Kintu Studio: Hi Leylâ, it’s lovely to meet you.

Leylâ: Hi Sylwia, so lovely to meet you too. I am really excited to speak on my art with you.

Kintu Studio: To kick this off, how long have you been living in Lisbon?

Leylâ: I moved from Turkey and have been based here for about 6 years now.




Kintu Studio: What inspires you about Portugal?


Leylâ: Well, Portugal is really great because I can focus well here. It helps me dive into the singularities of what could be my practice. If I’m honest, it’s just all about finding what makes you different, particularly in your vision. You can go on Instagram and look at things for hours on end but you can’t be influenced by other people's works, it doesn’t make sense, you can’t look for inspiration outside, it’s all inside. So, I think it’s about crystallising, going in and finding what’s particular about your way of handling things and seeing things.




Kintu Studio: Portugal is great, I am glad to hear this. How does this thought process come into play when you’re creating?


Leylâ: I paint about what’s particular for me. I can see myself in the whole composition of the image. It’s never just about the painting, you have to be able to have the control. This is the struggle with painting, you really need to be able to get the effects, the brush marks, the surface texture, the finish has to serve you, so you have to have that ability and you have to work on it, that’s the kind of more technical part. However, the more exciting element is the whole construction of the idea and that’s why I find painting to be amazing.




Kintu Studio: Have you met a lot of people in the field of art?

Leylâ: I am so happy to be working in this field because you feel like you belong to a family, it’s wonderful. If you’re a writer or a musician, even if it’s a very solitary practice, you have people. Whatever you’re doing is adding, playing, taking, giving to this whole field. In that way, it’s very satisfying. However, you always have to think about the practicalities of life.




Kintu Studio: That’s so true, being an artist will always come with a wonderful community around you, allowing room for collaborations, like this one for example! When you mention practicalities of life, can you expand on that please?

Leylâ: Sure thing! Well, I can no longer afford the studio, so that meant that I had to move to my house. I hope it’s not for too long though. The last show I did in Istanbul was in 2019 and because a lot of my collectors are based in Turkey. When I do shows abroad it’s cool and prestigious, but a lot of people don’t know me in some of those locations, so the sales are very slow. This doesn’t make up for all the time, that’s the tricky thing. But, I finally decided I am doing another show in Turkey and now I have gained a lot more visibility in Portugal. This will be my first show in years! It's almost like completing a university degree.


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Kintu Studio: I completely understand. If you’re an artist who moves around or exhibits around the world a lot, sometimes this can be a harsh reality. However, it’s exciting to hear that you’re gaining visibility in Portugal. Have you done exhibitions in Portugal in the past?

Leylâ: Yes I have. One of the biggest highlights for me was my show ‘Layer From the Background’. It was sponsored by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation. I considered that to be my graduation show. It was also very typical of me to do a show off site where the architecture and paintings performed together.




The exhibition was held in Martim Moniz, in a building by architect Bartolomeu Costa Cabral. Due to the amount of vandalism inside of the building, people working and living in the building wanted to break it down. The architect - who is 93 years old - came to the opening! He was crying and thanking me for creating this occasion after 30 years. He was so excited that this building would be reopened and people were coming inside and using it. It was very emotional. Everyone knows this building in Martim Moniz so it was crazy!


Kintu Studio: This is so wonderful. I know the exact building you’re talking about in Martim Moniz. This brings me to my next question, how do you visualise your shows? Where do you draw inspiration when it comes to the overall setup or space?

Leylâ: Home staging. Home staging is usually used in a professional sense - you know if you wanna sell your house, you hire these people, or you could do it by yourself. They come in and make these simple, wise changes in your house. It’s also economical, not expensive at all.


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Kintu Studio: Is it so that it changes the way your client perceives the space?

Leylâ: Yes, exactly. Home staging for me is about how you want your place to be seen. We probably have a lot of examples of this in our parents' home. They probably had a room in their homes which would be reserved for guests. Almost like another extension of a living room that’s hardly ever used. All the pillows are perfect, the dining table isn’t used because you use the small table in the kitchen for instance. But, you keep everything intact - almost ready to be photographed. To me, it’s very interesting how we live in this stage-like situation. It’s overall an activity that is quite artistic and it demonstrates our taste and how we like to have things, so I see my practice as an extension of those kinds of arrangements and that’s how I like to think about it when I am arranging subjects - in a playful manner. Then that thought goes into how to put paintings together in a larger frame or exhibition.




It’s overall an activity that is quite artistic and it demonstrates our taste and how we like to have things, so I see my practice as an extension of those kinds of arrangements and that’s how I like to think about it when I am arranging subjects - in a playful manner. Then that thought goes into how to put paintings together in a larger frame or exhibition.




I think we all stage our space in a specific way but I am hyper aware of it - it’s part of my philosophy. This is something that I bring into my practice and it’s what I’ve gone through all my life. In my graduation exhibition project at school, I recreated parts of my room and incorporated it in the exhibition space - I literally brought everything except for the furniture. I’ve always had a collage of images, everything that I wanted to keep up on my walls. I was claiming that it was also a painting that had painted itself over time as a composition.



Mundane objects may not mean something to someone, but you give it a sacred meaning, almost a heartbeat. For example, certain objects like cardboard boxes have gained a huge meaning after I’ve moved to another country because then they’ve become kind of a symbol.

Moments, objects that grab my attention and that have a weight on my consciousness.



Kintu Studio: My last question for you is have you always wanted to be a painter?

Leylâ: I think that painting has always been an attempt to make sense of my experience of being alive, of taking up space in this world with the observations I make, the things I feel, the things I see. It’s just that quite often I have hang ups with objects because I really like to play with them like a child plays with dolls. You know how people see faces everywhere? I think of objects like characters that can take up the role of a figure and their relationships can be interesting. Sometimes it’s very obvious like this piece of cardboard that looks like a mask that makes you think of Darth Vader, but other times, what I really care about is my painting. It’s another passion. I’m interested in painting not just in terms of paintbrush, putting paint on a canvas, but more in a conceptual and philosophical sense.




Kintu Studio: Beautifully said, Leylâ. Thank you so much for your time today.

Leylâ: It’s been a pleasure, thank you!

Interview was made by: Sylwia Cylwik
Text edit: Rony Junior El Daccache
Photos: Kora Rogina