Manolya Çelikler; an artist whom mirrors her inner thunders onto her artworks. Although she deals with heavy subjects like; identitiy, gender and existence, her smile and the way she expresses herself are as naive as her works.
Manolya seems to be so fragile and scared to be broken but yet strong enough to just say it. I first met her works on the online art gallery Artnivo.com some few years ago. “Women are just a part of the house decoration” or “Violence against women is being exaggerated” were the quotes she used in her art said by the AKP Party minister or officials. These quotes were sewed by hand with needle and thread which is the technique she mostly uses. Later on I heard her name repeatedly at group artshows around town. Last winter she attended a show at Ilayda Gallery with some very touching artworks. I remember the gallery owner Ilayda say, “You should really meet Manolya Çelikler one day, she is exactly as her artworks are.” And another year passed, we casually comment on eachother on social media but I still hadnt had a chance to meet this poetic artist in flesh and blood until Ali Gazi curated a new show at Kare art gallery. An old envelope made of cloth, most probably from her grandparents closet was framed behind the glass with 5 words on it, “I loved you a lot”.
Again these words were sewn on to the artwork. A page from a book was turned into an artwork with the words crossed over using black thread. As I said, Çelikler’s art says it all for women but her art doesnt scream it whispers very silently. It lets the truth be heard in the poetic way possible. During the period of her latest show at Kare, Ali Gazi invited us both for a coffee so I could finally meet and have a chance to talk. Her works are always love kissed by the four literary legends; Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath, Nilgün Marmara and Tezer Özlü. Sylvia Plath and Virginia Woolf both being subjects of my BA thesis, I guess it explains why I’m so drawn to Çelikler’s works. Sometimes she uses these legends in words, sometimes she uses needle and thread to draw their portrait on the book pages. But all in all, if a woman’s soul is in communication with any of these legends, that soul is grieving.
It was just a few years ago when you were picked by Artnivo.com at Mamut Art Project. Your works are so strong but also very naive. How did Manolya Çelikler rise as an artist?
I attented Mamut Art Project in 2014, it was the 2nd Mamut and it was a great success for me to be chosen by Artnivo.com. Then I started working with them and I still do today. I try to be very direct and honest with my works, I get inspired from my own life and that is what I try to show. Maybe thats why it seems so naive and easy to connect as a viewer.
Needle and thread are very feminine themes and you use it to express subjects of gender in your art, which combines the two beautifully. How did you evolve or come up with your technique?
I started sewing in the last year of university. We were given a project and mine was Justice. That was the first time I used needle and thread to express myself. Then I continued with it. Then I improved and started cross-stitching and used it in my works. Once I started researching cross-stitching, it turns out that it was used for marriage decorations, or to kill time and some used it to stich their sufferings. And that is what inspired me to use cross-stitch in my artworks.
What about the four women you use in your arts, Virginia, Sylvia, Tezer and Nilgün. Why them?
Because these four women spent their lives fighting for their identity and they had a difficulty in existing in this world as a woman and as a human. I personally have forever been inspired by these names and they are very important to me. I admire all women who fight for their own identity and insist on being and living as they are.
If I’m not misateken Tezer is the only one that didn’t die by committing suicide amongst the four?
And Virginia, Nilgün and Sylvia all committed suicide. Could we say that they gave up the fight?
No actually we can’t because they fought so much for their existence, that their death could not be defined as giving up.
What is your definition of a “strong woman”?
Strong woman is the one who fights to the maximum to be only and only herself at all cost. For example Tezer Özlü had attended a riot and there she said, “This is not our country, it is the country of the one who want to kill us.”
What about Manolya Çelikler? How do you place your soul amongst these women?
I also believe I am fighting for my life as a woman and for my own existence in this country and world. That’s why I feel close to these four women.
Do you think you will ever consider suicide one day?
I don’t know but I’m not thinking of it yet. Maybe one day once I have accomplished everything like these women, I might consider it.
Your works express a lot of emotion and love. Do you believe in love?
Yes I do, I believe in pure love and that it still exists today. I personally prefer the love that builds and nourishes, not the one that pulls you down and damages. I am actually now working on this theme for my next series. I am researching a lot about love and I’m reading Dante and Beatrice’s love now.
Is your next series going to be inspired by pure love stories?
Yes in a way because I am researching both love and suicide letters. And I believe they are linked in many ways.
Well I agree, both need a passion. Both love and death are meaningless without the passion and the ones who commit suicide might actually be more passionate with death than life?
How about your collectors, I assume they are all women?
Actually not, my works have been collected by some men also.
Wow, they must be very emotional men?
🙂 They also defined my work as “naive”.
What is your working process? How often do you create?
I actually have a full time job in a ceramic company. I work as an artist apart from that and I love producing and I love to work. I have many anxieties in life and I always think that motivates me to work more.
How does it feel to have a full time job and be an artist apart from that?
Well, it makes my life easier as I do not worry if my arts sell or not immediately.