Artist Uğur Çakı makes art out of childhood nostalgia

Uğur Çakı says the lively spirit of İstanbul and its people inspired him in his newest collection of sculptures, on display at Gallery Linart in İstanbul. (PHOTOS TODAY’S ZAMAN, SELMAN EŞTÜRKLER)

June 06, 2012, Wednesday/ 17:09:00

Stamps, marbles, crown caps and other objects to take anybody over 30 back to their childhood days… For most people it has probably been years since they last played with or even touched these items.

But these items were never lost for artist Uğur Çakı -- until the day they became artwork.

Çakı exhibits artworks created out of the objects and toys of his childhood in “Çocukken Oyun Oynamayı Sevdiğini Biliyordum” (I Knew That You Loved Playing Games When You Were a Kid), which can be visited at Gallery Linart, Nişantaşı until June 18. Composed of sculptures and paintings, the exhibition is a kind of simulation or revival of a childhood of the 70s and 80s, but executed in a contemporary way: old materials in new forms.

“I graduated from the 9 Eylül University and I lived in Urla, İzmir for 12 years,” says Çakı in an interview with Today’s Zaman, adding: “My house and my workshop were in the same place. It was a solitary, desolate life.” Though he appreciated the calmness and serenity of this life, Çakı moved to İstanbul at the end of last year. “I established a workshop in Moda for myself,” says the artist. “It’s been about eight or nine months since I’ve come to İstanbul, but since all my exhibitions have been shown in İstanbul I was already familiar with the city. I had a lack of concentration when I was traveling between İstanbul and İzmir. Actually, I was afraid of the crowds and chaos in İstanbul, but it didn’t end up as I expected. Now it’s better this way.”

The physical change has definitely had an impact on Çakı’s art. In his words: “The space had a great influence on my work, as for all artists. I was working with ceramics and bronze. Then I started to work with ready-made materials. Now I’m making pop-art works, because the colorful and intertwining spirit of this city and its people had such an impact on me and on my art. I’ve brought together thousands of elements in these works; this is the outcome of my interaction with İstanbul.”

A tribute to childhood

The artworks in the exhibition reflect nostalgia; nostalgia for childhood, nostalgia for old-style relationships and nostalgia for the old games. “I grew up playing with marbles and crown caps,” says Çakı. “Then there came the Atari games, which we began to play by inserting coins. The first computer games looked just the way my works in pixels look. So all the pieces in the exhibition make reference to this nostalgia. This exhibition is simultaneously a bridge of communication with my childhood and with my son.”

Çakı notes that in his time childhood was far more active and social than today. “We used to play on the streets, we were always in the mud and played ball with lots of other children,” he says, continuing: “None of this takes place today. Now all adults and children have a laptop or an iPad in their hands and they play with them instead. I don’t know whether this is good or bad. But I believe that our generation was much luckier than today. I think things were better in the past. Today, everything has become materialistic. Capital is in the center of everything. Those pleasant relationships of the past don’t exist anymore. In this respect, all the works here refer to the comparison I make between the two generations.”

For this reason, Çakı has started to work himself into his pieces, and to utilize his family and friends as models in his artworks. “Since the emphasis is childhood I started with my own environment. There is also a portrait of one of my dearest friends who isn’t alive anymore. Maybe I will work with other people in the future for other exhibitions, but this is the case right now,” he says.

More Turkish artists on the international platform

Çakı’s works have appeared in many international exhibitions and feature in collections all around the world, from France to Egypt, Monaco to Argentina. In 2010 the artist was awarded the Prix Spécial by the French Academy of Fine Arts and his work was exhibited at the Louvre Museum’s Salon exhibition. “We received the prize for the variety of materials used and the aesthetic,” says Çakı, “and we were given the right to participate in the exhibition whenever we want. Also three of my works were selected for the International Elite Art Monaco exhibition, which was organized in honor of the Prince of Monaco.” Çakı has also participated in other significant international organizations, such as the Cairo Ceramics Biennale and Argentina Biennale, where his ceramic works, along with those of other artists, are still exhibited on the wall of the Ministry of Culture of Argentina.

Çakı discusses the possibility of addressing different cultures and geographies, given the historical and cultural background of Turkish artists. “We live in a country where different cultures have come together,” he notes. “This has been the case since the Ottomans. Actually, the Ottoman Empire was the role model for the way the United States of America is today. I think the real Manhattan is İstanbul itself. And today, Turkish artists are recognized and followed with great interest. Significant figures are coming out of Turkey and we, as artists, are trying to do our best.”

Çakı is currently preparing for two important events. In December 2012 he will participate to another exhibition at the Louvre Museum, and in March 2013 the New York Contemporary Art Biennale. “I am very happy to be able to represent my country on such platforms,” he concludes.

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