Sophia Kayafas discusses the isolation of quarantine with Buket Savci, an immigrant whose paintings portray the joy of contact.
(soft electronic music)
(soft synthesizer music)
- [Buket] You walk around and see all these people,
like, crowds, but everybody seems so lonely,
especially New York and big cities like Istanbul.
Even before the pandemic,
I was, like, trying to capture that,
how trusting each other, being comfortable with each other
is important, and now, it became more,
like, because we can't even have
the simplest things right now,
with loved ones, even friends.
We can't even meet or see them.
We are not free to even breathe.
We are not free to touch.
- This is taking it to this new level.
I don't know.
I think, a lot of people I know
have moved out of the city, a lot of artists.
They just couldn't take it.
It was like, well, now I have permission
to get the hell out of here.
- I know, but, yeah,
the people who can move out,
or have other places to go,
but even, like, four months being locked down,
like, you know, I'm an immigrant,
and also, like, the other people who don't have families
or, I mean, anywhere else to go,
we were just, yeah,
like, here. - So much pressure.
- Yes, and trying to, I mean,
in the beginning, I was thinking,
okay, it's a great time,
not worrying about work or other things.
I can focus on my paintings.
But no, no way.
(lively indie rock music)
So, Buket, how long have you had this place?
- [Buket] Oh, thanks.
I've been here a little bit over four years,
but my partner has been living here longer,
- Okay. - So it's kind of,
we are lucky, but who knows?
How long can we be here?
You know, everything keeps changing.
I was born in Istanbul,
but, with my family, we are living
a city very close to Istanbul,
just an hour away, so I grow up there,
and I used to be a landscape architect!
- [Sophia] Yeah.
- I guess, again, because of financial reasons, I guess,
my parents, they never encouraged me
to become an artist,
but I always wanted to paint,
I wanted to be an artist always.
If I move somewhere else,
and if I start my life from zero,
then I can maybe study painting.
That's what I was thinking,
and then I couldn't wait for that even,
because I didn't know how it's going to be,
how am I going to move somewhere else?
Because, with Turkish passport, is not easy.
- [Sophia] Mm.
- Then my cousin, he won green card and moved here.
Then I applied, and I won it.
- [Sophia] You won the green card lottery?
- [Sophia] No way.
- And then I applied to Pratt Institute.
That was the only school I applied, actually.
I don't know what was I thinking.
If I wasn't accepted, maybe I was thinking
I will go back or something, I don't know.
This is kind of an older piece, I can say.
This is going to be, actually, opening soon.
It's going to be my first solo show in U.S.
- Aw, that's amazing.
That's so exciting.
Where is it?
- In Cincinnati, Ohio.
In the beginning, I was worried about,
that I'm like, oh, is it going to happen or not?
I have to finish these paintings,
and I'm like, oh, maybe it's not even happening.
- You're hoping you're going to sell work there too.
- Yeah, I hope so,
but, and also, of course, the opening,
it's going to be social distancing.
- Yeah, it's complicated.
- And they will take people, you know,
with numbers or something, you know.
- Just let them in.
- Yeah, one by one or something,
so, we'll see. - I see.
- I don't know how it's going to (laughs)
- Can we go in here?
- Yes, of course.
- So, this is where the work gets done.
This is, like,
your little studio. - This is,
the magic happens here.
(Buket laughs) - Oh, I love it.
- [Buket] So, this one is in progress.
All of them I start with a pink ground.
- [Sophia] Right, I saw that on the outside of the one.
- [Buket] On the edges, you can see that too.
- [Sophia] You cover, like, with a pink gesso?
- Yes. - And then you,
what color do you use to paint the underpainting in?
- I don't do exactly underpainting,
but I do the drawing with green.
Don't care about the drawing, you know, it keeps changing.
I do it very fast, and then,
yeah, usually, in the first layer,
I use the most worn out.
- It looks that way.
I love those kind of marks, though,
'cause you're so free 'cause you don't care.
- I know, you know,
and then, later, it gets precious.
I'm like, no, I want to be free,
but, no, it's hard.
- [Sophia] It's beautiful, I love the composition.
- [Buket] Thanks.
- It's really moving.
- Recently, lately, I'm having multiple people
in the paintings, and I really enjoy that.
And then I added my cat there.
- [Sophia] Ha, yeah, in the green, yeah.
- [Buket] Yeah, that's how I start,
and then it goes color.
- [Sophia] Yeah.
Did you take a photo of all of these people at once?
- I was in an artist residency in Leipzig, Germany.
These are all artists there at that moment,
and I asked them, oh, we are all here,
can you pose for me?
All other paintings, I'm, like,
I ask them, wear something, things colorful,
and I put around this, floats, toys,
objects, fabrics for the color, and now I pick them,
and then they do whatever they want with them,
and I am like, yeah, you can go naked,
or you can, whatever, put things on your hair.
They pick whatever they want.
- [Sophia] So, why oil paint?
- [Buket] I don't know, I always want to use oil.
It was a challenge, you know?
I was so scared about it before.
Like, color, I was so scared of color.
My process is very, kind of, random.
It's never planned.
- [Sophia] Mm.
- [Buket] As I said, and I can show you,
the other. - Yeah, please.
- As I'm kind of lazy,
I don't clean my palettes much.
This is usually like this.
- Oh, it's nice and heavy.
Yeah, that's long hours of mixing.
- So I mix the colors.
I always use the same palette and same colors.
First, I prepare some, the common ones I always use,
then, as you can see, they get messed up later.
- Well, the thing they seem to have in common
is that this has, you know, your brighter, warmer areas,
and then your cooler darks,
and it kind of seems like you're situating,
like, a similar thing with both.
- And also, it's about that,
that day which part I'm painting,
I start with mixing those,
if it's the flesh, or if it's one object,
that color kind of goes like that.
- [Buket] You know, painting wet on wet is more fun,
and everything flows easily.
I really like that, yes.
But also, as I said, I never kind of plan how I should do.
I'm, like, yeah, I was like,
okay, I will do this,
and then, oh, no, I'm doing this now,
so it goes, yeah, I don't plan a lot.
Oh, this is drying, or do...
It never goes that way with me.
While I'm painting, I listen to very loud music.
Music really helps.
- [Sophia] What kind of music?
- [Buket] Heavy metal.
- [Sophia] Heavy metal?
(heavy metal music)
- [Buket] But I like that
since I was 12, like painting, listening heavy metal,
and I guess it makes me go back.
That's how I was feeling back then,
and then, all that energy,
and, you know, hopes,
and makes you feel stronger, kind of.
- Do you feel like, when you're painting,
it's something spiritual?
- [Buket] I can say it's like a meditation, isn't it?
First, you worry about, oh,
how am I going to paint this?
Then, after a while, you forget about it,
and your hand keeps doing it,
but your mind is, like, going
and, like anything, I don't know, free flow,
and that's the best feeling.
Almost is best than anything.
I love that feeling so much.
- And it's always the best result comes out
when you feel that way.
- If you think about, when painting,
oh, like, it's not happening,
you worry about it then,
you can see it in the work too,
that part of, yeah.
- Someone that's being too controlled,
and insecure, or worried about something.
(soft electronic music)
But you are happy?
- I'm happy to be here.
I miss things about Turkey, of course,
but I don't think I could live there,
especially everything's going even worse.
I mean, comparing to when I was there,
it wasn't this worse, like, right now.
It's, like, you know, the government and everything
is getting everything more conservative.
That was even when I was there, kind of completely,
but it's worse now.
I feel like going back and forth in Turkey, also,
that two cultures, and being there, and being here,
I'm sure it affects my art too.
- [Sophia] Mm.
- And, in time, you feel like
you don't belong there anymore,
and totally, you don't belong here too,
so you're in between.
It's like observing everything
from an outsider area kind of.
I could never imagine even
I will be a full-time artist painting.
Even I am painting for other people,
that's still being a full-time artist.
- [Sophia] Mm.
- I could never imagine that.
I could never imagine I will have shows or something,
because, I mean, I was like,
at that moment when I was first trying
to, you know, quit my job and get into school for painting,
yeah, I could never imagine those,
that it will be possible,
so I'm happy about that,
but still, you know, it's human nature, I guess.
We always want more.
- [Sophia] Mm, mm-hm.
- Of course, I want to be a represented artist,
like, showing internationally.
That's the dream.
Also survive through my paintings, my art,
that's the kind of, yeah, success,
not have to do other jobs,
and also, keep doing it.
Never give up.
Because so many people give up, I know.
I know it's frustrating.
I get every day also.
Even, you know, looking at social media,
I feel so stressed.
It gives me anxiety because I'm like,
oh, I need to post something,
I need to promote my art, but I'm like,
I don't want to worry about this.
I just want to paint, actually.
I can say this also, honestly,
a couple of years ago,
I had very bad depression.
Even my psychiatrist, he was telling me this,
why always am I trying to remind myself to...
He kept saying, "Your art will save you,
"your art will save you, your art will save you.
"Focus on your art."
- You think this is true?
- That's true, yeah, yeah.
(soft indie rock music)
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