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In Conversation: Elif Ciftcioglu on the Intersection of Geometry, Nature, Sociopolitics, and Science

Elif Ciftcioglu, born in Istanbul in 1983, has charted a diverse and expansive path through the world of visual arts. With a foundational education in Visual Arts and Visual Communication Design from Sabancı University, she honed her skills in stage design at Anima Istanbul. Her journey then took her to the Victorian College of the Arts in Melbourne, where she earned a master's degree in Production Design in Performing Arts. Ciftcioglu's works, which span various mediums including paintings, video art, and new media, have been showcased in numerous exhibitions both in Turkey and internationally. From 2013 to 2017, she focused on visual communication and graphic design for exhibitions and museums. Her artistic practice explores sociopolitical and environmental issues, blending traditional techniques with futuristic visions. Through geometric lines and forms, Ciftcioglu creates extraordinary worlds that challenge and inspire.


Portrait of Elif Ciftcioglu. Image Courtesy of Elif Ciftcioglu.

Q: Your journey from studying visual arts-visual communication design at Sabancı University to gaining experience in stage design in Istanbul and completing a master's degree in production design at the Victorian College of the Arts in Melbourne is quite diverse. How have these experiences shaped your artistic practice, particularly in exploring themes related to sociopolitical and environmental issues?

My master's degree led me to focus on psychoanalysis, understanding reasons and effects, characters, and their behaviors, since production design in performing arts requires deep dives into works by Shakespeare and other important authors, accompanied by music from composers like Mozart. You need to delve deeply into scenarios to design their environments, which also helps you recognize your own way of thinking. I realized I have a tendency to perceive actions and happenings abstractly, even though the world and our lives are grounded in realistic features. The more I engaged with scenarios, the more I realized I had ideas to convey about the real world and our communities. This became especially apparent after the 2013 Gezi events in Turkey, which made me think about how people come together in sociopolitical terms.


Living Series I, 2019. Image Courtesy of Elif Ciftcioglu.
Living Series II, 2019. Image Courtesy of Elif Ciftcioglu.

Q: Your work spans various mediums, including paintings, video art, and new media. Can you discuss how you select and utilize these mediums to express your thoughts and observations on science, nature, and infinity?

New media is extremely useful for thinking in geometric language. When observing natural elements like feathers, leaves, grass, and trees, I am mesmerized by their lines, curves, and repetition as a painter. I look at nature from my painter's perspective and am fascinated by it. In 2019, I dedicated myself to multiplying sacred geometry hundreds of times and bending them. This process was expressive and impressionistic. While I know a leaf's texture is not formed by that geometry, I imagined it was, acting as if I were looking through a microscope at x10000 magnification. I thought these fiber cells must have been infinitely multiplied to create that form. This was only possible with new media tools.


Living Series III, 2019. Image Courtesy of Elif Ciftcioglu.

Q: Can you provide insights into the conceptual framework behind your "Living Series" artworks? How do you use digital techniques and fractal geometry to investigate the connections between different life forms and the universal state of being?

Connecting one element to another is key here. Whatever you connect cannot exist in isolation. In my series, connecting geometries and adding one to another created a unified whole. The technical process of connecting them was not possible with pen and paper, so I used digital techniques. Some parts I bent after adding and repeating, and other parts I multiplied and bent individually before adding them together again. The series consists of repeated actions, but they are different because I created them on different days and at different times.


Q: Could you elaborate on the inspiration and thematic elements of your "Ecoocean Series" and "Botanic Series" limited art prints? How do these series explore the relationship between ornamentation, sea life, and botanical imagery?

I wanted to evoke the colorful and rich nature of sea life and botanical plants. The Ecoocean series features Victorian ornamental patterns reminiscent of corals and underwater plant life. When I visit forests or areas with many trees, I often imagine them underwater, as if they were submerged ages ago. This idea doesn't have to be real, but I like to think of it that way. Waves and tree curves blend in my mind, and by repeating curved geometries, I aim to convey the ecstasy of these remarkable repetitions of branches, lines, leaves, wind, and waves.


Botanik Series 01, 2020. Image Courtesy of Elif Ciftcioglu.

Q: Your artworks explore the energy at the intersection of nature and science. How do you balance scientific inquiry with artistic expression in your creative process, particularly in visually representing the connections between all living things?

I think of living things not just in terms of flesh and blood but also as colored frequency channels. All things have energies that vibrate and have frequencies. While my knowledge of frequency is limited compared to a musician or scientist, I approach it poetically. My technique involves critiquing biomimicry, which I believe should be limited to scientific research and medical purposes. The lines I use give a musical vibrancy to the forms I visualize.


Botanik Series 04, 2020. Image Courtesy of Elif Ciftcioglu.

Q: Given the sociopolitical and environmental themes in your work, how do you hope your art contributes to conversations about these issues and fosters awareness or reflection among viewers?

I hope my series raises questions about biomimicry, fiber cells, wires, and the magic of living things. Personally, I wanted to learn more about how textures are formed. For viewers, I wanted them to see the geometry, forms, and shapes as I see them and become mesmerized. This might lead to a scientific understanding, which was not my intention. That's why I chose immature, fresh colors to give a naive perspective on the living, eager to learn its mystery.


Q: How do you envision the role of the audience within your artwork? What responses or reflections do you hope to evoke from viewers engaging with your art?

I would love to hear the audience discuss any topic they come up with while looking at the series and debate what they imagine I thought while creating it. The series might be confusing since it's not clear which side I am on regarding technology. People like to take sides on whether technology is improving or worsening. However, I believe it's essential to understand how people use technology and the changes it brings. I also wanted the audience to see a real dolphin or apple and be fascinated by how they were formed after seeing my series. That is the reaction I was after, and I think I explained that poetically. The series is soft, smooth, highlighting, exciting, and childish in a way.


Botanik Series 05, 2020. Image Courtesy of Elif Ciftcioglu.

Q: Could you recommend any specific books, artists, or projects that have inspired your exploration of fractal geometry, nature, and the interconnectedness of all living things in your creative practice?

I have read many articles on Academia.edu, though I haven't archived them. However, I recommend Drunvalo Melchizedek's "The Ancient Secret of the Flower of Life" to anyone interested in geometry.


Q: As you continue to explore the realms of science, nature, and being through your artistic practice, what are your aspirations for the future? Are there any new techniques or concepts you're eager to explore in your upcoming projects?

Yes, I have started The Googol Project, where I use artificial intelligence to create a story about aliens on Earth. It is a complex and fun series that requires the audience's time to pick up on the little details, humor, sarcasm, laughter, and other feelings and ideas. I am excited and hopeful for a successful exhibition for The Googol Project, as the Living Series exhibition only happened on the virtual platform, Artsteps. This time, I am looking for a real exhibition. You can find the series on www.elifc.net/googols or my Instagram account @elif.jec. Thank you!


 

Elif Ciftcioglu's work bridges the gap between art and science, exploring the connections that bind all forms of life. Through her diverse mediums and innovative techniques, she challenges viewers to see the world from new perspectives, fostering a deeper understanding of the sociopolitical and environmental issues that shape our existence. As she continues to push the boundaries of artistic expression, her future projects promise to offer even more profound insights into the interconnectedness of all living things.

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