We were at Sculptor Başak Cansu Güvenkaya’s London studio where her sculptures and drawings presents a colorful and warm world alternative to the dark and fears.
Interview: Büşra Soydemir
It is apparent from the works that you had fun while producing them. What does the state of production look like to you other than fun?
Producing is like playing a game for me. Before I start creating, I always have a plan or an idea, but I often do not follow a program in my production process. Trial and error, addition and subtraction are part of this game; it's up to me to build or break it. The state of production is also a need for me. I feel brave and free while editing and producing sculptures, paintings that are part of the world I have created. Sculpting is a physical activity, and being able to create something with my hands makes me strong. My workshop is where I take power into my hands.
The subject of your works is shaped around the concept of fear; you struggle with this darkness by playing games. How did you create such a fabulous recipe?
As a colorful and alternative way to deal with my anxieties and fears concerning the future, I decided to create a colorful world without evil. I think of this place as a safe playground. Here I can feel unworried, just as I did when I was a child. I am the courageous one in this game. I resist the darkness by showing my colored thorns. My works are figures that devour evil. Being able to play with the sculptures and colors physically takes me to the safe, positive, and fun feeling I felt in my childhood.
Your productions portray utopian and colorful geography through the people living in that geography. What are the meanings of the symbols that determine the identities of their characters?
Although my sculptures that live in the colorful world I have created have sharp teeth or are in the form of monsters, they are not scary; they exist to protect us, to turn negativity into positivity. They detect evil with their eyes, destroy evil with their teeth, and snakes heal the wounds inflicted in this struggle. Bright colors drive away the bad, just as poisonous animals drive the dangerous away.
What stages does your intellectual process go through while sculpting?
The feeling I want to convey is the factor that creates the first idea for me. I am researching how I can transmit that feeling to the material. I think by drawing, new ideas emerge while drawing, making models and sculptures. I wonder what it would be like if I made this sculpture like this, how it would look if I added this irrelevant piece here, how it would look, and what it would mean when I started experimenting with so many different ideas and shapes. While working and thinking, I am always on my feet and in motion.
It is attention grabbing that you use many materials in your sculpture practice. How do you determine the material selection?
I am very open to innovations in materials, and I find it very exhilarating to try new materials. Anything that can be formed can be material for me. Although I sometimes use recovered and found materials in my works, it is crucial for me not to lose form. There is an amusing and random situation of putting together irrelevant materials such as wire mesh, paper, foam, and wheels. I try to preserve freshness and energy in my sculptures, so I occasionally use materials that can take shape quickly. When I make wearable or mask-type sculptures, I usually use paper and fabric because they need to be light. I pick the material according to the need and story of the sculpture. The materials I use can also be metal, bronze, plaster, terracotta, or silicone. I love wood; wood is a very suitable material for going both from the whole to the part and from the part to the whole. I generally prefer wooden material for my moving works, as it is both a solid and not too heavy material for making moving sculptures. I also love wood chipping and the texture when I chip it.
Having your sculptures kinetic is like a trick you use to attract the audience into your playground. What is your stimulus for your work to be so interactive?
I do the work for myself first. I love to play with the sculptures I make; I go back to my childhood playing with them, and I want to remind people of that feeling that they forgot. The sculptures invite the audience to this game. I think people also feel that childlike, positivity that I'm talking about. I do my work especially mechanically so that we can touch and play with them. Sculptures come to life when they move.
The same trick seems to be felt in the colors you use. What is the position of the color palette in the story you want to tell?
My color palette provides the transition to the fabulous playground that I try to create by disconnecting me and the audience from the real world. I feel very bold about color. If I want to paint that statue a very bright color, I paint it without fear. If I don't like it, I change it. It's all part of this game, and I'm not afraid to mess it up and rebuild it. In addition, the bright colors that I was born into as a child of the 90s are a reflection of the positive and worry-free world I imagined and experienced in my childhood.
You moved from Istanbul to London a while ago. Is the influence of this change felt in your new productions?
London is open-minded, cosmopolitan, and a city of many opportunities. I believe that I express myself well here, and I am accepted because it is a place that can embrace the difference and the new. The child in me will always exist, but I feel ready to open the door and see what it was like to grow up here. I also wonder how this change will manifest itself in my new productions.
There are so many museums, galleries, and events in London, and it makes me really happy to be in touch with art whenever I want. In addition, the luxury of being one of the first to see every new exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts, where I work part-time, is fascinating.
I participated in an exhibition organized by TA London at the London Saatchi Gallery with my five sculptures, where for the first time, my work interacted with people. I have received excellent feedback, and I am very enthusiastic about my next exhibition.