Ceramic artist Candeger Furtun's first retrospective exhibition at Arter reveals 60 years of art production. In addition to Furtun's ceramic objects, sculptures and installations, archival materials such as plaster molds and glaze raw materials are also included in the exhibition, giving clues about her production since the 1960s.
FATMA BATUKAN BELGE
We know that ceramic exhibitions are not preferred by major contemporary art institutions, museums and galleries. That's why I excitedly went to see the retrospective of Candeger Furtun, the opening exhibition of Arter's 2021-2022 season. I visited the exhibition, which was brought to life after a preparation process spanning nearly three years, together with Candeger Furtun herself.
Curated by Selen Ansen, the exhibition displays more than 100 works by the artist. While watching Furtun's artistic periods with these works; it is also possible to see the influence of trends such as Abstract Expressionism, Art and Crafts, Constructivism, Bauhaus.
Candeger Furtun is among the first generation to receive academic ceramic education in Turkey. While working at the Nurullah Berk Atelier at the State Academy of Fine Arts, she gets hit with the clay that met in the modding class; as soon as she touches the mud, she says, "Okay, this is my material.” She leaves there angering Nurullah Berk and continues her education with ceramics in İsmail Hakkı Oygar's workshop. We are talking about the end of the 1950s, when there were no kilns and equipment in the Ceramic departments at that time. There are already two institutions that provide ceramics education; one is the Academy and the other is the Applied Fine Arts School, which was established in 1957. There are no private workshops with their own ceramic kiln. For most of the ceramicists, Hasan Usta's workshop in Küçüksu or Eczacıbası Ceramic Factory Art Studio, where they fire their finishing works, is the school. But these places or the Faculty of Chemistry of Istanbul University, which she went to in 1959-60 to learn more, are not enough for Candeger Furtun. Goes to America with the Fulbright scholarship in 1961! She completes her MA at Rochester Institute of Technology, School for American Craftsmen. They have teachers like Frans Wildenhain. The 1960s is a turning point for ceramic art all over the world. Furtun is greatly influenced by Betty Woodman's exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Having a ceramic artist at the MET is not an understatement; reflects the Golden Age of ceramics. She says that when she goes to America, when she says "I graduated from ceramics", they respect it because they value our tile tradition, which goes back hundreds of years, much more than we do.
Candeger Furtun returns to Turkey in 1963 and opens her workshop in Sisli the following year; This workshop is where she continues her work until today. The artist, who made her own glazes based on her experiences and learnings in America, says, "In my time, no one made glaze from raw materials. Everybody was using ready-made paint, Degussa was being sold. I asked for a frit, they said, 'Are you going to race with Degussa?' No, why should I race, I wanted to do it myself with sin and goodness. If I hadn't learned this in America, I wouldn't have been able to do it." The glaze experiments, which were moved from her workshop to the gallery for the exhibition, show that she has worked on this subject a lot. In fact, when you look at the artist's works, there are not many colors; we see neutral colors, earth tones, whites, and skin color for body parts.
Furtun’s ceramics of the 60s, carries the influences of Arts and Crafts movement, Japanese traditional ceramics and Zen philosophy, which left their marks on the era. Apart from the vessels that reflect these influences, there are mostly bowls that have been removed from their function and in which it is not possible to put anything. In her own words, these bowls say “I live alone”, woe to anyone who tries to put something in them! There are also the ones that refer to transparent and revealing glass containers, opening slits on them and adding another dimension by showing the inside.
Organic sculptures of the 1960s and 1970s are followed by the series she produced in the 1980s, 90s and 2000s. In these series, she deals with the concepts she questions about life and death through bodies. Hands, arms, legs, torsos… But bodies are always broken, always missing a part. It questions our existence with the reality of lack and mortality. Death stalks the ceramics she made in the 80s, the shadow of dark clouds falls, and nightmares descend on them… There is no need to ask why, the 1980 military coup left a mark on the works of almost every artist sensitive to social problems. In Furtun's, it appears on the back of a person, on the mark he leaves on his clothes, "he's gone, he's not in it anymore…”
In the period whens he worked on the theme of death, she was concerned about the death of nature as well as the death of man. “I wanted to magnify the leaves of nature that we killed and put it in people's eyes,” she says. Her passion for clay and for nature go hand in hand: “No material is as close to you as clay. Because you talk to her, she understands when you are angry. If you force it a little, she says, 'Hold on, girl, I have a body too,' and it cracks. We have lost this hand contact, they cut down trees for it, they plunder the lands for it. Is it you who did this! Here came a pandemic, it slapped us all”.
The curator Selen Ansen has built the exhibition around the concept of "shell", which the artist often references when talking about ceramics and her own production... She emphasizes the relations and the transition possibilities created by the artist, who states that "even while watching nature, she sees human figures in every shell, seed and stone”.
The series produced by Candeger Furtun in the 2000s are installations of multiple body parts. The repetition of the object of contemporary art, which we now take for granted, has also become a part of the language of expression for the artist. For most of us, these are the first things that come to mind when talking about the works of Candeger Furtun. The molds sThe he used in this plural production were also included in the exhibition. This retrospective exhibition is a good opportunity to get to know an artist who is one of the building blocks of contemporary Turkish ceramics. The exhibition, which spans two floors of Arter, the entrance and -1, can be viewed until April 17, 2022.