Istanbul is a real cross-road between West and East. We’ve met an UK based artist, originally from Pakistan Studio Asad Kamran, just caught him 2 hours before he was leaving the city. We talked about art and life, role of emotions and their expressions. It’s really interesting fact that in this incredible city we can meet people from over the world.
Interview took by VeraDG:
— Hello! My name is Vera, I’m an artist and journalist. Sometimes I work with kids, and my last workshop with them «FACES» was to create such a collage from papers, paints and markers like you do. Actually I took idea of such a workshop from an Australian artist, and I was wondered when I noticed notification about your exhibition and I saw that a Pakistan artist living in UK works with the same technique and style. Can you tell me please which faces inspire you, do you take them from real life or your imagination?
— So my work is always about my experience. It is always myself in a moment of time. This series of paintings had been my own two and a half month long experience in Istanbul. I tried to give the thoughts in my head into a portrait. I have tried to give it a physical form. I usually like to see fast product of my thoughts, I can’t wait, because my mind is processes thousands thoughts at a time. And that’s why I use a medium like acrylic, which dries fast, and charcoal, and I rip up pieces of paper, then I stick those papers on the canvas. Those portraits are my thoughts in a different point of time. However, I am inspired by Matisse, and Basquait.
— Does it mean that in one portrait you can put different faces of different people that you saw in a place? Or you make like a common idea of Istanbul people…
— You know, my work is like self-portraiture. These are my portraits but every portrait had been affected by different people around. So I’m not saying that I’m not making paintings of other people, I’m making paintings of my thoughts and myself but they can be inspired by other people, by experience with other people.
So one of my paintings here is one individual that I’ve met in Istanbul, and I found him to a quite interesting personality and I decided to do a portrait of him. That’s a portrait of a person who affected my experience.
— Portraits on your exhibition are quite different with different emotions and their expressions. Do you have so many faces inside of you? Or do you feel like in a hundred different places at the same time?
Art came to me as a therapy, because my mind is in a hundred different places at the same time, and it processes different emotions, different feelings all at the same time. That’s why I need to express myself using paint. Otherwise I don’t know how I’d survive if I will unable to paint. Suppose that I have such interview and I’m feeling excited, nervous, whatever, after I’ll be done with the interview I will want to paint a portrait of me while I was giving this interview.
— Will you show me after you finish?
— Maybe I can. I have a piece of paper over there and my paints. Maybe I can give it to you!
— I try to stay honest to the moment I paint. If I’m painting about a certain feeling I try to think about that feeling, I try to paint and that’s it, my painting is over. I don’t go back to my painting.
— When did you decide to be an artist, when you were a kid and suddenly opened your eyes and said to yourself: Oh, I have so many feelings! I need to paint them immediately. Or you were not addicted to art, you grew until you became an adult, and suddenly you said: Oh, I have so many feelings!
— I wish it was that simple. My mother was a florist. I get my creativity from my mother. So I could always paint and draw. My parents had seeing me painting from a really early age. In school I used to have part in art competitions. Art was really my thing, I was never into other extra curriculars, but art has always been important in my life. My mother really encouraged me, that’s why I took art as a subject in my higher studies. I always used to feel this way, but I never used art as a therapy expressing myself truly. But recently two years ago my mother passed away. And then art becoming a part of me, I use art as a way of feeling better. And my art became truer in every sense. Because first I used to paint for others, thinking, Ok, I can paint but I always asked myself if other people like it, will other people say Oh, it’s a great painting, Oh look at his skill! But now I want to paint only for myself.
— And you really enjoy this process.
— Oh, I love this process, In the moment of painting I am truly myself!
— If you can paint 7 pieces during 2 hours, how many artworks do you have in your house? It should be really full of art.
— Actually I have quite a few paintings in my house. I am a kind of a fast painter and I paint at large scale.
— Where did you make an exhibition in Istanbul?
— It was a space, it used to be a photographer studio, but it wasn’t open, nobody used it. At the same time, it was like a gallery space. A dear friend allowed me to use that space, for my exhibit.
— So was it just one-day exhibition? You came to the space, made you art and fixed process with video, put pictures on the wall, invited friends and that’s all…
— Actually that process was a little bit longer. In my apartment, I had to be restricted, I had to work on a table so I was restricted with size. Which is good for me, restricting myself to a size was giving to my paintings more character. Then I brought all artworks to the exhibition space and I felt that I need to add some more layers, soon after my paintings started to talk to me, made more sense. Before that I was unsatisfied. They weren’t speaking to me; they werent doing the job. Movement and space in the gallery was inspiring me, so I could run, stick, do whatever I wanted.
— Can you easily go back to past feelings?
— I transcend to feelings from a long time ago, there are some feelings that I remember from my early childhood:, I can go back to those feelings and paint. So I was able to go back easily to this one, for example. Its called Dumbfounded, one can feel that excitement and rush, and confusion of my first days in Istanbul. So I depicted those here. This portrait is me in that period of time when I just arrived to Istanbul and didn’t know anything. It depicts of stress and excitement, all at once.
— I can feel that feelings in this painting also. After your explanation it become more clear for me what did you paint. Because first when I saw that artworks I thought that those are portraits of different people and different faces from the streets that you have met in Istanbul. Now I understand that you painted your internal world in a correct period of time. So now your artworks become more interesting for me.
— About colors that I use into my art: this incredible blue is the color of the Bosporus. When I saw it for a first time I thought: How can this be so beautiful? I mean I have never seen such color like Bosporus. It’s just unbelievable. Bosporus is the most valuable thing in Istanbul for me.
-Turkish people call this color turquoise
— Next one is about my experience in metro. I love the metro. I love to going the metro, I don’t know why. I just really love the idea of city. In a vessel, in a train I’m just going away. And because underground is far away from the world, for me it’s like a different space. It’s like metallic, and cold, this is my experience of the metro, it’s all blue. I just love going on the escalator, just going down, and you see a different angle of people, and you are waiting for the train, and wind blowing into your face from the tunnel when train is coming. In this painting I put in those feelings. It’s me in the metro.
-Yeah, and you became such blue and cold inside, and a bit sad. Do you have the same feeling when you are in the metro in UK?
-You know, when I’m in a foreign country where I don’t understand the language like Istanbul and like Turkey, it had really allowed me to feel feelings with more intensity like I never felt before. Because when I’m in London everyone speaks in English, so I’m not so focused on what’s going on inside of me, my focus on what’s going on around me. Here its different. Over here Im just alone, alone with my feelings and their intensity. I don’t talk to everyone, so im always observing the environment. I just love escaping, I love to go away from everything i know, And I love that feeling.
-How long do you stay in Istanbul and what was the aim of your visit.
-I’ve been here for over two months. My first visit was several months ago I came just for a week, and then I decided that I should back one day for more long period of time. I’m here because I study architecture in Edinburgh, and in Istanbul I had some summer research to do regarding architecture.
-So when you are tired from geometrical architectural drawings and accurate calculations of sizes, numbers and cetera you need to go crazy with your art expression somewhere.
-Yeah, because if you are an expressive person and you are required to do something quite rigid and logical, it doesn’t work too well. My mind said to me: You’ve got to do something, just do something. Literally I just wake up at the middle of the night, just to paint sometimes.
-What about this painting?
— I love masking tape. I rip it up and put it on different places. I don’t care for my work to be clean. This creases and marks are part of this painting, they speak about the journey.
— This feeling just of feeling nothing. It’s just when you feel complete apathy, you are in the present but you are not present.
— For me this painting about that you are missing somebody or your home.
— You know love of my mother really drives all my work. I really very loved my mother a lot. I’m the eldest son and I had really special connection with my her. We understood each other, we had a really strong bond. Many people say that in my paintings there is an overlying sadness. I don’t know why, but this is the way it is. I definitely not satisfied with the way the world works, so there is dissatisfaction. And this dissatisfaction leads to me to paint.
— What about this collage part? It’s like a window in prison.
— After I’m done painting, my own work reveals so much to me about myself. Because when I’m working I don’t think much, I just do it. But then in several days when I look back at it, it surprises even myself
In this series I ] chose this green (pistachio), blue and pink. And those were all colors that I saw in Istanbul. In Süleymaniye Mosque I saw the most beautiful pink, I just wanted to embrace it, I felt a passion for it- That’s why I chose that color in my series. Istanbul Pistachios are iconic, so I chose that green. The blue is the bosphorous. So I used those 3 elements and colors in my art.
-What about black?
-The black is impact, the black is what make sense for me. Without black my art is never complete for me. I tried to not use black in the paintings, but my brain says: No-no-no… You better add black. So I added.
-Because when you add black, you add 3-d tone to your painting, and make it 3-dimentional.
-Yeah, you are right. After you add black, suddenly you can see space, volume.
-Next work is a portrait not about you but about another person.
-Yes, he was a stranger, but looked quite interesting to me, and I decided to make his portrait, but when I started I understood that I don’t know nothing about him, I can’t express him emotionally, that’s why there is no face. We can see his physical form, his body, t-shirt, hands, but we can’t see his personality. And all of paintings are full of meanings, ideas and thought. But with him I didn’t know, it was just a mystery. Therefore, just a face.
It was great talking to you.
-I wish you success in your art! Thanks for inviting me and thanks for the interview!