist Seçkin Pirim about his latest work on show at New York’s C24 Gallery until 29 October 2016.
Turkish sculptor Seçkin Pirim talks to Art Radar about interdisciplinarity, exhibition making as a cure for hypochondria and wonders how to breathe a bit of “Romanticism” into minimalist sculpture.
Although Seçkin Pirim (b. 1977, Ankara) has exhibited widely in Turkey, Europe and the Asia-pacific region, “Hypochondriac” at C24 Gallery in New York is his first solo show in the United States. His works can be found in various collections, as well as in parks and public spaces, where he has been commissioned to create larger works. In his studio in Istanbul, Seçkin Pirim works with a number of materials (from paper to industrial scale metal), subjecting them to various industrial processes of cutting and mounting.
Placing the challenges of form and content at the centre of his production, in the exhibition press release Seçkin Pirim describes “Hypochondriac” as
"an exhibition that overlaps with my life, it lays my life bare. Each work has a story, and a corresponding title. I healed each of those conditions and deteriorations by working in a free and spontaneous manner. I had to genuinely force myself to venture beyond my own borders."
Art Radar talks to the artist about his new body of work.
Your work is at the intersection of art and design. Could you tell us about this balance in your art practice?
"I studied painting at high school and sculpture at university; but I’ve always been interested in design since the beginning. Also, I’ve produced and had many exhibitions within this genre. One of my dreams is to design a building. I think it’s not right to separate the disciplines of art in today’s world. On the contrary, interdisciplinary works develop and improve an artist’s whole production and creation process. Of course, there is a thin line between the design object and the art piece. It’s important to be able to determine this."
Your new show “Hypochondriac” at C24 Gallery is an exhibition of works made from a variety of materials, from paper to plexiglass. What informs your choice of materials for each work?
"As a sculptor, the material is very important for me. Discovering new materials and learning how to use them is like a game to me. Sometimes I design a new work and realize that it must be done by using marble only. And sometimes the material leads me. I discover a new material and its dynamics make me create a new art piece. For example, I had had an exhibition many years ago about the necessity of the human soul to be pure. When I was thinking about how to show this pureness without using glass, I came across plexiglass.
Using this material opened up many possibilities for me. I’ve started to push the material’s boundaries and explore the different ways of using it. I’m still exploring this material’s boundless possibilities. Of course, if you are creating a long lasting sculpture, you have to think like an engineer. You have to think about the work’s durability for outdoor conditions like rain, sun or many other climate problems."
Could you tell us a bit about what the show “Hypochondriac” at C24 Gallery is exploring?
"Hypochondria is a situation that I have been dealing with for the last two years. As with all my exhibitions, this exhibition is about self-departure. I know a lot about this subject. The exhibition is the result of my journey of becoming a hypochondriac over the last two years. Hypochondria is a psychological disorder which affects your mood. Besides the drug treatment, I’ve searched for ways to reverse the negative effects to positive.
Of course, the best way for me to resolve this situation was by producing my art. All my life experiences, the volatility of the country I live in, environmental problems, fear and finally this illness. All these formed this exhibition. Eventually, I’ve realized that I could be both the doctor and the patient so I think I’ve treated myself with this exhibition."
In your experience what has been the most successful of your experimentation with industrial processes for making art since the early 2000s?
"I love technology and I use it in all areas of my life as much as possible including in sculpture. I follow the inventions in engineering, design and the technology besides art. New materials and techniques open new doors to my dream world. I think it’s very important to use a machine built for a different purpose to create an artwork. It’s like when the video camera was invented, the artist immediately used it to make video art.
Recently 3D printers emerged and they carve even better than Michelangelo. This doesn’t mean sculpture art is over. What’s important is [to use] the artist’s creativity to get ahead of the machine and to use the latter just as a tool. In my case, the experiments I did with the laser cut machine had been very successful and produced results that improved my production."
How has your art practice been informed by your formal education?
"I’d begun as an apprentice to an artist when I was eight. I think this changed my life. This apprenticeship had continued throughout high school. It’s a long process. Much of my art practice had already developed in this period. I had figured out almost all the technical problems of sculpture in this process. The biggest advantage of this was to have lots of time to think about the conceptual problems of my works instead of technical problems when I eventually attended the university’s sculpture department."
What other spaces, communities or fellow artists nationally or internationally have been important for your development as an artist?
"I visit many art fairs, exhibitions and museums as much as possible. Different artists and spaces have inspired me at different times. And the source of my inspiration varies depending on the mood I’m in. But Eduardo Chillida, by catching the romanticism in the field of abstract sculpture, touches my soul at each of my stages. When I look at artists of my generation, it’s hard to name a specific artist, but recently I’m seeing exciting artworks."
Your work has been described as “neo-minimalist”. The minimalist canon was established during the 1950s around particular modes of working with massive, simple and industrially produced forms. Which of the intentions and interests of minimalist sculpture do you share and what is not so relevant to your current practice?
"My art is minimal because my life is minimal. Also my soul too. I don’t create minimalist sculptures especially. These are the outcomes of my living. But in [the] history of art, the critics position my works in this category. I am trying to attain something else with my works. I am interested in if I can make someone cry or if I can touch someone’s soul without using any figure, just using abstract forms. Can I create a romantic piece without any figurative image and how much can it get closer to my soul? In conclusion, I admire minimalism so much. Maybe what’s irrelevant of minimalism with my works is that I name my works and give meaning to them."
You have made huge gallery installations and public sculptures in the past but also paper cut works displayed inside tiny matchboxes. What does the choice of the scale of the work define for you?
"For me, scale is a very important issue. I cannot give a mathematical answer to this question of scaling a work. It depends on the process and the effect I want to give. But in my opinion, among the artists, there is always an endless impulse to create bigger works."
Could you describe your most ambitious art work?
"I haven’t created my most ambitious artwork yet."
What are you working on at the moment?
"This exhibition process at C24 Gallery came out great for me. You cannot retire from being an artist. It’s a lifestyle. Because of this, I’m always working. Even if I don’t have an exhibition soon, I’m always at my studio and continue to work. Nowadays, I’m working for the Contemporary Istanbul art fair and after that, we have Art Miami. The new works are for these fairs for now."
C24 Gallery at Contemporary Istanbul 2016
BY LEILA SHARP | NOVEMBER 03, 2016
24 Gallery will showcase its artists at Contemporary Istanbul 2016 from November 2 to 6, 2016 at Booth A1-122 at The Istanbul Convention and Exhibition Center.
Represented artists include Mike Dargas, Carole Feuerman, Nick Gentry, Elana Herzog, Dil Hildebrand, Katja Loher, İrfan Önürmen Regina Scully, Seçkin Pirim, Christian Vincent, Tad Wiley. In its 11th edition, the fair features artworks from both established and upcoming galleries. It brings together galleries, artists and art collectors from Turkey, the Caucasus, the Black Sea, Russia and the Middle East, as well as Europe, America and Asia.
SEÇKIN PIRIM / HYPOCHONDRIAC
Hypochondriac is the first solo exhibition in the United States by Turkish artist Seckin Pirim. Previously known for his neo-minimalist sculptures, Hypochondriac is a departure from Seckin Pirim's earlier artworks. In this new series, Pirim combines his previous methods of obsessively symmetrical and precise optical effects with its exact opposite: a spontaneous and uncalculated style of production.
The artist explores his personal struggle with hypochondria, the constant worry of having a serious illness, through his art practice. He questions whether or not the notion of 'the distorted' or 'immaculate' can be described as diseased. Ultimately, Pirim accepts this duality as his own, without recourse or internal criticism. With this artistic process, the artist examines himself and his art through a completely unfiltered lens
The exhibition features works that host paralleled symmetrical and asymmetrical ideas. Placing the challenges of form and content at the center of his production, Seckin Pirim describes Hypochondriac as "an exhibition that overlaps with my life, it lays my life bare. Each work has a story and a corresponding title".
Originally published via C24 Gallery. All images by C24 Gallery.
Contemporary Istanbul Tests Turkish Market Rocked by Terrorism and Coup Attempt
Artsy Editorial By: Isaac Kaplan
October 28th, 2016 8:14PM
Over its 11-year history, Contemporary Istanbul (CI) has experienced the ebbs and flows of the country’s art market, from ebullient peaks in 2012 to today’s cooler, uncertain climate. Numerous terror attacks in the country and a failed military coup against president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in July have set the nation and its market on edge. And while the turmoil has caused other fairs located in Istanbul to cancel their 2016 editions (both Art International and Moving Image announced theirs won’t be held this year), CI will open on November 3rd. Though the realities of the geopolitical climate and resulting market for art has led to a decrease in international participation from years past, Contemporary Istanbul marks an important moment in Turkey—both as one for locals to view global contemporary art and as a potential inflection point that can help add confidence to a shaky market.
“We never thought about canceling this fair,” said Contemporary Istanbul chairman and founder Ali Güreli on the phone from Istanbul. “We approached the galleries and said, this is the year of solidarity. This is the year you have to be in Istanbul. Life goes on and it will continue.” Though relatively bullish about the fair’s potential sales results, he takes a
circumscribed view on how the art market is particularly prone to feeling the jitters shivering through the country. “Compared to other markets and industries, the art market is more sensitive. It immediately reflects the psychology of the people and the motivation to purchase art declines,” he said.
Following Art Basel in June, Güreli said that interest in Contemporary Istanbul remained high, with over 100 galleries looking to participate, 70% of them from foreign countries. But the July coup heightened fear and uncertainty, particularly among international dealers, and the result is a fair comprised of almost 70 galleries. Roughly half are local, while the remaining half come from 19 other countries. In years past, Güreli said the ratio has been closer to 35% local, 65% foreign.
According to Güreli, as the situation in Turkey stabilized somewhat this fall, a few additional international galleries have opted to participate. Four galleries are joining the fair for the first time. “Even yesterday we had a contract from a Berlin gallery, Michael Schultz,” Güreli said. “We signed the contract at the last moment before printing the catalogue.” Among those global galleries that never flinched is New York’s C24, which has Turkish owners, although the selection of work in its booth has been affected by the realities on the ground in Istanbul. “Because of the economic and political situation in Turkey, we’re going to be taking more cost-effective pieces,” said Michelle Maigret, the gallery’s director. “But there’re still people that will buy.”
Among those whose works C24 is bringing to Contemporary Istanbul are a number of Turkish artists (Seçkin Pirim and Irfan Önürmen among them) and international artists including Katja Loher (who will be a part of the fair’s Plugin program), Regina Scully, Mike Dargas, and Christian Vincent. Prices across the booth range from $25,000 to $200,000. Though that high price is about half of what it was last year, Maigret said she was “very optimistic” about this year’s edition and that “it’s important for people in the region and for us just to be there.”
Local galleries are particularly attuned to both the symbolic and financial importance of the fair. Istanbul gallery Pi Artworks has a longer perspective on the local market, having opened in 1998. “We have seen good times and bad times,” founder Yeşim Turanlı said. “This year is a sensitive year but all our local collectors are supporting us and Contemporary Istanbul is putting extra effort into promoting the event and securing the event. I have no idea if we’re going to have strong sales or not, but this isn’t the primary goal. We see this as an important community event that has to continue.”
In trying times, art provides something for everyone to rally around, Turanlı noted. Pi Artworks also has a branch in London. (It was the first Turkish gallery to expand to the city.) Turanlı said she uses the fair as an opportunity to introduce locals to international artists who they may not be familiar with. This year, she is bringing works by Yeșim Akdeniz, Maude Maris, Nejat Satı, among others, with prices of the work on offer ranging from $1,000 to $60,000, a similar range as in the past.
Nil Nuhoğlu, the director of the much younger Gaia Gallery, which opened in October of 2014, echoed the mix of optimism and realism. For Contemporary Istanbul, she told me, “I’m going in all guns blazing. We’re showing six artists in a range of mediums.” Visitors can look forward to a clean-cut booth that will feature one work per artist, all from Turkey except the New York-based Elektra KB. Pieces are on offer for between $5,000 to $45,000. “In terms of the general air, I know that other galleries are less optimistic than I am,” Nuhoğlu said. She added that the fair offers something of a reset. “It’s going to be a fresh start because we had a rough year.”
Ultimately the financial fate of the participating galleries will hinge on collectors visiting the fair. A prime highlight of Contemporary Istanbul will be Collectors’ Stories, which brings together 60 collectors and 120 artworks, each providing the story behind the pieces on view. But there’s certainly reason to believe that international buyers are going to attend the fair in lower numbers.
In this sense, Contemporary Istanbul offers a test of the domestic market. And though Turkey’s art sector is small compared to the global trade, ultimately the question for those who live in Istanbul each and every day is what it’s going to take to support local artists. “Art collecting isn’t for the light-hearted,” said Turanlı. “I think people who have the taste of it will just keep on motivating the rest, taking the lead. If we have 10 or 15 collectors whose hearts are in the right place and keep pushing the market, we can make it through this difficult, sensitive time. And I do believe those 10 to 15 collectors do exist in our local market.”
And Contemporary Istanbul is already looking to the future. “Continuing this year will give us more power next year,” said Güreli. Going forward, the fair has decided to cap the number of participating at galleries at 80, in an effort to put quality over quantity and beef up VIP services. Güreli notes that fairs have to think about themselves holistically as the art world calendar swells. “Which ones will be successful? It’s the ones that will be of better quality in all aspects—arts, services, food, staff, treatment, everything,” he said. And for galleries too, Contemporary Istanbul offers the opportunity to look forward, to a new market norm that offers the potential to be better than what came before. “Contemporary Istanbul is going to be the beginning of the rest of our lives,” said Nuhoğlu. “I’m putting all my hopes into that.”
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