For the design section of the Contemporary Art Fair, you have produced with Temmer Marble a dressing table that embodies marble. We came together to talk about this project, but can we talk a little bit about Sema Topaloğlu for those who do not know you? For how many years do you own a studio?
While landspace architecture allowed me to approach things from a different dimension and scaling, looking at the object from the space gave birth to a really interesting adventure. In short, it clarified my concentration on contemporary spaces and all the other elements that create them. After coming to Turkey, I first started working with Gökhan Avcıoğlu and Boran Ekinci. I improved myself by working a year in each of their studios. I saw how a project can be realized and the relationship between the client and the architect. Arif Suyabatmaz encouraged me with supporting words about space design. He said what I was doing was unique. There is fearlessness in my relation with material and probably this is the sore point that makes me unique. I improved my experience in Turkey after this one year period of apprenticeship. First, I transformed my house in Arnavutköy into an office and the rest came along. In short, my main focus is on contemporary spaces, objects that form the space and all the furnitures.
Where were you before Turkey?
I am from the Black Sea region although after studying landscape architecture in Ankara, I stayed in Belgium for a while. I have completed my education by working and living in private schools and studios. I started to gain experience in Turkey as a visionary designer who slightly oriented, designed and worked within the scope of the first transformation projects of Beyoğlu. I launched my office space and I work there for nearly 20 years. After Beyoğlu, I moved out to get involved with the serenity of Golden Horn and the production process it offers. Last year, I opened up a gallery space in Karaköy. Maybe you already know that it’s closed at the moment but that place always represents an important point where I share my every new experience and knowledge with the clients and youngsters of the city. Of course, setting an example for designers is one of my sole purposes. As a matter of fact, I am considered an artist because I am highly pleased to share and show my excitement and present them through an invitation. In this century I only know one way: sharing. But still I am not able to share enough. Because I am in a process of purification both personally and as a designer.
What sets you unique is the contrariety in simplicity…
Of course I have not destroyed that brilliance because fantastic objects with fantastic forms make my designs different. Now, I look at the positioning and the expression. It means that witnessing the changes of socioeconomic values of material and form matures and enhances me. I am now preparing to enhance this level of contrariety as a part of my character.
Well, how do you find the studios which make you produce these works?
There are those who have been working with me for a long time. I have craftsmen who have been working with me for 15-20 years. They are actually brass masters but I ask them to do different pieces of work as well. I turned my old driver into a blacksmith. In fact, every job you do opens different doors. Young people who used to work with me are coming back so I can say that there is a reorganization of this kind. We have not had as much to do with glass as there is now, but we are currently in a glasshouse with you. Eventually I turned out to be a glassmaker as well. Everything is possible when you work hard with the material.
What other projects are you interested in at the moment?
I am doing a lot of work for the Dogan family. They are my suppor ters. Maça Kızı also worked with me for some interesting works. I first set foot in the world of object design with Maça Kızı. I think the lobby of the Hürriyet newspaper turned out to be one of the best examples of contemporary space design in Turkey. It is necessary to say that my talents and achievements are hidden in the space. However, lifestyles, styles and design forces revealed by these spaces are not that easy for Turkish users to be embraced. Honestly, I think that this acquaintance will bring love and fearlessness. Until today, only the fearless people and those who pursue uniqueness have worked with me. The reason behind why investors have not collaborated with me yet is probably because those who worship the power of money have rather preferred their secure and shallow waters. This is a situation that restricts me a lot. I think the fact that Turkish investors and users don’t know how to approach you –even though you tell them countless times- is related to their own problems. Maybe they don’t trust themselves. Because what they have accumulated and experimented until today do not coincide with what you offer. For this reason, they see you as a box full of surprises and ‘indeed’ I am. But there are other equations that nur ture this surprise. Maybe I was not able to express myself clearly. That’s why I secluded myself a little bit lately. My profession came to t he fore in t he world with t he name “ar t&design”. There are contemporary galleries in the world that embody ar tists/architects. I star ted working with those galleries. At the websites of these places, you can find the term ‘ar tist architect’. For example, they call me an ar tist designer in Milan. If you were to ask me who I am, I am an ar tist designer. I am trying to gain recognition with objects and spread out my vision but my sole interest is in space. I can create exceptional concepts in a space. I am able to do this for several brands. Actually we need to question the value of carrying the synthesis and culture to other geographies while living in this one…It’s essential to evaluate the value of my multidisciplinary approach, my communication with ar tisans and the workableness reaching up to the level of at least five times of business costs, in large cities forming the center of design such as London and New York.
SEMA TOPALOĞLU HAS RECENTLY DESIGNED A MARBLE MAKE-UP TA BLE FOR CONTEMPORARY ISTAN BUL INTERNATIONAL ART FAIR . IMPLEMENTED THROUGH THE COOPERATION OF TEMMER MARBLE, THE DESIGN RECEIVED A GREAT DEAL OF ATTENTION IN THE CONTEMPORARY ART FAIR OWING TO ITS FINE CRAFTSMANSHIP
So, how is the craftsmanship in Turkey right now? Competence used to be high, fast and economic when compared with Europe. What has changed?
Turkey has changed; people ran out of patience. Unhappiness and daily challenges discouraged people’s ambitions. Most of the time I carry on with personal efforts. Of course, it is not possible without setting your heart on it. The values here were real and I still find them usable. But unfortunately we still can not do the last finishes.
You have created a recycling-oriented work within the body of “Cycles” exhibition under the sponsorship of Arçelik. Could you please tell us a little bit about this project?
In this project, my prospect was to provide newer experiences to the user through using stationary materials and forms that can make a difference in the space and later reinterpreting them with my artist attitude which means my emotional side. It was really important for me to prepare an experimental scene with an innovative tone. This project represents a childish new excitement in the process of creating tactile surfaces for experimental spaces. Being able to work with multidisciplines throughout this work has enabled me to highly enjoy this project. I worked with 8-9 pieces of wash boilers that represent the typical part of the industrial design in the real sense. I aimed to create a contemporary design object by creating new layers with a very personal view on this industrial shell by wrapping it with glass which is a material I love and love to play with. Of course, the refraction of the light infiltrating the boiler and reaching to the audience was a different part of the game. It is an exciting part of the work to see the recycled material leaving the trace it has created in our memories and taking its place as a lighting material today in our daily lives. First we wrapped the shell with glass and observed how the light propogated. Total size was about 2,5 – 3 meters.
So did you use old parts of washing machines?
Yes, we used the existing parts of the old washing machines as our main elements or as fittings at times and transform them within the design concepts of our time. As for the forms created by the resistances in the ovens, i think that they can take their places as silverware closets in living spaces.
It’s a quite contemporary design. So, what do you think we need to understand from the word “contemporary”?
We can say that it represents an assimilation of values and possibilities of culture, origin and the geography you grew up and reside in. You need to integrate them for the sake of the world by coinciding with its norms and forms. In brief, it’s doing a double take. For me, contemporaneity is making good use of the one that already exists; not being afraid of traces, being sincere, rational and innovative. Multidisciplinary working eventually brings contemporaneity.
How is the relationship between the new and the old?
Does contemporaneity get mistaken for modernity? Actually I have nothing to do with the old. I am aware of the old and I make sense of it. I’m observing the traces. Modernity is another thing yet there is synthesis, retrieval, observation and sensations within contemporaneity…
Can you tell us a little bit about the make-up table which you have recently designed with the cooperation of Temmer Marble? Which materials were used?
The product we prepared for the Contemporary Art Fair with the collaboration of Temmer Marble, turned out to be a contemporary design in the full sense of the word with a fantastic outlook. Happiness was found in the coupling serenity of metal, marble and glass. Iron, brass, bronze, glass and marble materials were used for the make-up table. Marmara marble was chosen as a special hygienic material for the product. During the production process; Temmer’s competent work, dominance on the material and the sophisticated approach throughout the manufacturing process were highly appreciable. Despite the striped and hard structure of the Marmara marble, the lacy treatments in the details created a texture difference and therefore the graphic of the material emerged. The table-top part was millimetrically cut and glued layer by layer. After that, they were spaced out to create a visible outlook. This process required a fine manufacturing but it was eventually accomplished. Therefore, despite Marmara marble’s hardness and dressing difficulty, marble has been processed in this design like a jewel and went beyond being a plain building material owing to the collaboration with Temmer.