Alp İşmen: Artworks on Paper
Alp İşmen, who spent years in graphic design in the magazine sector, discovered “the mine” within himself in the most unexpected time and exhibited his series of artworks on paper in Contemporary Istanbul and Pilevneli Project. Inspired by different aspects of love, the male body, and the masters in the history of art, İşmen tells his Istanbul as a child of the Bosphorus.
“I have filled in about 40 sketchbooks and it was meditative. Then one day, I tried something new on paper with extremely fine brushes and ink, and I reached a new level.”
Is making art possible, while you also have a full-time job?
Some people can manage it. Some say that art is based on inspiration, while others rely on hard-work. There’s midway as well. “The first line comes with inspiration, and the rest is work,” says a poet.
How did you uncover the source within you?
You don’t have much time left to yourself, while you’re working in the magazine sector, as you give all the creativity to your job. I have been doing sketches for 30 years, and painting since I quit my job. You’re doing something, but it is not “art.” When you only do it for yourself and your work does not meet the audience, it does not turn into artwork. The artist needs approval and appreciation.
Can you tell us a bit more about the path you have chosen in art?
There was a time when I used to work alone in my workshop on a series of large canvas paintings in oil, to prove myself to myself. The painting was the ultimate form of art for me. But painting in oil requires great concentration. Due to the illnesses that started at home at the time, I returned to artworks on paper I had been doing since my childhood. I have filled in about 40 sketchbooks and it was meditative. Then one day, I tried something new on paper with extremely fine brushes and ink, and I reached a new level.
ARTWORKS ON PAPER REVEALED
When did you first bring them under the spotlight?
Those drawings interpreting human anatomy were exhibited in Contemporary Istanbul 2017. There was one painting in oil, though. It portrayed Taner Ceylan -my friend, my partner, or “half of my heart” as he likes calling it. That piece was sold out immediately. I named these series of anatomical designs “Agape”, which means “divine love” in ancient Greek. Then I switched to a new series called “Eros”, where I made flowers only. I deconstructed and re-created them, added tiny creatures between their branches. The flowers are reproductive organs of plants, so they overlapped with the concept of Eros in my mind. These 21 pieces were exhibited in Pilevneli Mecidiyeköy.
We see a lot of skeletons in your work. What do you have to do with them?
I find them beautiful, as we are beautiful. I use animal skulls and skeletons too; not just human beings. The bones that keep our perfect organism going and the skull that protects our brain are so beautiful. Many meanings have been attributed to them during the history of art, as they are mysterious, and creepy.
After the first two series, I would love to switch to the third type of love: “Philia” or friendship. Perhaps the most important and endurable form of love. Your lover could dump you, but your friend would never. In this series, I wanted to reinterpret the works of painters from the past, who are like dear friends to me. Michelangelo, Leonardo, Pontormo and the like, who have taken the human body very seriously like me and who investigated it, especially the male body. I had a couple of attempts, but life had its own plans. So, I took a break.
“Bebek was a true charm then. We used to dip in the waters of Bosphorus from a small sandy beach in Bebek Park. When I drove up to Sarıyer in my father’s car, I used to see fishermen sitting on dalyans (or the fish traps made by stilts on water) waiting for their nets.”
GOOD OLD DAYS ALONG THE BOSPHORUS
Which neighborhood does your heart belong to?
I was born in Taksim, Sıraselviler. Then we moved to Bebek and I grew up there until the age of 14. That was the 1960s and 70s. Bebek was a true charm then. We used to dip in the waters of Bosphorus from a small sandy beach in Bebek Park. When I drove up to Sarıyer in my father’s car, I used to see fishermen sitting on dalyans (or the fish traps made by stilts on water) waiting for their nets. In the evenings, we used to take our cones of ice cream from Mini Dondurma (which still exists) and we would take a walk along the coast to watch the full moon. Those were the days!
Who’s your local hero?
When I was young, I used to run accross Cemil Başo frequently on the street. He was a painter. He would sit by the wall of a school in Nişantaşı and sell his paintings. My mother had taken two pictures of her, still hanging on the wall of our house. I also appreciate those who sell books on the sidewalks. I used to love going to Beyazıt Square, but after the open-air cafes were removed, it was not the same anymore. In the second-hand booksellers of Beyazıt, you can’t only find school books now.
Where would you recommend art lovers to visit in the city?
The global art market is glamorous but very boring, and even lazy at times. That does not change when I go to New York as well. There are many talented artists in Istanbul. The art market went through a very bright period after the 2000s, but it was like an inflated balloon. Swollen, swollen and exploded! Numerous galleries opened, but eventually, they were unable to sell and they had to close. The number of foreign art collectors visiting the artists’ workshops decreased. Nevertheless, there is still creativity here in this city, as people seek remedies when they feel pressure upon them. And it is all reflected in their artistic production. Besides, our culture and our sense of humor are much more practical and much more layered. Art enthusiasts who come to Istanbul should look for this.
Where would we find you?
At Juno on Mim Kemal Öke Street, or Vi Coffee on Ahmet Fetgari Street, in Nişantaşı.
Alp Ismen will be receiving visitors for the “Open Studio Artist Program” at Daire Sanat every tuesday and saturday, until the 31st March 2020. Not to miss for those who would like to witness his creative process and artworks on paper first hand! To follow Alp Ismen on Instagram: alpismen_photo