Ahmet Doğu İpek known for his insane watercolor black and white works has recently opened his second solo at Galata Greek School. Previously working with Sanatorium Gallery, the artist is now independent by all means, taking his art to another level on his own. Showing his works for the first time in a non- gallery space, the Galata Greek School is a location where the artist has always admired and was fascinated by its gigantic architecture. Once he learnt more about the history of the school, why it closed, where the students had disappeared…. he correlated the story with his works and is now showing his new exhibition”Days” in that very location.“The whole system is based on border comissions. When I had first arrived in Istanbul my accent was so different than the rest that I was embarassed to even talk Turkish. “Class” a term we often use in our daily vocabulary, well I was actually living in that moment of class difference. You want to be friends but there really are borders between you and the other, its not their falut, its actually nobody’s fault. The system is just created that way.” says Ahmet Doğu İpek. Spread on the first and second floors of the venue, the exhibition includes works Ipek produced in the last 10 months, as well as works dated to 2015. I met with the artist in Soho House and had a lovely conversation with him less on his exhibition and more on the general lines of his art and artistic identity.
Are there any artists in your family?
No not in the sense of educated artists. My grandfather was an amazing stonemason though. He had built all the homes in our village back in the day. I guess I got my designing skills from him. But I have a brother who is much more talented than I am.
How many siblings do you have?
We are three. I have an older sister and a brother, I’m the youngest. My brother used to make amazing paintings. When I was young, I started painting by just copying everything he did. When I first started primary school, he had started before me and I remember seeing all his paintings on the school walls. I was jealous. It was like magic for me because he could just look at anything and recreate it in a 2 D form.
Where are you from?
I’m from the very East. Adıyaman. I was born there and grew up there.
Are you Kurdish?
You replied in a very silent tone, do you not want it to be known that you are Kurdish?
No not at all. In the years 2000 and after, contemporary artists worked a lot on the aspect of Kurdish identity and class. My works are much less political, my works talk silently in the background. That’s why I never mentioned or underlined my identity so it doesn’t correlate with my works.
Can you say that you will never ever make political art?
No I can’t say never but I can say that today there are many political works. I didn’t want to make political art just because I am from that region. My practice wasn’t political either and it just wouldn’t suit me.
Even if you don’t make political art, by looking at the ones who do so, do you believe political art has a transforming effect on the society?
I believe art transforms the society but in a very indirect way. I guess I don’t believe in the direct statement as much as I do in the indirect. When art makes a very direct statement it doesn’t seem that realistic to me or the area that it is due to effect. How much is direct how much is indirect that is a mixed situation where I don’t even know the answer yet. Because activism actually belongs to the streets. Art has forever been intertwined with politics and Dada is a great example. But there is a gray area where the roles of the two get mixed up. In that gray area, art loses its function and dies out.
Where is the line that political art ends and activism starts?
Actually they are both intertwined but sometimes one leaves the other behind and the hierarchy changes. I think the best example that can be given to this question was the Gezi Park protests. Many artists were there including myself but we were not making art.
Does art question the role of politics or does is rationalize it?
I think there are examples for both.
Which side do the artists in Turkey stand today?
There is a group that really is trying to question politics and maybe even have a hope in transforming it. But there also are some who are using the governmental funds in order to make art that rationalizes politics.
There are examples of the latter and there are lots of jealousy towards them too. Is it because they are internationally successful?
Success, if its a real success I may also feel jealous. But in this case I question the “success” you mentioned. Or is this “success” something that can easily be created with a governmental fund and an amazing PR strategy? Unless you are Duchamp and creating works with irony and a great vision of the future, in this case you will only be occupying opportunities What is success anyway?
What is success to you?
It surely isn’t seeing art as a business. If it were and if earning money was the way to define the success of your art then we should all close down our studios and open PR agencies instead. Then we should build a system to make ourselves and our environment rich and exploit the lower class. This is exactly where people get mixed up with art and the art business.
Ahmet Doğu İpek’s exhibition “Days” can be viewed at Galata Greek School in Karaköy until the 13th of May.