After finishing Robert College, İstanbul, in 1975, I attended the Graphic Design, BA course at Leicester Polytechnic (Now called DeMontford University), UK . For a few years in the beginning of the 80’s I worked freelance in the graphic, wallpaper and textile design fields, and in 1982 I started the Eflatun Ceramic Studio with my husband/partner at the time.

I have been involved in graphic design ever since my college years. Stubbornly continuing my graphics projects using such “ old fashioned” media as paper, pencil, paints and brushes – and I stil wouldn’t give them up – I accepted using computers for my work. I even accepted that they could be of great assistance as long as one knows the essence of graphics and design. Now I can enjoy the pleasure of using the technical advantages computers can bring, after I prepare my sketches putting down my ideas on paper using my old fashioned gadgets. Thus, I started designing web sites.

There has always been a graphic aspect to my paintings. When asked what “style” my acrylic on canvas paintings are, I choose to call them “naive/fantastic/figurative”. Human, or humanized animal figures, mostly portraits, in their surreal ambience with their real stares are drifted into the dreamworlds of their viewers from mine, in detail and color. From a forgotten rose garden to the infinity of death, from maple trees that have shed their leaves to the hope on the colorful wings of a bird, from the anonymus woman in fur out of a sepia photograph to the viscious staring cat/woman with pearls….

Ceramics was a passion that started in early high school years. A passion that began with the first batch of clay that was stuck in my hands by my English art teacher, then followed till I had my own stuio, made artistic pottery, then industrial ceramics, and finally overtook big ceramic wallpanels. Eflatun Ceramic Studio continued until 1993, when it was shut down due to both the saturation of the Turkish market for artistic ceramic wallpanels which were fasionable for a few years, and the driftings in my personal life. But the passion never ceased. The ceramic wall panels were a kind of mosaic with bigger pieces shaped, glazed and fired by me; now I create my mosaics with smaller pieces of ceramic, stone, marble or glass which I shape by breaking. Lately, I started incorporating my hand-made/glazed ceramics into wall murals, too I use mosaics to decorate walls, floors, table and countertops, statues and various objects.

In the year 2000 when I left my beloved İstanbul because I had decided to get away from its chaos and moved to Bodrum, I first found a small old, stone house in a remote village, which I would use as my painting studio. But the atmosphere and the environment induced an urge in me to start making mosaics. Mosaic art had always impressed me as a follower or maybe the leader of ceramics. Whenever I came across it in Works of art from antic Greek and Roman civilizations or by Bedri Rahmi Eyüboğlu or Gaudi since my childhood days, I was touched, excited. In a course I attended in Ravenna, Italy , I learned working with the original materials and methods used in Byzantian mosaics and here in Bodrum, I started creating my own mosaics with the available materials and my own methods.
Bodrum peninsula is located at the southwest of the Aegean region of Turkey. Bodrum the ancient city of Halicarnassus, once the capital of the kingdom of Caria, with its neighboring villages is a popular holiday resort which is also becoming an artist’s haven… My studio –in an old stone house situated amongst mandarin, fig and olive trees – is in Ortakent, a village about 10 km. from Bodrum.

My field of study in university was graphic design, which has been the influential point of view I have adopted in all my creative endeavors – illustration, ceramics, painting, sculpture and finally mosaics. I feel that this mixed media I have utilized makes up the big mosaic that is my creative work. Now they are all interlaced, design being the first step of the process, almost always quite graphic. I love the challenge of problem solving during the creation of a mosaic. Since I don’t stick to just one material or technique, this is like finding the first piece of the puzzle.

Depending on the design, the size of the finished work, the colors to be used and above all my mood and the feeling I want to convey, I choose my materials- be they broken glazed tiles or crockery, glass mosaics, glass beads, pebbles, shells, smalti, or ceramic pieces I make…

Before even beginning to make mosaics, I was making large wall murals in ceramics. I sculpt the clay, then cut into smaller pieces so they can be fired, glazed and fired again. Then the pieces are fitted together on the wall to make up the mural. We used to call these “ceramic murals”, but now when I look back , I realize that those were mosaics with bigger pieces I made instead of cut.

Creating big mosaic sculptures is the ultimate joy , every step more exciting than the previous: from drawing to clay model, from metal skeleton to concrete sculpture, and finally to the mosaiced surface. My “creatures” are mostly organic forms, especially lizards and chameleons (an iguana is waiting to be born). I am thrilled with the flexibility of their movement, the wonderful curves they form, and how colorful they can be.

The versatility of mosaics both in two and three dimensional pieces, suits my adventurous nature so well. The fact that even in a two dimensional piece, the depth is always existent due to the character of the pieces that make up the whole, makes the big difference between the original design and the finished mosaic. I have often heard people tell me the mosaic looks more “alive” than the painting. Or, that the sculpture feels more alive than its original model.

The name of my studio is BUKALEMUNart, bukalemun meaning cameleon – slow, versatile, colorful. It changes its color according to its mood (not just for camouflage). Thus, my studio, where I apply this very slow process to create pieces with a mosaic of materials and methods.

Neslihan Zabcı