by Rahul KumarDec 04, 2022
Basak Bugay is a Turkish artist based in Istanbul, whose work flits between the boundaries of performative theatre, psychology and the drama of the macabre. Although her work does not directly confront particularly gruesome or grisly subjects, it does dive deep into the dark depths of the human mind. Her work, as a result, embodies the shadow side of our inner selves. Her recent exhibition Fugue, a solo exhibition at Zilberman Istanbul, shared a series of sculptural installations spanning an assortment of media including terracotta, ceramic, and fabric in the companionship of a series of ink-based drawings. The art exhibition ran through February 12, 2022, and her next showcase opens on May 16, 2022 at a group show which will take place at Arter’s Gallery 0 in Istanbul. While sharing her recent work, she speaks to STIR about her childhood and creative influences, as well as what drives her practice.
Bugay has long since been passionate about theatre as well as performance art. As a consequence, her static sculptures at Fugue embody the unmistakable dynamism of performance. The visual artist shares with us saying, “Thanks to my mother, the theatre stage has always been a part of my life. I suppose this is quite visible in my work. The interaction between the art piece and the audience is one of the main issues I try to put forward. I deliberately involve theatrical elements in my work.” Bugay’s mother and father were both artists, a stage plus costume designer and sculptor respectively. They each worked as professors at Mimar Sinan University of Fine Arts, where Bugay studied as well. When going into further discussion about her influences she mentions, “I am usually charmed by theatre or should I say, performing arts in general. I find the stage magical with all the disciplines it embodies; setting, lighting, actors, sound… Strangely, I am not an inquisitive audience of visual arts. Honestly, there may be only a few works that touched me in a way that performing arts did.”
Bugay’s interest in performance spills over into her creative practice, similar to her interest in psychoanalysis and the study of psychology. This is reflected further in her exhibition Fugue. It takes its name from the psychological counterpart of ‘fuga’ which derives from the Latin ‘fuga’ meaning ‘to fly’. The phenomenon of ‘dissociative fugue’, from which Bugay gains inspiration, is a rare type of amnesia. It indicates the separation, or fleeing, from one’s identity as a result of an extreme trauma. This concept holds an important ideological space within which the artist navigates through the violent and bullying tendencies within the individual as well as society.
The contemporary artist shares further, “I first started to read about personality disorders to help myself through understanding the dynamics of evil. Because I have always had and still have trouble resolving the basic rules of relationships. Although I was planning to finish my research at some point, I found myself going deeper and that lasted for months. Then I started to read psychoanalytic theories and that gave me a key to interpret the world in a very fulfilling way. Since then, my art practice and my readings on psychology, psychiatry, and psychoanalysis go along together. Recently, I also started reading about archeology and evolution.”
Bugay’s long standing interest in the human psyche can be traced back several years. The sculptor even wrote a Ph.D. thesis which explored the space between psychoanalysis, visual art and art production. Her interest focuses on the concept of the collective unconscious which comes up repeatedly through her oeuvre. Through this curiosity, she weaves in ideas of childhood trauma, defense mechanisms and denial. She says, "I think it is up to the audience to define if I manage to represent the collective unconscious but I must admit that this is my goal. I find it enlightening to see interactions between the ontology of the individual and the society, as well as its relationship with the past and the present. I am attracted to any kind of bonding and the tension it creates. It also shows on the materials and execution of my work… I tend to associate one’s behavioral or mental state with the current sociological problems and to see it as a repeating pattern since the beginning of history.”
Bugay’s solo exhibition Fugue is an expression of the artist’s explorations and insights into these subjects. Her work Air Balloon (2021), which first caught my eye, uses wood, fabric and terracotta to create an inanimate yet personified object cum creature. The oil paint finish is reflective of the artist’s formal study of painting. What I enjoy most about Bugay’s creations are the eerie and mysterious nature of her art sculptures. The expressions and forms invoke the shadows of my own mind, bringing them to the forefront from where they are often pushed away. Her work encourages the viewer to meet their own darknesses eye to eye. By using simple materials and mild, gentle colours the artist allows the form to speak its own concept, the excess drama falls away leaving behind only the theatricality of our inner reality.