A process of evolution: the art of Esra Kizir Gokcen

In the build up to our 2018 Winter Exhibition we visit the studio of Esra Kizir Gokcen, to find out about her life as an artist.

In one sentence, what do you do?

My name is Esra Kizir Gokcen and I am an artist from Istanbul working in London.

Tell us more.

I work at the Make Space Studios.

It took me some time to get set up in London. As a foreigner from Turkey it has been challenging trying to understand my way about things. I find that I have to do a lot of admin as you English do a lot of forms! I’m not complaining though, I’ve just been trying to understand the art scene and place myself in the right position. I am getting there!

I usually work with my feelings and observations; I am a very observant person. Everything is related to my perspective, my life journey and who I am. This changes from time to time, for example, when my children were small my subjects were related with my life as a parent. Transforming from a parent to an individual again took me till my children were going to school. Then my interest and observations were more on the social and political scene in my country. Back then I was upset and angry, which you can see from my artworks, and is the reason I migrated here as well.

Untitled City, 2018 | Acrylic on canvas panel | 35 x 50 cm | £650

Do you think it is important as an artist to be constantly moving forward?

I am open to change and evolution. Over time my subjects and techniques have evolved. If you google my name you would be able to see this evolution step by step… I believe this is the proof of how sincere I am as an artist and as a person. But gallerists and dealers are not so fond of this.

Is that because they want you to stick to one thing?

Yes, but I don’t think art is something to control. We have to be open to evolution, to keep all our senses open, observe and understand what is going on around us. And express it truly through art in our own way. Everything has to be visible.

When did you discover your interest in art?

I have been drawing ever since I could hold a pen. I decided to become an artist in my second year of primary school. I remember I wrote a very long poem and read it to my mum and brother directly after coming home from school. They were amazed but worried as well, I was advised to have a “real” job to earn my life and do my art as a hobby. I somehow listened to the advice and studied Graphic Design. This made everybody happy and led me to an art school.

I started my career as a Graphic Designer in a very fancy advertising agency. At that time computer technology was not so dominant. We were making everything by hand. But over a very short time, like 2-3 years, design was completely based on computers. This was too technical and made me unhappy with my job.

So you missed the physicality of the job?

Yes, I hated to be a part of the computer! So, I left my job and started a program to be able to teach art. After gaining my teacher certificate and becoming a mum, I opened my studio and started working on my art very seriously and giving art lessons to children and adults.

Another Land, 2016 | Acrylic on canvas | 120 x 140 cm | £4,500

What is your process from start to finish?

I don’t start with things in my head. I start spontaneously, building up my backgrounds whilst working with lots of water and splashing colours. But then I start adding ideas with each layer. Even without thinking and planning, the ideas create feelings and these emotions call for certain colours. So everything is a part of my mental and emotional being.

This work Another Land (image left), I started in my Istanbul studio in 2015. And put lots of layers with acrylic as well as charcoal, and so on… after many layers I finished it in London 2016. It has all the emotional ups and downs of a person changing territory. The colour scheme is a kind of foggy just like the unclear things I would possibly be facing while changing country. And the finish is very detailed with acrylic pen as the final layer.

Just like the process I was living after moving, I could see everything in more detail.

What advice would you give out to a young artist who wants to enter the world of art?

First thing I would suggest is to be observant and open. Listen before speaking, and don’t be arrogant as that can make you miss a lot of opportunities… I made this mistake unfortunately. Read a lot, watch a lot, add to yourself as much as you can to be able to create. Be open to different ideas even if they are just the opposite of your thoughts. BE OPPORTUNISTIC. Yes, and work a lot, all the time. Be open to change and learn constantly. We need to keep our curiosity and observe as much as we can. Learning is a lifelong process and creation is something universal, we need to be open and let ourselves channel it. Flow with it, just let it be… If we can, we will be creating real, unique art!

Esra will be showing the paintings featured in this article and more in our Winter Exhibition. Taking place this December 11th - 15th at the Menier Gallery in London Bridge.

To RSVP for our private view on Tuesday 11th from 6-9pm click here.