Prof. Beril Anılanmert is one of the important figures of our modern ceramic art. In the retrospective exhibition called "Logbook" opened in Is Sanat Kibele Art Gallery; we traced her 40 years of journey in ceramics as an artist and art educator.
PROF. ZEHRA COBANLI
I first met with my teacher Beril Anılanmert in Mimar Sinan University, Fine Arts Faculty Ceramic Department's post graduate exam, opened for the first time in 1984. I got to know her closer as one of the first in this field. I cannot forget what I learned from her as an artist and academician. It has been a light for those in that field like me that she opened up the Ceramic Art field to overseas with the Istanbul meeting of the International Academy of Ceramics. Rapidly passing years have consolidated my teacher’s exemplary character and how well-appointed and self-confident she is in her branch in the meetings and events we attended together. This conversation was made consequently for her exhibition called "Logbook" made in the Is Bank Art Gallery between 21st October 2021 - 8th January 2022.
Your contributions to many firsts in ceramic education is undeniable. For example, you put a lot of effort in starting the first post graduate programs at Mimar Sinan University. As I'm your first post graduate student and took part in the beginning of this process, my first question is about this issue. How did this process developed, what were the challenges?
In 1969, the Organization Law of the State Academy of Fine Arts was accepted. After my graduation, as a new assistant, I have been in organizational committees like post graduate studies, titles etc. By the Higher Education Law in 1981, the reorganization of universities had begun. As a result of decreasing the study period of Fine Arts Faculties to four years which were giving five years of education back then, Post Graduate and Proficiency regulations have also been re-evaluated.
We studied on domestic and foreign resources and presented a proposal. Afterwards, these forms and even our course contents were used as references for the newly established Ceramic Departments. Such administrative transformation of this scale was hard in an institution with a century of history and tradition. Rightful objections of the academic staff and the rearrangement of the education programs were backbreaking. I was the Vice Dean of the Fine Arts Faculty back then and was right in the middle of all that chaos. They were hard and stressful years... It was seriously discussed and grounded on solid basis. It still goes on and I'm proud of it.
You're one of the active members of the International Academy of Ceramics in our country. The 1992 international meeting of the Academy was held in our country under your lead. Could you please tell us about the projections of this event?
This is an adventure with a very beautiful ending. As you probably know, being an affiliated member of UNESCO, the International Academy of Ceramics convenes its' General Assembly every two years, in a country invited by its' members and is instrumental in organizing events.
While I was on my way to the meeting in Sydney, I shared my opinion with my teacher Professor Sadi Diren, on giving proposal for the next meeting. I was thinking that we could make it with our staff in the department. I made a visual presentation with slides shot by Oktay Anilanmert and made the next meeting accepted to be organized in Istanbul. In my return we began working with our Rector's approval. We gathered up the skills and the efforts of all of our staff in the department and made a perfect organization. Exhibitions and catalogues of the IAC members and the Turkish artists have been made and thanks to our sponsors, the closing receptions have left unforgettable memories in the minds of our guests... The attendance has reached to 200 participants which was way more than the meetings that are held to date back then. The compliments and tributes to Istanbul meeting have continued also in the following meetings.
The important aspects here were to introduce Turkish artists in international stage, gain new Turkish members, to ensure the ceramic artworks from many countries to be seen and to provide communication with the artists. It was to introduce our country, culture, city and educational institution and to create awareness in the world of ceramics. Our collection has also got richer with artists donating their works to our university museum. There were many people among Turkish artists and audiences who mentioned that they have witnessed the technical and expressional forms for the first time in the works exhibited here. It was an event that made it to its' goal.
You never changed your stance both as an academician and an artist. What kind of an experience was it to perform the both?
The self awareness and knowing ones limits maybe... I think it's also moving forward without compromising on your principles. It may be using the time well. I have a study habit of making daily and monthly plans since my junior school years. I have tried to do every work I had with love and as best as possible and take it to the next level. I think life is a whole. My academic studies have supported and inspired my artistic works.
You're a college graduate. Has knowing a foreign language well been an advantage?
Today, it's a requirement to know at least one foreign language and continuously develop it. It's essential to be able to make research, better understand the new technologies, observe and interpret the world. Foreign language was very important in my academic life, in my art world and enabled me to live in many foreign countries and establish relationships with my artist friends.
When I observed your works the dimensional influences of your pluralistic arrangements seem very dynamic. Is this effect based on your aesthetical concerns? Do you want to bring a conceptual meaning to the forefront?
Context is important in my works and this affects the choice of materials and the processes. Dynamism is an element brought by the concept and it is created through tensions, contrast in colors, forms and surface movements. Injustices on woman, child and social problems are considered over mythology. Subjects such as "Altar", "Holy Sacrifice", "5205", "Park", "Entropy", "Herd" contain elements of criticism.
My knowledge and experiences on modern ceramic art have developed by observing the exhibitions of the ceramic communities and discussing with the artists in my journeys to various countries abroad. Afterwards, I added the "Modern Ceramic Art" course to our curriculum which I gave comparatively.
Ceramics is a long and demanding branch of art. It requires many knowledge and skills. Is there a special way for you to create the work you desire?
My works go on with a long mental process, research and sketches. I enter the studio when I make it clear in my mind. Then selection of materials, production processes and color tests to be done until I get the result I desire.
Let's talk a bit about your exhibition in Is Bank Kibele Art Gallery. You have works from different years also. How did you make your setup?
This exhibition was planned to be opened in 2021 but postponed due to the pandemic. I opened the exhibition in October 2021 and included the selected works from my previous exhibitions alongside my new works. I especially named it "Logbook". As all the happenings during a ship's journey are taken under record in a journal; I chose this name by means of reflecting all my artistic journey, life, observations, emotions and thoughts. It included the works from domestic and international exhibitions from 1980 to 2020 which reflected my continuum of thoughts.
You live in Istanbul. How did the city you live contribute to your art life?
I like big cities. Big cities are exciting with their cosmopolitan structures. New ideas and events come to light in their chaos, their communications are dense. Istanbul is a very special city in regards to this. However, the uncontrolled mass migration in recent years has worn out the identity of the regions. My dream is, cities that are remembered by their artists. Like Vienna remembered by Mozart and Prague by Kafka... I'm happy to live in here. When I'm bored I run to Aegean side.
How do you position the Turkish ceramic art when we look at the world ceramic today? How do you evaluate the past 20 years?
Plenty of new artists have been raised in recent years. Since I'm not a big follower of social media, I cannot state an opinion. Art is a long lasting occupation which requires passion and dedication. We have to watch who has the strength for this. I hope to see authentic works which reflect the characteristics of their era. For this, we need a free-thinking environment, a family structure where the sense of curiosity is not oppressed and an educational system where creativity is not repressed. A youth that can think outside dogmas is the most valuable treasure of a country. The dynamics of development are creative thinking and creative manpower. I observe that this is not regarded in recent years. My opinion is that our educational system should be completely changed.
We have artists that are internationally recognized. In addition, from art critics to art dealers and curatorship, the international recognition and prestige of the institutions which will bring the artist to the international area, are also important.