These are dark times, there’s no denying it. From political unrest and environmental crisis to smaller gripes like seasonal allergies and MTA woes, it’s easy to get bogged down in this concrete jungle we call home. But Buket Savci, this week’s featured artist, is here with a salve in her magnificently colorful and fantastically buoyant works. Buket’s paintings, along with Jacob Hicks’, will be the inaugural works at Wrong Side of the River (67 West Street, Suite 312) now through May 3. Their exhibition, Wonderland, is a welcome balm to our times and a stunning exercise in collaborative creativity. Below, we get to know Buket and her work, but most importantly her contagious and relentless optimism.
Greenpointers: How long have you been in Brooklyn?
Buket Savci: I live and work in Brooklyn; I’ve been in Bushwick for a little over three years. Before that I lived in Astoria for almost 10 years. But I’ve had my studio in Greenpoint since I received my MFA from New York Academy of Art in 2012. I also studied painting at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn.
I am so glad to hear you enjoy our title for the show. I have been working on these series of paintings for a few years now, which are about the fleeting moments of pure joy and happiness. I create paintings addressing the ephemerality of happiness while using objects like balloons as a metaphor for our short lived contentment.
I really enjoy using saturated vivid colors, and I think everything else is so negative and dark so at least my paintings should be colorful and fun. That’s why I use the colors that makes me happy, and I enjoy including humor in my art. But actually I am not that joyful. Life is not easy and I had my share of traumas. Unfortunately a few years ago I had a major depression and even my psychiatrist was constantly telling me that my art will save me. Painting is my passion, and it is this wonderland where anything can happen, so I choose to make it fun and colorful like a playground.
There is this profound quote from a Turkish poet Nazim Hikmet; he asks to Abidin Dino, who was a famous Turkish artist. “Could you make a painting of happiness?” So all these led me to question what is real happiness, when and how we feel real joy, and how do I express this through painting.
Painting lets me live these fleeting moments in detail and throughly over a course of weeks even months. I want to create a niche of fantasy, where both the figures and I as the painter can be just like a child — innocent and playful, carefree and bold. A visual playground far away from all the darkness enclosing us outside and inside, blossomed through sincerity and trust.
Your show is part of Wrong Side of the River’s inaugural exhibition. How did you get involved with this project?
Wrong Side of the River is my recent project that I started to think about a couple of months ago. This space is the one where I have been producing my art — it’s been my studio for a little over five years, and at the end of last year I took over the lease of the whole space. Series of events led this to actually. I’d just come back from an artist residency in Leipzig, Germany after three and a half months in January. I guess I still wanted to continue being surrounded with artists from different backgrounds, be creative, and do stuff. I want to use the space as an environment, platform to get together, show, make, share, talk, and teach art. The main part of it is still artist studios — my studio is there, too. At that point I invited my friend and classmate from New York Academy of Art Jacob Hicks to join to me. To start the project space, just like a trial we put this two-person exhibition together.
The name Wrong Side of the River formed during a spontaneous moment when my boyfriend Michael and I were talking and joking about how being an artist is always like a rollercoaster. We find ourselves in situations risking everything, losing everything, trying again, but still enjoying it…and this was a moment of do or die, or die trying at least. Then he came up with the name Wrong Side of the River; aren’t we artists always on the “wrong side,” which is fun and risky. (Of course Brooklyn is the perfect side of the river for this.)
Do you feel your and Jacob’s pieces are in any way in conversation with each other?
Jacob and I were classmates and after grad school we shared a studio. I always admired his work and we have been planning to have a two-person show for a while. Then while forming the project space idea, I was like, “Why don’t we make it here?” I could have done a solo show, too, but it would not feel right because the idea is about sharing and involving both artists and the community.
We have always felt Jacob’s and my paintings communicate very well with each other. It is not just the colors and detailed patterns, but also the theme. His women series that are in the Wonderland exhibition are portraits of women which seem like silent and subtle, but so powerful at the same time. You feel their presence and deep knowledge like historical figures or even goddesses from different time frames and regions. They are not aggressive or scary at all; I feel like they symbolize the innocence and wisdom, goodness and strength. So in a way they are from a fantasy world, perfect for a Wonderland with their captivating beauty and calmness.
Any upcoming projects you’re excited about? Anything else you’d want to discuss?
I’m starting a new series including more figures, like seven to 11 figures in them. I am a realist painter, but I have some new approaches in mind that I feel like exploring soon as well. I also would like to make a series of paintings using my years of heavy metal concert photographs. I have so many ideas, but painting takes a long time, so my hand is always behind my brain. I wish I could clone myself.
Meanwhile I am working on various projects, showing at an art fair in Paris, France with a gallery from Istanbul is one of them. For Wrong Side of the Project I would like to continue showing upcoming and underrepresented artists as long as I can keep the space and funding. We have an open call right now on NYFA.org for the upcoming group show. Very soon I am starting to give private and group art classes in the space for any age and level. Last but not least Wonderland is on view until May 3, and we will be open on April 19 (on Friday) for the Greenpoint Gallery Night, too. Please come and see the show!
About Billy McEntee
Billy McEntee has been fortunate to work for arts non-profits in Boston, Denver, Berkeley, and now New York. His writing has appeared in The Brooklyn Rail, Vanity Fair, American Theatre, HowlRound, Observer, and others. He's usually getting wine at Dandelion or eating cookies at Archestratus.