The Summer Residency Program at The School of Visual Arts (SVA) in New York offers artists an opportunity to work intensively in a private studio, receive individual critiques from faculty, and attend weekly lectures given by guest artists, critics, and gallery directors. Each year SVA offers a special scholarship to Turkish artists that is supported by both The American Turkish Society and SVA.
Ahmet Albayrak was a summer resident this year. He is a gifted artist whose work focuses on identity and memory that he draws from his family history. The American Turkish Society talked with him about his experience at SVA and how the residency influenced his work and personal life.
Ahmet, how did you hear about the Summer Residency Program?
I found the information on the internet and have been talking about it with friends for around 5 to 6 years. I applied twice and finally got a grant for the Summer 2016 Residency at The School of Visual Arts. After a month of creative collaboration with other artists and curators I developed my exhibition “Anemotaxis”, which made its debut on June 29, 2016 at the SVA Chelsea Gallery.
What is “Anemotaxis” about? How did you come up with the idea?
I’m working on some concepts and language forms that include reading cards or the first Turkish/Ottoman dictionary that I integrate into my paintings, photographs and video works. In my paintings there are some key elements related to curing, healing, purifying and catharsis based on my life and family history. For example, wind socks are indicating the direction of wind as a cathartic form. And “Anemotaxis” is a form of living and existence in these paintings. The term “Anemotaxis” describes an oriented movement in response to a current of air.
What kind of project was in your application for the residency?
I submitted several acrylic paintings that represent my work about “Anemotaxis” as a project proposal.
How did the program and your time in New York impact your life and work?
It affected me in many ways and it was more fruitfull than I had expected. Personally, I entered a very creative and productive period. I had many new ideas that I could turn into new projects.
Since I am also an arts teacher at Kayseri Erciyes University Faculty of Fine Arts, I gained a lot of studio knowledge that I will be able to pass on to my art students. New York has a very open- minded arts community. Renowned art critic, Jerry Saltz, came to visit our residence and we had some talks with him. I will surely pass the many impressions and outcomes of group discussions on to my students, so that they learn as much as possible about contemporary arts.
Do you think the grant brought you more recognition?
Absolutely! I received a lot of positive comments and I gained more recognition in the art scene in Turkey. I’m also expecting more feedback as time passes and as more people learn about my work.
What projects are you working on right now?
Currently, I am working as an advisor to the Central Bank of the Republic of Turkey and we are preparing a collection exhibition in Oman. I’m also writing an exhibition book. The title of the exhibition is ‘Infinity Time’. It includes the most famous Turkish artists and traditional Turkish artworks, such as Ebru, Hüsn’i Hat works and names like Erol Akyavas, Fikret Mualla, Burhan Dogançay, Adnan Çoker.
What’s next for you?
I’m working on the exhibition of the art that I created in New York. I’m planning those exhibitions in November, February and May 2017. In addition I’m working on a new theme based on my New York experience that include more abstract paintings; this could be called “Gravitaxis” for example...
Ahmet Albayrak, born in 1982, graduated from Erciyes University Faculty of Fine Arts-Painting 2003. He completed his master's degree in 2005 and in 2008 a PhD at Marmara University Institute of Fine Arts - Painting. Albayrak who has lived and worked in Kayseri since 2009 received awards from ongoing activities organized in various cities and joined exhibitions in a number of museums and biennials. In addition to the Istanbul Modern, University of Cambridge and MMOMA (Moscow Museum of Modern Art) his work has been exhibited in many countries including the United Kingdom, Germany, France, South Korea, The Netherlands, Mexico and Russia. He is a former resident artist of Cite Internationale Des Arts, Paris. Currently, he is working on collection exhibitions and has been curator of the Central Bank of the Republic of Turkey since 2015.
Interview by Funda Akin