Mamut Limited Vol.1 pop-up, the first exhibition of the Mamut Art Project team's Mamut Limited (Artist Editions) project, which aims to meet all creative people working in different fields and techniques from visual arts to design, music to fashion, took place at Yapı Kredi bomontiada between September 16 - October 1, 2023. We are introducing the artists of this year's Mamut Limited, which will present special selections throughout the year on its online platform mamutlimited.com. Our second guest is Sinem Ören
Let's start by talking about your artistic journey. You graduated from the Maryland Institute College of Art with a scholarship, completing the Ceramic Art department. In 2021, you started your master's degree in Ceramics and Glass Design at Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University. When did you decide to make art, or how did you know you were making art?
It is difficult to give a certain time on this issue. Ever since I was a child, I took a pencil case full of colored pencils and a notebook or coloring book everywhere I went. The thing I spent the most time on was painting for as long as I can remember. But I had a predisposition to manual dexterity. When I was in high school, I used to make tiny sculptures of the fantasy characters I drew, using clay, aluminum foil and wire. Choosing a school of art, no matter what department, had always been a dream.
"Making art" is an interesting concept actually. Even after my university graduation, I had a hard time telling myself that I was an "artist" or that these outputs were works of art. Not only could what I produced not attain the level of my aesthetic perception, but since making something always came naturally to me, it seemed more satisfying to me to stay in the process rather than the result. Especially working with a medium with a history of crafts and objects, such as ceramics, encouraged me to make more permanent products. As soon as the production of a work is finished and it goes on the pedestal, the work dies for me. It then becomes a visual and commercial product rather than something that was living, evolving and changing. That's why being in artistic production was where I always wanted to be.
Our local culture and the geography we live in have always been in a state of transformation and have a chaotic nature. It has a primal energy. It has a sense of intense desire and quick heat of instincts, but it also hides the great secrets of mysticism and humanity inside like Pandora's box. This is the case not only in the present, but also when we look at our past.
How does your local culture and surroundings influence your artistic work? Do the materials and techniques you use in your art find an echo in this network of interaction?
Our local culture and the geography we live in have always been in a state of transformation and have a chaotic nature. It has a primal energy. It has a sense of intense desire and quick heat of instincts, but it also hides the great secrets of mysticism and humanity inside like Pandora's box. This is the case not only in the present, but also when we look at our past. Being in this culture, experiencing many different sociological, political and psychological situations, definitely pushes me to question the meaning of life as an individual and to analyze the different ways of thinking of the people around me. Unfortunately, this situation is not extensively reflected in my works in terms of material and technique, but conceptually it definitely nurtures me and leads me to different ways of thinking.
Sinem Ören, Inward, Mixed Media Ceramic, 35x35x75(h) cm
You say that the analogy between the earth and the human body is the main reason why you chose the medium of ceramics as a means of artistic expression. Can you tell us about the things that attract you to the soil and people?
As a matter of fact, people and soil have always been inseparable. Crops are planted in the soil and harvested, soil enabled production thanks to the mines extracted, wars are fought for a handful of soil, and when we die, we return to the soil. At least that's how it is in many cultures. In addition, many different creation myths share the connection that man was created from soil. In Greek mythology, it is said that Prometheus created the first man from the earth, and Athena breathed life into this form. In the Sumerians, it is mentioned that the god Enki and the goddess Ninhursag created man in the same way from clay mixed with the blood of gods and divine essence. There are a lot of different examples like this, all the way back to Ancient Egypt. It’s rather meaningful for many different cultures to make this analogy. I like to refer to such a deep-rooted relationship between people and land in my works. Part of this relationship, for me, also lies in the history of ceramic art. I have the utmost respect for the material I work with. I have always been very interested in works that poetize the human body by referring to pots and pans and vase forms, especially in the conceptual development of ceramic art. I think that Magdalene Odundo, one of the artists who works in this way, has successfully dealt with that connection between soil and people. In addition to all this, I think the fact that I am a tactile person pushed me to work with clay. I really like the physical exertion and feeling of working with ceramics. In fact, the clay seems alive in a way; I liken it to a human being when it changes and morphs, or sometimes when it cannot be pushed too far.
The three sculptures we see in Mamut Limited, namely Reflection, Convergence and Inward, are part of the Echoes of Metamorphosis series. You say that you describe three stages of individual awakening. Each large vase form represents the universe, and the pieces depict the individual's awareness, introspection and integration with existence. Can we talk about how these works came to be?
Before I started making these works, a sculpture among my vase characters spent the whole winter growing spider webs by the door of my studio and then went back into my studio and went through a reformation process. We were in contact with Seren and Ekin during that time. Thanks to them, I had the opportunity to sit down and talk about the work and decided to work on a trilogy. I've always liked trilogies. I brainstormed what this trilogy represents and wanted it to be like the pillars of life. Soul, body, consciousness... The first piece, Reflection was the first piece that came to life in my mind with all its details. Confrontation has been an issue that I have had in my life for a while. While working on the sculpture in the workshop, I listened to Elio D'Anna's The School of the Gods as an audiobook. I listened to some chapters over and over again. What I felt inside, what I couldn't fully articulate, and what I was going through in my life at the time were all in perfect resonance. As I listened to the book, I remembered the old teachings, and it became clear in my mind how this transformation process should evolve and the point it would reach. I love this series. Sometimes I feel like I'm living in the series. Convergence is where I want to go, but Inward is an arduous process.
Sinem Ören, Inward, Mixed Media Ceramic, 35x35x75(h) cm
Is the existential problem in your work something difficult for you to express?
I have always had an anxiety of the experience of living since I was a child. But it was at the university that I became more deeply acquainted with psychology and philosophy. Before that, I often found myself in a tide where I could not make sense of my emotional states and questions of life. On top of this situation, I have a very empathetic disposition and I remember that sometimes I just broke down and cried in the face of the violence, grief, cruelty, pain in the world. I could not get out of this mental turmoil, I was exhausted and I did not want to be a part of this. That's why I've been constantly looking for an alternative world for myself. There are also the inevitable social frustrations because the people around me don’t understand this overthinking and “hypersensitivity". As I got older, I kind of isolated myself from the crowd and created an observatory. I constantly observed people, especially myself. I tried to make sense of the things that my mind had a hard time accepting, and when I started on this path, my curiosity went back to the first people, to the roots of humanity. This quest for meaning is also universal.
Surely all of us have questioned life at least once, "Why am I here?" or "What purpose does all this serve?" And that's just the tip of the iceberg. Existence is actually such a state that it is very normal and perhaps even ordinary, such as the fertilization of an egg and birth, but at the same time, it is impossible, like the Big Bang and the emergence of a system from this rare moment. There is a miracle behind its seemingly random and ordinary nature. The works I produced during my university years were always darker and more depressive. I have always focused on an inner void, but as I progressed in my awareness journey, the nature of my productions changed color. Instead of seeing existence as anxiety and nothingness, I began to perceive it as a skillfully woven fabric and to see how the pieces came into contact with each other in these warps and wefts.
For you, is producing a successful work about personal fulfillment or appreciation from the art world? Why?
For me, producing a successful work is definitely about personal fulfillment. Since the nature of the art world is nothing more than human insatiability, what is appreciated today may be forgotten tomorrow. In addition, the art world is a very large structure and there are multiple factors and actors that affect the shaping of this structure. It can be considered naïve that everyone wants to find that divine, missing or knotted part of their soul through art. Sometimes art is used only for impulses of the ego. People who experience similar concerns are already drawn to each other through selective perception. Therefore, if I am satisfied with the work I have produced, people who speak my language see and understand this "success". That's enough for me.
Ceramic is a three-dimensional material and has many stages. Especially as the object size grows, imaging and control increase proportionally. Sometimes it dries too fast and you have to race against time and have sleight of hand. There is the firing stage. You must always think one step ahead. That's why I think it's essential to start with a plan. At least I need it for my own productions.
How do you balance the artistic and technical aspects of ceramics to achieve the results you want?
Ceramic is a three-dimensional material and has many stages. Especially as the object size grows, imaging and control increase proportionally. Sometimes it dries too fast and you have to race against time and have sleight of hand. There is the firing stage. You must always think one step ahead. That's why I think it's essential to start with a plan. At least I need it for my own productions. I definitely produce a sketch and plan what kind of internal structure the form I will create needs so that it does not break down and can stand on its own. Making a small scale model also works very well. In general, once I have an outline, I like to discover the rest of it in the process. When everything is planned from start to finish, I feel like I'm implementing a project rather than making a work of art, and I usually don't like those kinds of productions at all and I lose interest quickly. Sometimes I come across random things related to the subject I am thinking about while producing a work, and I usually like to turn these moments into a part of the work. That's why I can usually divide my production process in artistic and technical halves. I love to have a little control and a little chaos.