In her paintings, Lütfiye Kösten focuses on the concepts of time, space, identity and existence. With her graphical attitude which she uses while depicting her portraits, she transmits symbols and beliefs that nourish Kösten from her own culture. The artist, who represents a different story and a different expression on each face, creates an inevitable environment with the realistic style she uses while depicting the eyes. We had a conversation with Lütfiye Kösten, who lives in Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean, on her artistic process and experiences of living in different cultures.
Lütfiye Kösten completed her undergraduate degree at the Dokuz Eylül University, Painting Department and later at the Yıldız Technical University Photography Department. The artist, who completed her master’s degree at Nantes Fine Arts University in France in 2016, lives and works on Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean of France.
One of the most striking elements in your paintings is the ‘gaze’. As an audience, could you explain these inevitable gazes seen in your paintings?
For me, the most important thing in a portrait is the expression. The impression left by the person is also significant. I think that eyes are the areas that reflect expression and emotion best on a person’s face. In general, in my paintings, portraits look towards the audience as if stands in front of all the gazes. The reason I depict my paintings this way is that I would like to get the impression that h/she is been following by these portraits. It is for the same reason that I realistically depict the eyes. The gaze is the most significant element in my paintings. It is the central point where emotion is intensified. I think it becomes an obsession after a certain time. I can not stop myself from representing the portraits and depicting the eyes… There is a separate story on each face and this situation makes me feel excited.
In your paintings, you mostly represent portraits. Why do you especially use female figures?
Until today, I did not always represent women figures in all of my paintings but the states of being a woman have represented as the main theme in my series of “Identity” and “From the Past”. I have born and grew up in Turkey, as a woman artist I wanted to depict the various situations of feminity through the portraits of women. I have made portraits by personifying the goddesses in a world that are always dominated by the gods. I think my tendency of this theme is also because of my desire to make women more visible…
In some of your paintings, the places that are described as graphical areas resemble “handicraft/embroidery” and create a pattern with the background, in this context, they are also compatible with the images of women in our culture. What do you think about this?
Yes, they do resemble. These motifs initiated with the “From the Past” series. While researching the Mesopotamian goddesses, symbols, and Anatolian motifs, their meanings impressed me a lot. I started using these motifs and symbols in the paintings.
What kind of a relationship do you establish between birds and female figures in your paintings?
The bird has a significant place in our culture. Birds represented various meanings throughout the history of Anatolian civilizations. Sometimes it is identified with the women, the bird is holy, it is longing, it is an expectation, it represents strength and might. The bird is sometimes considered as the soul of the beloved, sometimes the deceased. In my paintings, I identify the bird with women. Like the guardian, the messenger, and sometimes the soul of the woman…
As an artist who had a chance to get trained in arts both in Turkey and France. How would you compare the two education systems? What are the differences and similarities?
I think it made me more independent. I had a two-year educational experience in France, not too long. But here, there is a much independent environment, the university can allow you to get to know yourself without the stereotypes and prejudices. University facilities are various and easily accessible. Since you are in Europe, it is easier to attend arts events in other countries and to get nourished. Besides, I think that it is a distinguished opportunity to see many works of art on-site, in museums, and to improve your painting technique by copying the masterpieces.
You live in France, could you talk about the art scene there? How would you compare it with Turkey?
I have been living in Reunion Island for four months, which is a region of France and is located in the Indian Ocean. I used to live in France before. I had the opportunity to participate in many art fairs and exhibitions there. I have had many galleries and artist friends I worked with. I felt more confident and privileged in every exhibition I attended there. The art environment is constructive, open to development and incentive while being in the art world and being an artist is precious. There are no prejudices, specific patterns, and complexes, which makes you feel much independent. There are objective difficulties in dealing with art. Everything is not always pink. But we have a necessity of a strong will to make art, isn’t it so?
How did you acquaintance with art50.net? Could you explain briefly?
I was following art50.net on Instagram. It is an art platform I like, and we communicated with them via Instagram. I think art50.net is a significant place because today being visible on social media and online is crucial.
What is your career goal? Could you explain this through an artist you inspired by or a future you dream of?
Kiki Smith has always impressed me. I do not dream high based on objectivity in this world where popularism is a priority. Today, becoming famous and known stands on a very variable and slippery ground. Since childhood, I have always described and associated myself with painting. From now on, I will continue to paint by experiencing the places and moments I have lived on my way to becoming a good artist.
How often do you come to Turkey? Here you also attend exhibitions in various galleries, you do not break ties. Do you have a plan to return here in the future?
I could come more often to Turkey in the period where I live in France. I think I can come from this island in the Indian Ocean once or twice a year. I have the opportunity to travel to South African countries here and I attend different art fairs in America, Argentina, and Cuba with the gallery I work for. I plan to live here for two or three more years and return to Istanbul where my friends and family are.
Who are the artists you follow? What/Who was your favorite artist or work that attracted you most attention from the last exhibitions?
Kiki Smith, Anselm Kiefer, Zhang Xiaogang, Claire Tabouret, Luc Tuymans, Zeng Fanzhi, Jenny Saville, Kehinde Wiley, Elizabeth Peyton, Louis Boudreault, Sarah Ball, Takao Ono, İnci Eviner are among the artists I follow. Besides, Albert Dürer, Käthe Kollwitz, Dutch artists, and J.M.W. Turner are in the first list of my favorite painters. The work of İnci Eviner in the 58th Venice Biennale and the Francis Bacon exhibition at the Paris Center Pompidou has been a great experience to see the artist’s works closely.
Click for the artist page.
Interview: Sena Arcak Bağcılar