We explore the creative practice of pottery artist Hüseyin Artık. With his minimal and monochromatic porcelain works, he is interested in pushing the limits of the material to its absolute limits. We talked about his connection to ceramics and the philosophy behind his production.
Interview by Bahar Ahu Sağın
How did you discover ceramics? When and how did you meet with clay?
My first contact with clay was during the entrance exams for the Faculty of Arts. With a piece of clay given, I was asked to design and model a vase fit for a single rose. Back then, I never thought ceramics would be a huge of part of my life as it is now. After a few days of anxious waiting, I found out that I got accepted. Hence, my journey started.
What is the most challenging aspect of working with clay?
Whilst working with clay, the moments that you cannot revert back to generate many surprises. Each piece requires a lot time and one cannot expect it to look exactly as it is initially visualized. There are many stages and processes: it dries, shrinks, and is oven baked. There is further shrinkage, final stage of glazing and baking again. Each step involves an evolution of form. Not knowing what will come out of the oven can be both difficult and rewarding.
How do you start your day? How do you spend your day in the studio?
I start with coffee. Usually I have a quick look at my sketches and notes. After going through my daily work flow, I spend most of my time at the wheel producing. Of course, it is not always the same. Some days can also pass by without doing anything.
Do you prefer listening to music whilst working? If so, what kind of music motivates you to be more productive?
Music is part of the work. One can perceive rhythms and reflections of music within my creations. I believe there is a spiritual connection between music and my practice. Just like the seasons music is variable to me, I listen to whatever I feel like at that moment.
How do you describe yourself? As an artist, or as a ceramicist?
The most important part of being an artist is to be more sensitive. And by being more sensitive, you can feel certain things that others are incapable of. And this opens up other leads. I would be glad if I can call myself an artist. As for being a ceramicist, first and foremost we are artisans. In order to make something very good, one has to know it very well. Nowadays, clay is an easily accessible material, but this doesn’t mean that whoever gets hold of it will make a statue, vase, or a pot out of it. One has to grasp the mathematics behind it.
How would you describe your production philosophy?
For several years I’ve been working with clay and there are many ways to make ceramics. My personal preference is to use the potter’s wheel, which requires a great deal of patience and practice. As I start a new piece, I spend around 8-10 hours just by getting used to the clay and observing how it responds to the form. During this time, the connection between me and the material grows stronger. Technique stems from intuition and touch. Whilst my hands give shape to the clay, I let them form a bond as well. All I want is to make what I do is well.
What influenced your minimalist works?
Most of my works is comprised of simple shapes, restricted forms, and underutilized colors. They are based on repetition and simple progressions. Instead of them representing a thing or a feeling, I wanted them to be on their own, merely being by simply existing. A line of text, an idea, a space, or a gap I wanted to make something for can all be a source of inspiration. My works are inspired by simplicity and objectivity, instead of form and sentiment.
In your latest works, you focused on working with porcelain. When compared to your early works, what kind of differences do you discern in them?
We are talking about a material with a 2000-year-old past, surrounded with a deeply rooted history and tradition. Porcelain has an incredible resonance and control power; one can never underestimate it. Before working with porcelain, I felt freer during the production process. Our relationship was governed by me owning the material, not vice versa. Whilst working with porcelain, one has to forget all one knows. It will tell you how to handle in, but not the other way around.