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Human face depiction is frequently used in several cultures throughout the history of humanity and it's a theme tended toward by modern ceramic artists from time to time. Alongside her conceptual and functional works, Prof. Gungor Guner has also depicted the human face in the busts she made and tried to reflect the characteristic features of those humans.

Nazan Erkmen, Dean


Human face in ceramic art has been used in many forms by artists in several cultures and periods throughout the history. Human face has always been an attractive theme for artists for its potential to express emotions, characters and stories. Use of human face in Turkish ceramic art, can be found especially in sculpture, pottery and ceramic plates. Human face is frequently used in sculptures in ceramic art. Facial expressions on sculptures are worked on in detail to express emotions and characters. This becomes prominent with artist's skills, emotional depth and ability to express. In pottery, human faces on ceramic containers may take place as decor dyeing or relief. Such surface imagery is usually seen on hand-crafted ceramics and vases. Artist can add character and aesthetics to ceramic by playing with facial expressions, patterns and colors. Some artists create monumental works or knickknacks using ceramic art. Human face in these works, can be combined with a symbolic or mythologic expression bearing a cultural meaning. It can also be seen that traditional human face themes are interpreted with a modern or abstract point of view. In this case, facial expressions may not be apparent. But human figure is tried to be explained through forms and patterns. It can change substantially due to the personal style, cultural context of and the emotions desired to be expressed by the artist who uses face as a means of expression. Artists are usually tend to add their unique creative interpretations and approach traditional themes in a modern way.

In Modern Turkish Ceramic Art, artists of 1950 and after, have used the expressional possibilities of human face in their ceramic works. Use of face is seen in the works of ceramic artists of 1950 and after who led the foundation and development of our country's ceramic art and have played a crucial role in the birth and improvement of Modern Turkish Ceramic Art such as Fureya Koral, Nasip Iyem, Sadi Diren, Ayfer Karamani, Erdinc Bakla; and in the works of ceramic artists of 1970 and after such as Tuzum Kizilcan and Gungor Guner. Through the time from 1980 to present, an ever-growing number of artists are preferring the use of face in their works. And this makes you think that maybe humans wants to turn the faces they want to remember into pictures or forms since the early ages. And maybe they turn also those which they wish to dismiss from their thoughts and forget into works. Her student Nil

One of the modern Turkish ceramic artists who uses faces in her works is Prof. Gungor Guner. When we focus on Guner's ceramic works, we see she produces works in a wide range from functional to non-functional. We first see the use of face in her works in the decorations made with the photocopy transfer technique developed by her. Later, the faces are seen rarely in different periods in time as bust sculptures. Artist explains it in an interview as follows; “Ceramic is the thing that makes you feel that its bottom is earth and top is glass. This is an emotion resembling that human lives between earth and sky. Ceramic is a combination of painting and sculpture. Being able to be an art work any ceramic piece, depends on the strength of emotions or sensitivity or both on that piece alongside technical excellence.

Her asistant Serap Erdogan

While she was working on Nazan Erkmen’s bust

When Prof. Gungor Guner uses photocopy technique especially on her functional forms the face and the expressions is merely visible, she projected this emotional strength especially on her ceramic bust works and it's possible to see her emotions on these bust sculptures. Prof. Gungor Guner maybe turned those people who she doesn't want to forget in this world of ceramics she exists for more than 50 years. The artist states that she uses three dimensional objects when she's transferring concepts, for instance, in her works she named 'I'm Dean' and 'I'm Dean Too', we see Prof. Husamettin Kocan and Prof. Nazan Erkmen with a humorist expression who have served as deans in the Marmara University Faculty of Fine Arts she served as a teacher.

Gungor Guner has turned sometimes her students and sometimes her friends into sculptures with their facial expressions and distinct characteristics. Guner says that her style in her journey of art is stylelessness and that her works are actually not complex and the audience easily comprehends the works she brings out. Indeed, it can be seen in her bust works that the artist expresses and transmits to the audience, her emotions within herself and her wit indirectly through the slight smiles or expressions on the faces of her works.

Husamettin Kocan, Dean

In Prof. Gungor Guner's bust works, the things that draw attention at first glance are the unglazed surfaces she uses, the big proportioned eyes she worked on and pupils existing with a volume but not relaying any eye color. And their common characteristics are the smiles, dyeing of areas with colored glazes where she wants to emphasize, wide worked on countenances, and distinctly featured characteristics in areas such as nose and lips. While she creates all these with her broad experience, it seems like she also conveys the happiness she feels working on these to the audience.

We see a whole another side of her and the artist once again teaches her students the broadness of the range of ceramic works with the works she creates. “Different disciplines trigger each other" says Gungor Guner and she actually experiences new areas and once again exposes how her works of art take form with her creative identity, in her skillful hands.

We would like to thank to our dearest teacher Gungor Guner who shared her information and photographs from her archive with us for this article. Before her, we cherish all our teachers shedding light to us in our path.


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