About Leman Akpınar
The recurring circular form in Leman Akpinar’s work is symbolic for the recurring paterns in life. "We all come to existence with our own knots to work through in this life. Without doing the work for undoing these knots, we stay in a cycle like a hamster wheel and keep having similar experiences in life." The artist believes that there is a certain courage that needs to be owned for one to truly face themselves in order to break through these cycles. In her works, Leman focuses on; unity, the illusion of separation, the freeing sensation of true love, the beauty of being alone with oneself and the colors of being an independent being.
Leman Akpınar is a painter based in Istanbul. After studying painting in the fine arts department of Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University, she received her BA in Fine Arts from School of Visual Arts, New York, USA. Her first solo exhibition "Psychic Desert" took place at PG Basement Gallery on November, 2019.
"Life is above everything. There is sadness, fear, love and hatred. I see them as transformative tools and treasure the life most."
You studied painting in the fine arts department of Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University and then studied fine arts in the School of Visual Arts in New York. What kind of experiences you’ve been through finding yourself in the world of contemporary art?
It’s always been a dream for me to be represented by a gallery when I was a student. After graduation, I had observed the routes my friends followed experiencing the real world and realized that this dream alone will not be enough to satisfy me. Also, my opinions changed as I had changed in time.
I carry on this road independently knowing that there are many routes I can take to become apparent in the art world and keep up with my life. Staying out of routine and having diversity in my life cherish me.
In 2017, after finishing my study at SVA I had returned from New York and a year later I rented a studio for myself where I can solely work on my artistic practice. Since then, I have dedicated most of my time to working at my studio and managed to balance my work time for my art with part-time jobs that strength me financially and mentally.
Currently, I teach both yoga classes and basic level art courses. I find a life filled with purposes and a balance more fulfilled. I determine my priorities and accordingly go after practicing my main goals in life. I love the diversity of interests in my life, which perfectly fits to my personality.
My solo exhibition titled "Psychic Desert” took place at PG Basement Gallery last November. Taking actions to fulfill my wishes as an independent artist is very liberating.
What’s the most important lesson you have learned so far?
The most important thing I have learned so far is that we all have the freedom to choose our own path. Once we accept the responsibilities that come with it, step by step we start creating the life we have always dreamed of.
Can you describe your art practice in three words?
Curious, experimental and passionate/enthusiastic.
Is there any recurring theme/question in your practice?
Stylistically, the question of "What is needed more? What is needed less?". Also, conceptually “Why do I do what I do?” is a question that I visit frequently.
Is there any memorable trip that has an impact on your life?
I took a trip to the Mojave Desert, in California, which was unforgettable for me. It was a highly impressive and transformative trip for me which later on turned into a series of paintings. As a tribute to this trip, last month I pieced out a solo show at PG Basement Gallery titled “Psychic Desert” with a collection of paintings inspired by my trip to the Mojave along with two pieces of objects.
In the lives of all of us there are periods of time when we decide to get to know ourselves and find clues on how we want to lead our lives. This trip took place at a time when I was asking these questions about my life. It helped me see myself in a way I’d never seen before.The vastness and the surreal geography of the desert captivated me.
We spent a month living inside a Chevy Astro van. This trip led to a both beautiful and destructive outcome. I had gone through a deep questioning phase in my life and in order to glorify this period I wanted to capture scenes from the desert and reflect them into my storytelling as symbols and metaphors. I see this trip as one’s desire to discover himself/herself. It’s a matter of having the courage to take a journey of facing oneself.
Who inspires you?
Poet Hafız comes to my mind to begin with. It’s said he lived a hundred years before Mevlana was born. He wrote a poetry book called "The Gift" which influenced me a lot. In his book he describes the value of this life as a gift and us, humans as creative creatures in a very simple narrative without delving into Sufism. I always keep this book close to me. The sincerity and transformative effect of this book is what I aim to create in my works.
Joseph Beuys and Marina Abramovic are other figures that influence me. I admire Abromovic’s explicit, straight attitude and narration meeting up with her audience to the point of distressing them.
Which cities have you lived in before? And how did it affect your art practice?
Apart from Istanbul, I lived in New York for four years. At the end of my fourth year, I traveled across the U.S.
Moving to New York was a life-changing experience. It took me a long time to feel at home in New York. As a Mimar Sinan University graduate, at first I wasn’t able to grasp the contemporary art scene in New York. People tend to defer what they don’t understand. However I was just completely surrounded by it so I decided to gaze into what I thought I didn’t understand. It felt like throwing away my blinders and widening my viewpoint. It led me to gain wider tolerance towards new lifestyles and ways of seeing art.The more you experience and accept diversity, the more you raise your tolerance toward their existence. Throughout this experience in New York, I widened the limits of my ‘acceptance vessel’, which is a quote from Ömer Önder.
Learning to accept what I initially had a hard time understanding prevents me from making superficial criticism. Not understanding it doesn’t change its validity.