By Heidi Trautmann
The term “Art Therapy” has been coming to my attention on several occasions lately and when I heard of Bahar Cıralı’s exhibition under the same title I became curious. But first, I need to introduce her and her educational road:
Bahar Çıralı was born in Kyrenia in 1982. She studied painting at the Faculty of Fine Arts at the University of Hacettepe, Turkey. In 2005 she continued her studies at the Academy of Fine Art of Terni, Italy, where she specialized on painting techniques and worked as a drawing teacher. In 2009 she went to London, UK, worked as a private art tutor and at same time she did her master’s degree on expressive techniques and art therapy in Rome, Italy. First travelling to and fro but then moving to Rome for some years. During her stay abroad she did many personal exhibitions and participated in group shows too. In 2011 she returned to Cyprus and opened ARTTERAPI, an art therapy and personal growth centre in Kyrenia.
The exhibition was at the Atatürk Cultural Centre in Nicosia with paintings by children and young people of all age groups and I am grateful that I had the occasion to talk to Bahar Cıralı in detail about the philosophy of this new form of education which she calls ‘personal activity classes’.
“The aim is not to improve the skills of the individual, it is to express oneself without any dictation, to let loose and get carried away with the activity of painting with big brushes and plenty of colour. One project was to create a self-portrait, to answer oneself the question which worries us all our life ‘who am I’ and at the same time to see how the others represent themselves.”
I can recognise the little egoist who sees nothing but his own features, another child has included background motives.
“The main project, however is group work. I have classes of four or five children, minimum age is four years, and it is about sharing pots of paint and sharing space on one canvas; it is about learning to respect the other members of the group, that those have the same rights; it is the basic philosophy of society, the rules we have to learn that we are not alone, that we have to compromise if we want to have peace in our smaller and wider circles.” The road from I to WE.
On large size canvasses children have shown that they can share and respect each other. “Often”, Bahar says, “I have to hold myself back not to interfere; that would be a bad mistake because the message to the children would be ‘I am not responsible anymore, no decisions are expected of me....’ What they have to learn is to be responsible for what they have produced.”
There is another aspect in another project, that is the environmental thought, to make the children aware of how much waste they produce. There is a row of carton robots the children obviously had a lot of fun creating.
Then I am fascinated by a project, a sort of face-to-face process: on a transparent plastic solid disc persons are working on both sides, the one following the other with markers, an experiment which she also recommends to do at home with the parents, for example a father has to slow down to follow the speed of his child. Interesting.
The last row of paintings is by Bahar Cıralı herself, to introduce herself to the viewer. I am immediately taken by them; a new and interesting way of painting, and as Güner Pir, who was the only artist showing up at the opening, said, ‘she is a very interesting young artist, a little crazy but good.’