In our conversation with Ecem Yüksel, we talked about her world, her relationship with art, her production process, exhibitions and our collaboration with her. Ecem Yüksel reconstructs everyday landscapes with structural interventions in the shirts she designed for Bil’s.
Photos: Elif Kahveci (@elifkahveci)
1) Can you tell us a little about yourself to our readers, Ecem?
Hi Ceren, I graduated from the Painting Department of Mimar Sinan University. I have been living and producing art in Istanbul since 2007.
2) Your paintings usually include figures and landscapes. How do you make decisions during the composition process?
My production process is organic. I don’t always plan when creating my works. I like to make many decisions during the process. There are certain themes, but I prefer slow transformations rather than definite changes. My decisions and persistence go parallel to my own life as my works are based on stories inspired by the figures and places in my life.
3) Your first solo exhibition, “A Warm Welcome,” was displayed at Gallery Kairos. How did it feel to have the opportunity to express what you wanted to say in one exhibition?
I was very excited. It was an exhibition that I had planned and thought about for a long time. Seeing the works that I had been working on for a long time all together and presenting them so clearly was interesting and made me happy to receive direct feedback from the audience.
4) In the exhibition, you created three-dimensional works using a different medium in addition to your canvas works. In a way, your figures were taken to three dimensions. What can you say about the production process and how it made you feel?
I produced it with a method I tried for the first time. I had made three-dimensional experiments when I was a student. After forming the shape, I wanted to approach the painting stage as if I was working on a two-dimensional surface. When we saw them together with the paintings, they looked like a cartoon character pulled out of a two-dimensional environment.
5) The shirts produced in collaboration with the brand Bil’s consist of patterns from your canvases. It feels like we have taken your canvas and turned it into a shirt. What was the experience like for you to create a shirt that originated from the idea and production of a design as a canvas?
I mainly work on painting. Canvas and paper surfaces are safe areas for me. In addition, I really like the idea of reproducing the painting in different forms and techniques. Printing is a method that I have thought about and included in my production. Different forms of exhibition also excite me a lot. I thought of the shirts as a new form of exhibition. I aimed to create moving landscapes and changing scenes due to the constant movement of wearing them.
6) Can we listen to your stories “Top Scorer” and “A Little View from a Hiking Day”? Where do these memories reside and thus the shirts?
“Top Scorer” shows a memory from a national sport of the country I watched in Finland, Pesapallo match. The three of us, Burak, Kristy, and I, watched the youth league finals of a sport we watched for the first time for three days. We stopped trying to understand the rules and followed the match from the reactions of the families watching their children in that wonderful landscape. Interestingly, it was a very enjoyable time we spent together for a few days.
“A Little View from a Hiking Day” emerged from an image from Izmir Cesme and a very personal moment, and my insistence on depicting it. When I thought about the shirt, I was trying to understand how the landscape would look on a moving surface and how it would change. Especially in this shirt, I think I captured different possibilities and images.
7) You have books featuring artists called Fan Page, Cat Days, and Paiva. Each book was created in collaboration with a different artist. How do you generally view collaboration and working together?
I enjoy being alongside people even when we’re not directly discussing work, whether it’s through collaboration or sharing the same space. Getting support or giving it always feels good. I am lucky to have artist friends around me who excite me with their work, inspire me, and motivate me during certain periods. Solidarity or simply speaking the same language gives a great sense of trust. When going through the production process alone, taking risks can be difficult, and it can lead to a vicious cycle in different ways. Inviting someone into this private space makes taking risks easier, makes everything more interesting when it becomes uncomfortable, and teaches me to escape my comfort zone more easily. Collaborating with Bil’s taught me a lot from this special place and opened up a new field.
8) In the coming days, your exhibition “Oyun Serbest!” will open at the KENDİ Collection space in collaboration with Burak Ata. We conducted our interview and photo shoot with Elif Kahveci here during the exhibition preparations. You have curated a game-themed exhibition in a space where KENDİ Collection toys are permanently exhibited. Could you tell us a little bit about what viewers will encounter when they arrive?
Burak and I have been sharing the same home and studio for a very long time. In the “Oyun Serbest!” exhibition, we are showcasing watercolors we created together during an artist residency program we participated in and two new works we produced with the support of KENDİ Collection, called “Kış” and “Çino Takas Cards.” The exhibition can be seen as a reflection of our relationship as a duo, our support for each other, and our shared way of thinking. Our relationship with games and the role they play in our lives have directly connected us to the collection, which served as a reference for the works in this exhibition.
9) What role does playing games have in your life?
I love playing and watching games. I also occasionally incorporate this enthusiasm into my creative work. I find the visual representation of games very exciting. I love the aesthetics of games, their own set of rules and dynamics, and their diversity. The idea of everything being a game and having that perspective really excites me.
10) Do you have any artists you follow and draw inspiration from? What motivates you to create?
There are so many artists I admire. I love visiting museums and getting excited about the works of the old masters. While my preferences may change from time to time, revisiting certain pieces over and over again is a great pleasure for me. Additionally, I’m fortunate to be surrounded by incredibly talented artists in my circle. Visiting my friends’ studios, discussing their work, and receiving criticism in such a sincere manner is very uplifting and inspiring.
11) At the end of this enjoyable interview, we thank you for taking the time to talk to us. Finally, do you have any recent films, books, or a playlist you’ve been following and would like to recommend to the readers?
For a film recommendation, I suggest “Drive My Car” by Ryusuke Hamaguchi. As for a book, “My Heart’s in the Highlands” by William Saroyan. Instead of a song playlist, I’d like to recommend a game that has been keeping me entertained lately. It’s a beautifully crafted bird-themed board game called “WINGSPAN,” which aims to create an incredibly intricate ecosystem. There’s also a mobile version of the game available. I can recommend it even for those without gaming partners. 😊
Ecem Yüksel: @ecmyuksel