Burak Şentürk, a multidisciplinary artist, began his career by drawing in humor magazines and writing. He did illustrations for local and global projects. While he was interested in music professionally, he was in many different albums, projects and bands. Returning to illustration with a new style, he has recently held his first solo exhibition in Milk Gallery. He continues working in his studio in Kadıköy.
Could you introduce yourself to those who don’t know you?
I’ve been one to view life differently ever since my childhood, I can tell now. The way I perceive things and people has always been a little different. When I was little, it was very hard to make sense of this.
While at school, doodling on the margins of the textbook helped me listen to the teacher better. I cannot say my teachers were enthusiastic about this. They usually thought I wasn’t listening.
First steps of my development were taken in high school, when I got involved with music and also began drawing cartoons in humor magazines. Afterwards I was taken aback by a disappointing college period. By then my belief and interest in school has diminished, too. I was fed up with the military service threats they used on me, on us and decided to drop out of school and get the military service out of the way. I served in 2 of the 7-8 highly dangerous areas of Turkey. After a ranger period of 18 months, life was a bit more different. This time, in which I was pushed harder than the obstacles I was faced against during my creation process of art and music, reshaped my point of view on things and people.
When I got back, we formed a design agency with my former music buddies(almost all of them from fine arts). We created some fine work, and of course music, too. But the constitution they threw around during that time landed on our business too. The economical crisis forced us to shut down because even our large clients were going bankrupt. I had to continue my adventures again as an employee.
This is when I returned to drawing, which I had left aside for a while. This time I worked hard and tried to come up with a style that I could call my signature. I benefited most from the social networks on the web and I guess I did some things right – I am in front of you guys right now ☺
How did Oğuz Aral affect you while you were working on comics?
I met him while I was in elementary school. Professional cartoonists that I knew back then introduced me and my work to him. For a few days I did some sketches there that were highly praised, with the equipment they gave me as a gift. When the semester ended with two “B” grades on my report card, I was warned by my dad to get back to studying ☺ Then I tried again in college. This time I was included to the magazine’s professional team. By then I had heard so much stories and legends about the master – even standing before him required guts. Working with such an intellectual artist of great experience who had proved himself to the world, even for a short while of almost 1 year, showed me my way of thinking and how I should tell my story. His former students who were older than me had great effort on me too. If I try to name names here, I will forget someone and make a huge mistake – a million thanks to all of them.
You were also professionally involved in music, how did that work out?
It was splendid. We began as a band called Ko:pek that did rock covers in bars and had a following of people who came to see us lose it on stage, apart from the listeners. We noticed that we were pretty good. Then we began composing our own music. When we found ourselves in a vicious circle with this music, the band fell apart.
The new band “Kapsül” had an interesting structure for those days. It was formed in the first year of “Roxy Music Days” – to enter the contest. We were 4 people, 2 people from 2 different musical disciplines. 2 of us played guitar and bass guitar, resulting in a hard sound, while the other 2 were interested in synth and keyboard, making more of an electrical sound. We had serious disputes in rehearsals. I can say our performance and sound shocked everyone from that year’s performers to the viewers – even the jury members! We were only 2 people playing live on stage – which prevented the jury from announcing us as the winner. So next year(1997) we re-entered the contest with a more crowded band and a more surprising sound, and won!
Afterwards we gave interviews on TV, newspapers, radio channels and were invited to talk shows. Concerts followed. We did the soundtrack of the play 80060, which took stage at the İstanbul International Theatre Festival where we played live. That was an impressive project. We did some other plays’ music as well.
Last but not least, we wrote the music and lyrics for the modern opera play called “Dar-ül Love”, performed by Harun Ateş. The premiere abroad was in Rotterdam and the local one, in garajistanbul. We can admit it was pretty successful.
Now I relax at home by playing the ukulele. I think it’s safe to say I’m currently just a listener.
How did you begin illustrating in a different style? Was this the result of a change in your inner journey?
Actually it was inevitably called for. When my professional interest in music faded, it was inevitable for me to return to illustration to express myself, the best way I knew how.
However, this time I was working a more programmed schedule with long term goals, listening to myself. Patience was the key ingredient during this time.
For about 5 years, I tried to get to know myself, borders of my artistic abilities, and did the best I could within those limits.
The first step of this adventure was my first solo exhibition, which opened in Milk Gallery just as I has wished for. So far things have been going as I hoped and I believe it will go on like this.
You work an office job during days and illustrate at nights. How do you manage your motivation and discipline?
As I said before, you have to work hard to get what you want, and not whine while doing so. Before, I had had to give up on music because I let my guard down and got angry with it. This time I’m coming to get what I want more patiently, with more motivation. Thus, discipline and lack of sleep become essential. I don’t intend to give up. Determination makes it easier. I have a happy fatigue.
You create your favorite work from the balcony of your home among nature – might this be a plan to escape İstanbul?
İstanbul is an interesting city. It’s like an organism. Even if I had an escape plan, I can bet İstanbul would ruin that plan.
We all have plans to live in happy little corners. I don’t know if I can entirely remove myself from this city. But I do want to escape at times. For now, these escapes are only in my mind. What will the future hold? I don’t know either. We’ll see.
You held your first exhibition in Milk Gallery & Design Store – the opening night was very crowded and jovial. How was the preparation process beforehand?
Yes, the opening night was great. There were lots of people I loved, and also those I didn’t know but got to meet. And the feedback was really positive. It made me feel really glad to have held that exhibition.
When we were initially talking about the exhibition, Milk Gallery suggested that we held the exhibition much earlier, about 3 months after that talk. But since I could only work nights and weekends, that seemed too soon for me. I wanted to wait for a year. This was much better. I had the luxury of time and was satisfied with my work. Some work was created by the help of a drawing tablet, and the others conventionally. We managed to come up with 25 pieces of work that complete each other, don’t disturb each other’s existence.
Do you discriminate between your tablet work and the more conventional ones?
Actually, I don’t. They both carry a different sort of pleasure for me. I feel more comfortable working with the tablet. It comes with the luxury of easy application and feedback. It’s like recording your album in a studio. The other one, conventional methods are less forgiving to errors. It’s like playing live. I believe they both should exist.
What do you think of the importance given to illustration in Turkey?
The dictionary meaning of illustration is similar to painting. A production based on a subject or request. This used to be so in the old days. Now illustration and paintings are almost nested together. I know and hear that some people discarding the Urban Art culture don’t view illustration as art. However, art or creation is in no one’s sole trade. Everyone can create their own work that express themselves, in the way they choose.
If one must insist that illustration is “not an art”, I would be honored to be called an artisan. The way I see it, I share the world through my point on view and let them know that there are different perspectives. As if I’m introducing them to parts of them that they didn’t know existed, a messenger delivering their own mail. Nothing more. Everyone has their own reason for existence. This is mine.
Last but not least… any new exhibition plans?
There are new projects and exhibition plans. I am dreaming of a solo exhibition abroad. For this, I will begin working in the following times. I hope we can do our next talk on that :)
Burak Şentürk's Recommended;