Sculptor Serdar Kaynak’s works of natural stone art revolve around the concepts of duality, dilemma, and binary. Many of his pieces, some of which go back 10 years, are currently featured at a solo exhibition of his, “Z-Raport” at Pomstore. His sculptures canonize marble, travertine, limestone, and serpentine. We recently sat down with the artist to discuss his creations, what he’s been working on as of late, and what natural stone what it is in terms of its nature and character.
Could you tell us briefly about how you became a sculptor?
Serdar Kaynak: I began studying design towards the end of high school. When the time came to sit my university entrance exams for art school, I was presented with two potential majors, one being sculpture, and the other being drawing & painting. This meant a lot to me. The thought of there being a limitless range of materials at my disposal called me towards sculpture. Hence, in 1997, I got accepted into Anatolia University’s School of Fine Arts and I majored in sculpture. I finished my Bachelor’s in 2001 and have never looked back in the 20 years since. I am in love my work, and with creating new work. Sculpture is laborious, backbreaking work; it requires immense discipline and unrequited love. Were I able to return to my starting point, I would still choose the same path.
Conceptually speaking, what shapes and inspires your work? Moreover, how has that steered the evolution of your art?
SK: First, I can tell you that when you put together an exhibition, you have main theme or subject, and then you have a series of other subjects that are linked to that main one. Until about 8 years ago, I pondered over and created art around the Notion of “duality.” We run against time; we live in a constant state of change and transformation. I emphasize those last two elements, “change / transformation” as being particularly fundamental to duality. The have served me well in terms of setting me on course. When you stop and think about how meaning and form interact with one another, you find that duality leads you first towards balance within dilemma, and then towards binary. This progression, over time, has helped me change alter my form. As it stands, it is difficult for an artist to wander down a certain path and to create a language without first having some sort of structure already in place. Change doesn’t occur over night. Rather, over time, you add building blocks to your main subject. As soon as you believe that you’ve constructed an entire language in your work, then you can proceed to tweak it and take risks. Sometimes this might mirror recent changes you’ve made to your other artwork. Other times, the change might be radical. On the contrary, as life-long spectator of your own work, you fear going stale.
You claim that, in your work, you remain faithful to the nature of the material you’re working with, and that you transform that into sort of objective reality. What place des natural stone hold in your relationship with the material?
SK: As a sculptural medium, my first love is natural stone. To be honest, I don’t think I could possible love any other medium the way I love stone… There is an expression, “to know stone.” In other words, if you sculpt with a medium that know intimately, then you should be able to empathize with the essence of that medium. You have to immerse yourself in it in order to be on the same wavelength as it. You find that you begin to better understand it, listen to it, and really care about what it is trying to tell you the longer you spend time with it. Natural stone is a medium; it always wants to remain true to itself no matter what it is you set out to sculpt, hence why I prefer to remain as loyal to its nature, its essence as possible across much of my work. As soon as my objective realities begin to strike a balance with the natural structure of stone, then the sculpture essentially sculpts itself. I never try to make the stone be a carbon copy of whatever small model or idea I might have in mind for it. The emerging result is always the most important to me. I should note that I apply the same principle to any medium I work with.
We see that marble, in particular, plays a massive role in your work. What can you tell us about its character, and moreover its potential?
SK: Your question is a bit like asking someone to speed up a construction project so that it gets finished on schedule! First and foremost, marble requires you to work in an open-air studio it’s critical. I thus have two studios for the bulk of my work, one open, the other enclosed. I’d said a little earlier that you need time in order to get to know a material. I am of the opinion that -as a sculptor who truly does know his medium well- it boils down to being as loyal to the nature of the medium as possible. I find that marble best suits how I think and how I work technique wise, which is why I prefer it. Of course, this changes from one artist to the other. However, you can only arrive at the breadth and diversity of the art if you keep to this understanding. You also have to follow what’s going on internationally in the world of sculpture in order to maintain a critical eye. There is always room in sculpture for artists who are open to novelty, and who are aware of the limitless possibilities that natural stone and marble have to offer, especially has technology advances. A material is meaningless in the face of a good statue. The material’s potential is always in the hands of the person who is passionate.
Are there any other natural stone mediums that you’re fond of working with? If so, what are your sources?
SK: I mostly like marble more than anything else, especially Afyon marble. Its fine crystals alongside homogenous structure and toughness all offer the sculptor many advantages. It lets you cut it with saw discs, diamond air sanders… the old lump hammer and chisel-hence, why it is such a pleasure to work with. That ringing sound that the chisel and hammer make when you hack away at slab in the open air is like nothing else. I also very much enjoy Muğla and Marmara marble. Given that I have a thing for traditional methods and techniques, transferring that onto local stones is very gratifying. Beyond that, I like different kinds of Limra limestone and travertine.
Your artwork exhibits an obviously strong understanding of form. What role does natural stone play in that?
SK: It depends on how I work unfolds and what techniques and mediums I happen to be working with. With natural stone, I start from the outside and work my way in. This offers me the chance to work out the details on the main slab. For instance, I might want to leave a thin portion of the stone behind between two gaps. It’s much more difficult to do that when you’re work with clay models, moulds, and casting. The fact that I can determine the finer bits on a single slab puts natural stone at a greater advantage. Like mentioned before, its the artist who chooses which medium they work with, its a preference. You are the one who assigns the medium a role. The result is born out of your choice and your idea.
What are you currently working on? Where will see your new projects in the near future?
SK: I’m in the midst of working on a new series that so far has taken me six years to research and conceive, and four years to actually realize. I’m trying to devise structure constructed almost entirely out of wire, incomplete cocoons as something new in my journey. I also want to somehow mesh four of those that I’ve been working on this year with marble. In terms of subject matter: colonial power, the destruction it causes, migration, and chaos. If all goes according to plan, my finished work will be shown at four different collective exhibitions albeit, I wish could tell you where exactly and when. Oh, and my artwork will also be exhibited at the Maji Art Gallery as part of year project titled “Koleksiyoner Akademisi / Collector Academy”. I frequently put on little showings for art lovers at my studio as well.