By Heidi Trautmann
This is what she said to me in June 2008 when we sat together in her beautiful studio in Nicosia for the interview which I included in my book ‘Art and Creativity in North Cyprus’.
“I don't accept rules; rules, conventions, they only prevent us from discovering ourselves. During our life we get suffocated with them, as we grow up, they are like parasites, and it takes us most of our active time to uncover our core, the core of things. We humans are only a tiny part in nature, a link in the chain.”
I was shocked when I heard the news of her death in France, she never told anybody, she just closed the gate behind her. What remains with us are her art works so full of vitality and beauty, her laughter which took hold of her whole body; a woman, so very French, so very Cypriot, being all this in her art.
We understood each other from the very first moment, we recognised each other. I will always remember the atmosphere I first met her in, a room painted in oxblood red, and I wanted to take her picture there, her in red as well; she did not have a red dress, so I gave her mine; that dress is still with her, I never took it back, so I have something which is still among her belongings, a knot tied.
To bring back this special atmosphere I would like to include here the text of our talk. I am proud to have known her.
Graphic designer and painter
born in Nicosia in 1964
NOUVEAU - NEW in the 21st Century
The entrance to Rüya Reşat's house is the colour of sunshine, a warm yellow. A typical Cypriot house in the heart of a residential area in Nicosia. The door is open, in the doorframe Rüya in a light dress full of summer flowers. I am invited in and the sunshine follows us into high rooms, the walls of each room in a different colour, warm and earthy. On these walls her art work, and all of a sudden I ask myself: Does the sunshine come from outside or is it already present in this house's rooms through the paintings? A sort of enchantment envelops me, I feel light and free to fly, weightless. I turn around and look at this young woman, into her open eyes; she smiles as though she has expected the viewer's reaction.
We switch from English to French, a language she is more fluent in since she has lived in France since her university years until only two years ago. Speaking French changes her whole body language, her appearance, ...elle est une vraie Française! Now she devides her life between Paris and Nicosia.”My family lives here, you know. My childhood was a very special one, already then I had my own fantasy world which I found in nature. In our garden I often hid when too much was happening around me, and to be with my friends the insects, cats, flowers and birds. There was a cockerel in our backyard that everybody was afraid of but we were best friends, most probably we understood each other in a language of our own. I still have this tendency today; I feel the need to find myself in nature.” Do we ever stop trying to find ourselves, I ask.
Rüya takes me through the house over a beautiful marble floor through to the last room the walls of which are painted in a velvety bordeau red; she disappears behind a curtain of beads to make us some Turkish coffee. The room is very French: l'art de vivre. One has to live art, not only make it. A beautiful composition in itself; the heavy writing desk with art literature on it, the light coming in from a window behind, creating a pattern on the opposite wall combining with two exciting paper collages of Rüya's in the same red; they seem to come right out of the wall. Thrown over a stand is a lovely woven red rug, and next to a red chair, a bowl of fruit glowing against the dark wall. Here I will take your photo, I say, you as part of the composition, in a red dress. Rüya laughs.
“I don't accept rules; rules, conventions, they only prevent us from discovering ourselves. During our life we get suffocated with them, as we grow up, they are like parasites, and it takes us most of our active time to uncover our core, the core of things. We humans are only a tiny part in nature, a link in the chain.” I agree to that, but isn't it the artist and creative individual who realises the heavy burden of rules? And does the development of an independently thinking mind not involve this process of getting rid of the unnecessary and unwanted. Is it not so?
“I am very grateful that I had the opportunity to study in France, which was the logical step to take since my elder sister studied modern literature in Paris. In this spiritual centre of Europe where the heart of creative activity beats, I grew to appreciate the absolute freedom of thinking and working. Also, French people love to discuss the things they do “..Je pense, donc je suis...” which is also a necessity to me. Here in Nicosia, I have cooperated with the French Cultural Centre which again this year has developed a three-months-programme with individual cultural events. Within this framework, I have exhibited my latest art work at Bellapais Abbey where I will give proof of the level of reality I have found for myself, a fantasy world of memories and the endless universe between the real and the virtual.”
We wander along the walls and I literally plunge into her latest big-formatted creations, a world of endless depth, of light and transparency, dance of luminiscent colours. An intoxicating shower, a whirlwind of beauty in water colour and dry pastel. Then, photos assembled and digitally processed, dreamlike figures gliding through the atmosphere of universe as part of melting stars, taken from the depth of our memories and dreams and documented here.
In which category of art would she put herself, I ask. “There is only one word to describe my art, and that is NOUVEAU – NEW. I constantly renew myself. I graduated from Ecole Nationale Superièure des Arts Décoratifs in Paris in 1993 and had a one-year doctoral research at Sorbonne University on Esthetic and Science of Art at DANAE-Centre of Artistic Research. Since that time I have worked on digital designs, paintings, graphic designs and other creative projects. With the new possibilities of tools such as digital processing, the door was open to look for new ways in art.” In answer to that I have to confess that I have never been introduced to these ways of digital creation and am fascinated. “But,” she says, “art still happens in the head, also in digital art which to me is nothing but a tool; the definition of colours and forms are my fingerprints and my reality, the art work is entirely mine. The “birth” of a picture, be it digital or any other technique like water colours, comes naturally, just as a human being is born with its genes. My inspirations accumulate and form a life of their own, open to development, no finite thoughts, you understand? Or, to put it more simply: I translate the fragments of feelings, dreams into visual perception.”
To do that one must be absolutely free and sure of oneself. “Oh yes, I have strong roots, my world of thoughts and experiences are the firm base of my being. I need that. I love sharing though, sharing with people of my wavelength, and seeing what they have to say, giving and taking. In this way you develop, sorting out what is important for you, always trying to be true to yourself.”
I want to come back to one picture, its execution reminded me of Art Nouveau, of the Austrian painter Gustav Klimt, and Rüya exclaimed: “But that is true, I made with this very picture an homage to him, because I love his decorative art work very much, but in my visions I am much more stimulated by the surrealistic movement!” As in some of her other paintings she has introduced the transparent beauty of insect wings: she uses everything to make visible the delicate interconnections of our soul and nature. Perhaps our souls have the same delicate wings?
Every room in this house is a separate studio with a big working table and there are works obviously done by children. “I spend part of my time teaching children between ages of eight and twelve. This is a big source of pleasure. They are still unspoilt, innocent and open to free thinking. I also prepare young students for university abroard, for their competitive exams. I try to teach them to break open their barriers, to let fly their fantasy, to form their individuality.” Who was her art teacher when she was that age, I ask her. “Gönen Atakol at the Maarif College.” I has suspected as much. The words “free development of the mind” sounded very familiar to me. How important it is to have a good teacher supporting the formation of the tender plant of individualism.
Rüya had just come back from an important exhibition entitled “Reminiscences” at the European Union Committee of the Regions in Brussels together with the Greek Cypriot painter Anna Kakoulli. The project had its own way of marking 2008 as the European Year of Intercultural Dialogue. Before that she has had various exhibitions in Paris, Luxembourg, Istanbul, Cyprus and Athens. Having been away from her home country for so long, how does she feel about the development in art here, I ask her.
“There have been tremendous changes here, I can feel the pulsating life of creativity and I am going to take an active part in it, you can be sure of that. My way will develop automatically, the scope of visual and subconscious streams are right at our fingertips. Il n'y a jamais un point final! There is never to be a final stop!
Author's Note: The interview was done in June 2008