Last month, Ottostop was very lucky to be selected to attend a week-long art project 'Doğa için Sanat' hosted by Turkey's 'Doğa Kurumu Merkezi' (Nature Conservation Centre) and the European Union. The project, aimed at raising awareness of nature and environmental issues through art, was based in the beautiful region of Köyceğiz. Sitting between Dalaman and Marmaris, Köyceğiz features an unique ecosystem, being home to a huge freshwater lake, which is connected to the meandering channel systems of Dalyan, which lead onto the magical, sandy beach of Iztuzu. And being an hour down the road from the Ottostop studio, it meant I could chuck a load of printing stuff in the car and try outdoors printing for the first time!
The reason Köyceğiz was chosen as the project base, aside from its diverse ecosystem, is that it is home to several large Liquidambar forests. Liquidambar (Oriental Sweetgum in English / Sığala ağacı in Turkish) grows mainly along the south-western coast of Turkey and the Greek island of Rhodes. The trees are specially protected in the Koycegiz / Dalyan region, where over the last couple of hundred years huge areas of Liquidambar forests have been felled to make space for agriculture. Liquidambar itself plays an important part in local economy. The sap, an important ingredient in many pharmaceutical products (known as 'storax'), is harvested in a lengthy process starting in May, and ending in November. During the week we visited various Liquidambar forests, where both permitted and illegal tree 'tapping' (the process of shaving the bark to extract the sap) takes place.
Alongside the course attendees, comprising of 20 artists, designers & naturalists from Turkey, plus the organisers from the Nature Conservation Centre in Ankara, a group of 4 artists from the Socitey of Wildlife Artists in the UK were invited to lead & mentor the creative workshops. Nik Pollard, Greg Poole, Etsher Tyson and Ben Woodhams, all well-established professional artists, provided invaluable tutorage throughout the week. Not only did they work tirelessly every day, in very hot, humid, mosquito-ridden conditions, to produce outstanding pieces of work, but they gave time to each of us to guide us on our work paths. The only expectations they had of us, outlined at the start of the week, were to work quietly and take in the surroundings, then create pieces that respond to how we felt in the various environments.
The first Liquidambar forest we visited was at Kavakarası. It was here where we were introduced to the sap extraction process by the local oil maker. We were then encouraged to explore the forest and chose a spot to sit and get creative. I instantly fell in love with the reflection in one of the sap separation tanks, and decided to base my work during the week on this very reflection:
I'd hoped to do lots of mono-printing with perspex, but as we weren't permitted to take oil-based paints for environmental reasons, I resorted to acrylics.... which, even with medium added, were drying in record times owing to the hot temperatures. Below is some semi-succesful mark making created on perspex:
During our second visit to the Liquidambar forest at Kavakarası, I decided to focus on mono screenprinting, and up the scale of my pieces, creating a series of base layers which I could further embellish throughout the week using different techniques....
The week consisted of numerous working sessions based in various Liquidambar forests, alongside recreational trips to a local waterfall, a boatrip across Koycegiz Lake through the Dalyan canals to Iztuzu beach, a visit to the Turtle Rehabilitaion Centre at Iztuzu, and perhaps the most memorable, the sunset at the top of Bozburun Tepesi (The hill overlooking Iztuzu and Dalyan).
The project culminated in a small exhibition in Köyceğiz town square on the final evening, where locals were encouraged to come and look at the work that had been produced.
What next? The Artists for Nature project was only the beginning of an initiative that will continue to promote nature conservation through art and design in Turkey. The group will stay in touch via social media, our work will be exhibited in two more exhibitions in Turkey, and a book will be created as a record of all the wonderful work that was produced during the week. In the next few weeks I plan to create more designs derived from the work I created in Köyceğiz (with the luxury of being able to stand up and print, developing screens instead of potato printing and paper stencils!). The week was a fantastic opportunity to work outdoors in new environments, alongside other artists (something I fondly reminisce about when I'm rattling around the studio on my own!). The thing that inspired me the most about working outdoors was being constantly submerged in colour & sound. On reflection, I feel like the whole week I was bathing in a green glow beneath the canopy of sun-lit liquidambar leaves, and I feel it gave a much stronger energy to my work compared to when I’m working within the white walls of the Ottostop studio. Who knows… maybe it’s time to extend the studio into the jungle….