New Collaboration: Berk Senturk
Berk Senturk is a Turkish Illustrator, currently living in The Hague with his half French half Portuguese wife, Camille. Owner and creator of the brand ‘Mano Figa’, he is the first artist to collaborate and sell his products in our shop. His works have different themes and mediums, including black and white drawings of old cities, watercolour compositions to terrariums with pop culture characters.
After Istanbul and Paris, we wanted to know how Berk feels about his new experience in Den Haag and about starting his own creative brand.
You lived in Istanbul, Paris and now Den Haag. What do you think these cities bring to you personally and more specific to your work?
Berk: First, I lived in Istanbul. There, I felt that the city brought me freedom and it gave me the opportunity to meet other artists and a lot of other different persons. Mostly, this happened because of the location of Istanbul, being a city in between Asia and Europe, you can find a lot of diversity. Istanbul brought me a lot of good ideas and inspiration. Then, I moved to Paris, where I spent most of my time at home. I felt a bit lonely but I found a lot of time to think about all kinds of things, including my work and myself. I worked in some good series of illustrations which found a wide audience. They were really successful. So, it was a good outcome for me. Ultimately, I think, I discovered myself in Paris. In the Hague, because of my age, I am almost 30 now, I have started to think about art and personal development more seriously. Nevertheless, I still feel that I need more time and experience to really appreciate the all potential of this ongoing experience. Here, I am more comfortable in my live hood situation, and that allows me to think and work more in a relaxed way.
All these cities are different but all of them are really enchanting and nourishing for me.
What is your background as an artist?
Berk: I studied Visual Communication Design at University and before that, I have always been drawing for myself. I actually don’t know if I can say that after University, I became an artist but I was a professional graphic designer, aspiring to draw and make it my profession.
I got a good education but it doesn't make you an artist. In Visual Communication Design, you study a lot of different subjects but you need to focus on something more specific to be more professional and successful. The positive part is that you learn a lot of different things and you can try a lot. I really like that part, the all trying, experimenting and discovering. It helped me to find the materials and supports I favour today. The style and the feelings I put in my work came later. With life experience. I am still questioning myself and feeding my work.
What are the topics that influence your work?
Berk: I am reading comic books since my childhood, so basically, I learned how to read through them. Popular culture and comic books are one of my biggest influences. Furthermore, I really love to read about historical events, modern History or Middle age period. Actually, I love History with a big H. It is a great source of inspiration and fences to avoid or play with for me. I am reading a lot of books. I like to go through archives and explore all kind of design, even trash. Sometimes, I am mixing History and popular culture in my works. Sometimes, I get hooked by an idea, like the drawing series of the faces and bodies being tortured by photography (see deformed faces series).
In the Hague, gardening became one of my new topic of interest. Before coming to the Netherlands, I had never bought a plant for my house. It is really interesting for me to cultivate my urban garden. It brings some life to your place. That’s why, I am now surrounding myself with plants, at my work place or in my house, and that helped me starting the new project with the pop terrariums.
It was really spontaneous; sometimes I just see something and it brings me an idea and I go for it.
So, most of your projects come from your own ideas, they are usually not commissioned by anyone. How does the “lonely” process starts and how do your ideas and projects come up?
Berk: I think I started to create something and to build projects with some series of illustrations, namely the dictator’s series. Because the idea of being a dictator and also supporting a dictator is really ridiculous and funny, at least to me, I got hooked on this idea. I was reading about dictators, all kind of dictators, and looking to their photos, seeking for their portraits and legacy. Seeing how proud they were, they felt and how they looked dominating, regulating, imposing and controlling the world around them, it was fascinating for me. I then started to draw some dictators’ portraits. I focussed on the unknown ones. After that, I think I was following some design and drawing websites and I saw some series of illustrations and I though to myself "why don’t you do that?" Series gives deepness to a theme but allow variation in my work and anyone can see or choose what he wants. So, I go on with series but I started to work on single pieces.
For the "lonely" process of creation of each work, everything starts with questions, like “ok! what now?” (laughing) “What can I do?”. It usually come from my new obsessions. A new topic I am interesting in, a scene I have witnessed in the streets, a conversation, a film or a book... Thanks to my hobbies, my passion for History and comic books, I can find materials to blend some ideas. It is always a process where I found something, I come to my wife and ask her opinion, “what do you think?”, “It can be interesting?” and then, she opens a debate with me that leads me to creation. I am doing a lot of researches about the clothing, the period, the atmosphere, whatever could be linked to the topic. If I am doing something historical for example, I am digging into the streets, the people, what were they thinking at that time. I can watch a film 5 or 10 times if I am inspired by a movie scene that I want to match with daily life situations or news elements.
I spend a lot of time thinking and then trying various materials, inks, pencils, or digital techniques.
For the drawing part itself, it depends... But I am trying to draw one big page everyday. I am trying to impose myself a rhythm in the process. For an illustration series, it can be two or three pages a day if i am satisfied with the scope of my researches. In total, I think that each project takes around one month to get done. But it really depends on the project.
Do you see somehow your work as a reflection of who you are and what do you feel and think about the world?
Berk: Not exactly. Obviously, a bit of me is there, but not everything is linked to me. I am not someone that open and I do not pretend to create something to leave a piece of me. The point is not to share about myself but to rise questions and to share a question with others. Free for anyone to catch something in it, to think about it or to find me in it. Some series were meant to laugh. Others are more about interpersonal reflections. There is not one feeling that I want to create. But of course, you can find some common points in my work and myself and an expression of how I apprehend the world I am surrounded by at each stage of my life.
How do you feel about living in Den Haag and more specific in your neighbourhood, in Zeeheldenkwartier?
Berk: I think I am very lucky. Especially because of the life in the streets like Prins Hendrikstraat or Piet Heinstraat, full of creative places and interesting people. I think there are a lot of possibilities here as an artist and illustrator. People are open to art, any kind of art. In Istanbul, art belongs to one specific group while here it belongs to almost everyone, people are interested in creation and art and like it, so it’s a nice and positive thing. It is motivating.
What is the goal of your work?
Berk: I don’t know what is the goal or if I want to make a point. I am quite realistic. I know that I am also drawing or creating for myself, because otherwise, I don’t know what to do. I found a purpose in developing and following ideas. I am doing this because this is who I am and what I am going through. It captures a motion in my life. At the same time, I want to reach more people... people around me, people who can share emotions with, yes, for sure. If it reaches others and ring a bell, makes people curious about knowing what other people think, breathe or do, or simply if it makes people feel something, anything, it is also important. There is not a single goal.
What are your future projects?
Berk: I started a new project, a creative brand whose name is Mano Figa.
I’m interested in Roman History and after reading "I, Claudius", I was doing a little research on Roman coins and Roman symbolism and I saw the "Mano Figa" figure (see figure). I found this symbol really interesting because in Turkey it means "fuck you, fuck off" and at the same time, during the Roman Empire, people were doing this gesture and using the symbol for "good luck". Then, when I researched a bit more, I discovered that in several countries people are using this symbol for different meanings, including fertility and sex.
I really like the multi-layer understanding of the symbol. I love this chaotic idea between good and hard feelings. I think that it fits with the variety of my work and the fact that I don't want to impose an idea or a image. I am starting to produce different kind of items under this brand.
I have framed several illustrations, mostly cities I have lived in. Moments and periods I wanted to capture. Some other illustrations are used to create postcards and tote bags. Moreover, I am creating and designing terrariums, using pop culture characters. I am taking inspiration in animations or movies taking place in the forest or other natural environments. For my first graphic novel project, I was drawing some old Istanbul cities views. I really liked this series. When I came here, I noticed that this city has still an old soul, not a modern one like Rotterdam. I love the canals, the buildings and some little streets, so I searched some old photos and I started to draw them.
I also am working for on a graphic novel. It is a collaboration with a French writer, a really good friend. We have worked in details on the novel, the scenario and the format, but it is still in progress.
I like the idea of building a brand and trying to write a book at the same time. It could seem like to opposite artistic projects, but for me, it is what makes it interesting and complementary.
Mano Figa by Berk Senturk
We are very proud to present the first collaboration of Luis Viajante and open our platform and online shop to showcase creative minds and unique products.
We would like to thank Berk Senturk for joining in this adventure. You can follow his work on the website: www.manofiga.com or shop directly from Luis Viajante.