2022 has been declared as the “International Year of Glass” and as in many places around the globe there has been various glass exhibitions opened also in Eskisehir City Museums Complex. Mustafa Agatekin’s exhibition of glass sculptures titled “Araf” (Purgatory in Turkish) coming into being as glass between his own reality and dreams, left its’ mark as the last glass exhibition we have watched last year in Eskisehir.
Prof. ZEHRA COBANLI
Being a successful student of mine in his undergraduate and postgraduate education whom I have been having an eye on since his student days, Mustafa Agatekin and his works he created by bringing ceramics and glass together with the method he developed, have diversely enriched the space as a new way of forming. In these works which in his own words are “A Phrasing out of an inner cycle with a language native to the glass”, we know he aims to express our questioning, concerns and hopes regarding our lives. And in his sculptures in the “Araf” exhibition, we are able to comprehend how strong the light accentuates its’ transparent, semi-transparent and semi-dull effect within that balance formed among the sculptures. We see that his figures which once placed as patterns in his previous exhibitions are now transformed into stupendous figures coming out of the glass mass and strongly shouting out their words.
As a person who has been closely observing the building up, spreading era of glass education and our glass art since the beginning of 2000s, I’m a close witness of how actively he’s involved up until now since the foundation of Anatolian University Fine Arts Faculty Glass Department in Eskisehir. Continuing his successful term of office in this department’s head chair today as well as undertaking an important mission such as studying on, narrating and enlightening people about glass art, history and technology alongside his artisanship, Mustafa Agatekin has made several publications, given lectures and participated in workshops on the subject at home and abroad. The artist made a name of himself also outside Turkey with many group exhibitions at home and abroad and 12 personal exhibitions at home and is also a holder of 4 awards from competitions organized in Turkey.
You are one of those rare artists who made a career in glass in Turkey, could you tell us about the education you had in this field?
I had my graduate education in Anatolian University Fine Arts Faculty (former name Applied Fine Arts College back then) Ceramics Department; my post graduate and artistic competence is also on ceramics. But in 2002, during my personal artistic studies apart from my postgraduate studies, I began my glass material try outs by chance. These try outs emerged mostly in search for a technical language and I met with Can Bozkurt in a fair I attended back in those days with these works. By the way, I gratefully and gracefully remember my Teacher Can. I had a private lesson for a month from him and this was actually the beginning of everything. Then, there was the Glass Department being founded in Anatolian University Fine Arts Faculty and Can Bozkurt was among those who participated in its’ foundation. I got involved in the department staff with his advice. My basic glass education developed after I began the department. Later on, with the teachers coming with Erasmus program to give lessons in the glass schools in Middle Europe and with foreign language readings existing in this subject, my academic career in fact has begun all over again following my proficiency in art. From 2004 to this day, I actualized all my works I made in the academic area also in the glass area.
As an artist transitioning from ceramics to glass, could you tell us about the contribution of the ceramic education you had to your creation process?
Both areas have conveniences they provide to each other in terms of forming techniques and technologies. This reveals experimenting practicality. And Experimenting practicality shows itself mostly in production. Hence, you can apprehend more rapidly and fetch up quicker when you’re embodying an idea you think of. But, despite what’s commonly overtold, these two areas have many big differences between them.
In the past dominant patterns in your works were two dimensional and utilizing also ceramic clay and these were a rare method known in this area. Could you tell us more extensively about these works of yours?
I think this about the way I personally chose to go, trying distinctness in the way I go in an artistic manner is increasing my productivity. Glass is actually a material which offers very distinct effects and I have concentrated on these effects for a very long time. But when you go for three dimensionality in glass you have to plan for longer processes especially in forming with mold… This process is a comprehensive production journey including the model, the mold, firing and finishing. Apart from this the thing I do actually is; establishing an idea of an exhibition about the transparency and the light interaction of glass and in this sense, gathering the forms which can most efficiently present my expression together with these elements. I can easily say that I achieved such results that makes me glad too.
In the exhibition with “Purgatory” theme that you have opened in Eskisehir museums complex on the 20th of December 2022, three dimensional sculptures and figures in the gaps that are calling out in a manner, were dominant. What was the manifest of these new era works of yours? Could you tell us in detail about your works in the exhibition?
I find and reveal the theme of my exhibitions from what I live, in this sense, the theme of this exhibition was “Purgatory” which developed over a situation that I have been left within so much lately. In idiomatic sense, purgatory describes the situation of being left between two things and in religious texts means a place between heaven and hell. At a common point in both meanings, purgatory symbolizes; being in between two things where you reach or want to reach or not being able to choose and getting stuck between them. A very humane situation “being in purgatory” which each of us experience typically in our lives. This exhibition makes the cycle of dilemma of the individual visible, who is stuck behind flamboyant simulations. In other words, the purgatory between my reality and dreams is coming into existence on glass. The transparency in the forms is a structure that makes masses invisible and in this sense everything around us is a mass that we cannot see, identify but stuck within it and are figures who cry out and stand still in this emptiness of mass… From a different viewpoint, the story of those who are stuck in their own emptiness and their myth.
Glass is a time-taking and inconvenient field of art which requires a raft of technical knowledge and skills. Is there a special way you follow in creating the work you desire?
I see materials and techniques as important factors that enhances the impact of my way of artistic expression. But I also have to say that I have an approach which prioritizes the content and then I have my technical preferences that enrich this content with glass specific characteristics (transparency, optical effects, plasticity, fragility etc.). Experiencing new ways in the production process in these preferences are a situation that I got into almost in every process.
Would you like to bring forward your aesthetical concerns or a conceptual meaning in your works?
I want to say content rather than conceptuality for I haven’t a creation process which I associate only with conceptual meanings. Emotions, sensations and situations take me to the content while I’m producing my works. The concept revealing out of this is only a part of that whole. I care about an emotional space imposed on my audience by the works I produce. I can call it the spirit of the exhibition and it’s important to pass that to the audience.
You live in Eskisehir, how does the city you live in influence your artistic life?
There are elements that feed my artistic life but I can say they’re not enough. There are private attempts in plastic arts in recent years such as OMM and Eldem Art Area and they have important contributions but there needs to be more of them. Unfortunately, Istanbul still remains with no alternatives in this manner. I think the first thing to do priorily for this is; to devise projects that set the grounds to make investors and investments in art come to Eskisehir.
You’re right, I agree with you in this. We fully believe in our heart that your works will make an impact also abroad with an increasing momentum. God bless your hands and your heart Agatekin.