INTERVIEW WITH ARTIST ORKAN TAN
Orkan Tan is an artist based in Stuttgart, Germany. His art is mainly in black and white, and often focuses on topics that are often sidelined by the 24-hour news cycle, such as human rights, modern slavery, and equality. To date, he has had thirty art exhibitions in the country. HUF Magazine had an interview with Orkan where he told us how went from a new artist to one with so many art exhibitions, as well as his process when creating his art.
I am currently working and living in Stuttgart, and it is fun! It’s not too big, but it’s also not too small. Five years ago, I decided to move from a super small town to Stuttgart because I knew that regarding my art career, I would get more chances here. Also, it’s not too far away from my parents’ home.
My parents are from Turkey, but my two older sisters and I were born and raised in Germany, in a little town named Geislingen near Stuttgart. Although I haven’t had any art exhibition in Turkey yet, with every visit to my hometown Izmir, I noticed that the art scene is developing vastly. One of my sisters lives in Izmir, which is why I often visit Turkey and see the development. Even though I was born and raised in Germany, I do feel that my Turkish background does influence my art. I feel like the orientality comes out in my art sometimes, and I love it.
For my fulltime job, I work creatively with children, and I enjoy it very much. In my free time, I try to focus on my own art and my own creativity. Stuttgart has already given me several opportunities to exhibit my art in different locations. Still, I feel like there are more opportunities to share art and create a platform for young and living artists.
The biggest challenge for me, as a newly established artist, was to be taken seriously and to learn how to say no. Just because I’m friendly, respectful in dealing with others, and courteous, doesn’t mean that I don’t know the value of my work and my time. It wasn’t easy to go from a new artist to someone with thirty (to date) art exhibitions in the country. I’m always on the next move. If I’m exhibiting my art somewhere, you can make sure that I already planned and organized the upcoming three in advance. So far, I had to sacrifice quite a bit. First of all, I have invested a lot of free time and money in my art. Secondly, when art is the only thing that balances you out, you always make it with passion and much love.
My first exhibition was strange because the organizers didn’t want to exhibit my art at first. But when they couldn’t find another artist, they came back to me. It was awkward, and I felt uncomfortable, but I wanted to share my art no matter what, so I did and learned tremendously from that. Things have totally changed. Nowadays, I receive requests for art exhibitions, and I declined some of them when I see no sense for my development as an artist or my creativity. The most valuable lesson I learned growing from a new artist to where I am now is how to say no and talk about financial stuff without getting too nervous.
I didn’t study art academically. I am an autodidact, a self-taught artist who teach myself new techniques with every exhibition. In my opinion, it is not necessary to study art to be an artist. If you are a naturalborn artist, then you are an artist. However, for me, the downside is that I had to learn from my experience, and I had to deal with a lot of cancellations because I didn’t study art.
It took me a few years to develop into the style of art I am doing now. I don’t know if it’s going to be different in the future, but now, I feel that no matter what I create, I am super satisfied with what I do. In the beginning, I wasn’t happy with everything I created, but I never stopped trying, learning, and wanting to know more and do more. I would describe my art as versatile because I could cooperate and work in so many different fields, but you would always recognize my art. It’s timeless, edgy, provocative, and expressive. I’m known to be obsessed with black and white. To this day, I only work with these compositions because I would lose it with too many colors and wouldn’t be in control of my work. Black, white, grey, and silver tones are timeless and adaptable, no matter where. Also, I try to concentrate on the essential, and I couldn’t do that with colors – yes, I’ve tried, and I got terrified of it.
My creative process is based on my mood. Most of the time, I enjoy and appreciate the process of creating art (painting, art film, etc.) more than the finished work. Giving room for my thoughts are super important for me. I am obsessed with setting up an empty canvas or preparing a huge blank paper on the wall and give space for my thoughts to come to life. Creating art is like meditation for me. When you meditate, you’re in a huge conscious state, and your mind is quiet. This is precisely how I feel when I create. As an artist, there is a lot of stuff going on in my mind, so when I start creating, it’s like meditation for me. Overthinking and questioning everything in life is one of my biggest addictions. So while creating and being completely in the moment helps me a lot to stay calm. I try to focus on creating, breathing, and letting the vibrations go with the flow. Creating is like a mixture of self-therapy and spiritual process for me.
There are times when I paint a lot of canvas in a short time, but there are times when I only work on one specific painting for a few days. So it’s not easy to say how long it takes for me to create a piece of artwork on average. The tools I use are very alternate. I don’t pay attention to any specific colors of a particular brand – I take what I think is right, and I work with many methods and use different tools. The most important thing is to listen to my gut and not overthink my work.
My favorite piece of artwork that I’ve done so far is named “ATMOSPHERE.“ It is nearly three meters long, two meters high, and my biggest artwork on thick paper to date. It took me a few days to complete because, at some point, I really loved it and was scared to overwork on it. So I kept it that way and let it sink in. After several days of observation, I finished it and created my own atmosphere – the pervading tone or mood of a place, emotion, situation, or creative work. I love to name all of my work, so people who are not into art can find a way to connect with my work or my statement.
My artwork often focuses on topics that are less interested in the eyes of the media and public, such as human rights, modern slavery, and equality. I have an attraction to those topics because there is not enough communication about them. We are used to seeing only the beautiful and superficial things in life or online, and we forget all too often the reality. Some people starve and die while others throw out food, which shows that something in our society is definitely going super wrong. I think we, as a collective, can still develop significantly further. You need to see the bigger picture or go deeper to see these topics in my art. All of my work represents a demonstration, and I am using my voice to make a statement and wake people up in a provocative way. What do you know about equality? What do you know about modern slavery? Do you really think that in this day and age, there’s no such thing? Wake up and be aware of where you are, what you are doing in life, and learn to appreciate what you have rather than counting ‘likes’ on social media.
I don’t have any specific audience in my mind when creating a piece of art. Hopefully, people see a deeper meaning behind my art, spiritually connect with them, and communicate more about important things in life. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t want to come off like a mad artist, but I have had enough of unimportant and uninteresting small talks like avocado toast, banana bread, and people’s last trip to Ibiza.
As an artist, I’ve been criticized a lot, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder. As long as I stand behind my own art and know its value, I am open to reasonable criticism. But I have to admit that sometimes I am super sensitive about my work and that in my opinion, there is also a difference between pointless criticism and constructive, meaningful, and intelligent criticism. So far, all my exhibitions have mainly been in Germany. Of course, I would like to expand my exhibitions to other parts of the world. First and foremost, I want to exhibit my work in my home town Izmir in Turkey because that is where my DNA is from, but also in New York, London, Tokyo, and all around the world. My ultimate goal as an artist is to be independent through my art. I would also like to link art with various fields and cooperate with major brands in the fashion industry as well as the technology and automotive industry. A huge, white, bright, empty atelier is also in my manifestation. Creating the artwork for a major pop star or a prodigious magazine cover is also on my bucket list. I really do wish that artists who have taught themselves everything are more appreciated and have the opportunity to share their art more intensively.
I do take commission work, but it has to represent my art. I would not accept a commission where I had to paint a specific animal, for example. Last year I had the great opportunity to design the floor of a business festival. I had a brief, and the end result represented my art and creativity to the fullest.
For 2020 and beyond, I want to be as free as possible. Free of overthinking, free of standards and expectations, etc. Also, financial freedom and the opportunity to develop as a human being to the fullest. Right now, you can find my artwork in two galleries in Germany, a huge parking garage of a shopping mall where I have a digital exhibition, and mostly on my social media @0t.official.