About

Lolita Asil was born in Istanbul. After graduating from the Painting Department of the Faculty of Fine Arts (1991), she did her Master’s degree at the Institute of Social Sciences of the Mimar Sinan University . She carried out stage decor, design application works and made murals in amateur theaters. Influenced by Leonardo da Vinci, she began examining and painting the human body in terms of anatomy. She has attended cadaver studies in the Anatomy Department of the Medical School in Marmara University(1996-1997). She initiated her thesis on “The Relationship between the Human Body and Painting” for the proficiency in Arts Program at the Institute of Social Sciences in Mimar Sinan University(2000). Atlas Magazine’s September issue, titled “Body File”, covered her texts and paintings on the subject(2003). She has participated with her solo exhibition and seminar at the “Nature Festival” which was held in Harbiye Military Museum. She has taught students on the exceptional student program at the school Hasan Ali Yucel Education Faculty in Istanbul University. She has participated in autopsy studies in the Department of Forensic Medicine at the Medical School of Istanbul University. She wrote the texts for the file titled “Leonardo da Vinci” for Atlas Magazine’s 2005 January issue.

She has organized a performance, together with pianist Anjelika Akbar, in the Harbiye Military Museum, under the scope of the Nature Festival (2005). She arranged a reception for her 20th year in art during which an exhibition was held and a documentary on “Lolita Asil” was presented(2011). She reliesed a “Video Mapping” at the Yapı Kredı Kazım Taskent Culture Center in Istanbul. She has introduced a new sculpture named “ETERNITY” at a reception held at Su Ada, in Istanbul(2012). She has participated in the Contemporary Art fair in Istanbul, showing a solo exhibition. She wrote articles about art in several magazines such as Paros, Atlas and others. She has presented her “UNIVERSAL” installation work at Istanbul Leather Fair during the event “Art Meets Leather”. She has reliesed her own exhibition and film titled “EXISTENCE” at the Seed Sabanci Museum(2014). She continues her painting and art lessons with students from different age groups in her studios in London and İstanbul.

CORPSES ARE LIKE BOOKS AND AUTOPSIES ARE LIKE MOVIES

Lolita Asil is an influential artist. Her name is recognized around the world due to her extraordinary artwork. The principal subject of her art is human anatomy. However, her approach  is far from ordinary. She studies corpses and attends autopsies to better understand what constitutes the human body.

 Her aim is to study the interior of the human body and represent this unusual subject in her art. Her artwork has extraordinary colors and realistic representations, but is far removed from the traditional portraits and beautiful people other artists paint.

MY MOTHER’S CHOICE: MY NAME KEEPS ME YOUNG

Becoming old seems so far in the distance to me and my name keeps me young anyway. My mother had watched the movie of Vladimir Nabokov’s book “Lolita” and she was inspired by it. My father had said “Let’s not call her Lolita, let’s named the child Oya”. But my mother insisted saying “She will be named Lolita” and what she said became true. I was 13 years old when I first read the book of Nabokov and have read it once more since. It is written “The light of my life, the fire of my selfness, my sin, my soul, Lolita. To pronounce your name, the tip of my tongue descends three levels from my palate to my teeth; Lo-li-ta” at the beginning of the book. I was deeply impressed and I have never forgotten this. It’s a musical name to pronounce. Facing the Lolita of the book is another story. I’m very proud of my name and my family name. I believe that everything in nature has power and energy. The more that power comes to the fore, the more it reflects on everything you are and do.

MY MOTHER: I WAS ONLY FOUR WHEN I LOST HER

I had a very lonely childhood. I grew up with no friends my own age. A child needs her mother and I missed her so much. I had a very solitary childhood, the only people in my life were my family. My mother had passed away when I was four and she was only 27 years old. As her rheumatic heart condition couldn’t be treated in Turkey, she had gone to London as a last hope, and passed away there. I travelled to London a lot because London   is not only the city where my mother died, but also a city that inspires me and feels like  my home. If I hold an exhibition in London, the name will be “To the memory of my mother”. I felt very old when I was little. I would have said “I am 100 years old” had I been asked my age. Veins were visible on my hands. Can the veins be visible when you are a child? Maybe it was because I was hardworking. My granny raised me, I adored her and she loved me very much. Growing up with an older person had a huge impact on my life. I studied at Şişli Terakki, a modern school, where I made friends easily.

THE LAND WHERE WE WERE BORN CALLS US BACK WHEN WE ARE OLD.

My father and my uncle left Mardin in the early 1950’s due to the difficulties of living there. They were one of the first two Syriac Orthodox families migrating to Istanbul from Mardin. It took real courage to take this risk in those days. Now some Syrians who live in Sweden are returning to Mardin. I am not sure how well they will adapt to life there.   The lands where we were born call us back when we are old. My father missed Mardin a lot before passing away.Unfortunately I never spent much time in Mardin, but I know my soul belongs there. The interpretation made by an architect who saw a painting in my “İnfinite Life” exhibition, was “I see Mardin in these paintings”. This means that Mardin’s handcraft, wood carving, wirework and feel of the city seems to have subconsciously influenced my art and become part of me. I have been to Mardin four times. Mardin has not called me so far but I’m sure ıt will in the future.

UNİVERSİTY:  ONE OF THE MİLESTONES İN MY LİFE

My uncle told me I first picked up a paintbrush when I was two years old, but it was in high school that I realized it was my passion. I was seriously obsessed with perspective then. The year I finished high school, I wanted to go to university to study architecture.However I wasn’t ready at all and   failed the entrance exam. I then took a break of five years. Then I started painting again in 1984. At this stage I saw it as a hobby. I went to an art class then. My teacher said, “You should definitely go to the academy, you are very talented.” My uncle İbrahim supported me throughout my education at the University of Fine Arts. This was one of the milestones of my life. I studied as a visiting student for one year. My aim was to attend Mimar Sinan University in İstanbul. I passed the entrance exam as the sixth highest student in 1987. I studied with Professor Adnan Çoker in the academy for four years. I did my Masters and PhD with Professor Devrim Erbil, he allowed us to be creative and take our arts in whatever direction we chose. In my opinion it is difficult to make a living as an artist and many artists need a second source of income.

“THOSE WHO WANT TO UNDERSTAND HUMANS, YOU NEED TO LOOK İNSİDE THEM” / LEONARDO DA VİNCİ

I finished the academy in ‘91. The subject of my Master thesis was “Critique in Turkish painting from the 1970’s until today”. During my doctorate, I prepared a thesis on “The Relationship between the Human Body and Painting”. During this period I was very focused on the human body. I started to research the connection between man and the universe. I had learned about Leonardo da Vinci at the academy and focused on his idea that “Those who wonder about the human condition need to look inside the body”.

During this period I visited his birthplace in Florence many times and it became like a second home to me. There has never been another artist who influenced me as much in my life. When I was in the academy I did not like to draw beautiful bodies, I was more attracted to the type of women drawn by Peter Paul Rubens. I was more interested in drawing muscular, deformed bodies, large bones, feet and hands which had worked hard. Then I focused on corpses to see underneath the skin, the indentations and protrusions of he human body. I stopped eating meat after I first saw a human cadaver in 1996. What I saw inside the human body reminded me too much of the meat I was eating. I have never eaten meat again

I ATTENDED AUTOPSIES: WHAT I SAW SHOCKED ME.

I always felt I was different to other people and I have tried to show this in my life. For my art I wanted to depict the inside of the body and this is why I wanted to attend an autopsy. I submitted a file in 2005 to attend an autopsy. I had a good relationship with my teacher, Prof. Dr. Kayıhan Şahinoğlu of the Anatomy Department of Çapa Medical School. He directed me towards Cerrahpaşa Medical School. They allowed me to attend autopsies in the Forensic Department. Autopsies are awful. Many people are standing around the corpse watching as the pathologist dissects it. For the pathologist it is a routine job, something he does everyday. For me, this was an interesting experience and I learned so much from it. The body, which is a unique machine, gets damaged during the autopsy. I think that a corpse is like a book. Students open it up page by page and learn its secrets. You go deep down layer by layer starting from the surface. Inside, a cadaver is colorless, because of the preserving fluid. However, there is information about the corpse at every level. Autopsies, on the other hand, are like a movie. Every autopsy has a different story. You may receive a corpse which has been in the sea for 15 days, or a body which has been buried in a grave for more than one year. I wanted to see at the autopsy the interior of the person that I had drawn many times before from the outside.  I noticed that there was no difference between the inside and outside of a human being. I saw the darkness inside a person who had never been happy when they were alive.  The body of a person who had been stabbed in the stomach and killed was totally black. You see the fear he had suffered whilst alive in his corpse: on his skin, in his eyes, all over him.

THE PROFESSOR WAS SURPRISED: WHAT IS AN ARTIST DO IN AN AUTOPSY?

Everyone was in scrubs, wearing masks in the autopsy. One of the professors arrived and started the lecture. He noticed that I was looking curious, and asked “Where are you from?”. I replied “I am an artist from Mimar Sinan University.” He burst out laughing. “What are you doing here?” he asked me. I said “I am here as an observer”. It was interesting for the doctors that an artist was attending an autopsy willingly. I stop attending autopsies the day the corpse of a child who was 15 days old was received. Corpses and autopsies affected my painting in a very different way, opening a new chapter in my life. I held the exhibition “Sound, Heat, Color” after I saw the corpses. After the autopsies came “Infinite Lines”. Some of the doctors, with whom I attended the autopsies, came to the exhibition out of curiosity. Medicine and art have the same common subject, what is a human being. As a matter of fact, we are completing each other.

I TRAVELED AROUND THE WORLD TO VİSİT “THE BODY WORLD” EXHIBITION.

How could I miss the original Body World Exhibition? I saw the exhibition in Manchester, Istanbul, Los Angeles, New York and Beijing. It was after I had attended the autopsies. It was a great source of inspiration and I found it both interesting and informative. Gunther von Hagens, as a doctor is involved with the medical side of the work. I believe that I represent the artistic equivalent. This show provided me with many new ideas for future art projects.

MY EXHİBİTİONS, WHAT I DO İS NOT ORDİNARY.

I WANT TO CHANGE THE AUDİENCE’S POINT OF VİEW ON ART.

I get very excited before holding exhibitions. I stay awake for days. It is like giving birth, my exhibitions are like my babies. I have met many people who do not like my paintings. I want to open people’s minds with my arts. I don’t worry that my art is not considered beautiful by many people. My art would look out of place in many homes, not matching the décor, the armchairs, the colour of their carpets or their thinking. My art is unique, that’s why it is totally normal that I am misunderstood.  I believe my art educates and opens people’s minds. I am always looking to improve my art, looking for new ideas and inspiration. I do not my work to become stile. A human being with all renewed brain cells.

UNIVERSAL COLORS: MY BIGGEST PIECE OF WORK

My “Universal colors” painting was the biggest painting in Turkey. It was 3 meters by 10 meters. I completed it in eight months in 2000. I showed the different shades of colour in the painting. There is a sequence which we cannot perceive through our five senses, it affects all of nature. I had started with the subject of color, then the subject of people entered into my life. I don’t want my paintings to reflect any trend or period, I want them to be timeless. I have broken the rules I was taught at the academy. Colours come to the fore in some of my paintings, in others  the patterns are more important.

 MY FAITH:

My faith plays an important role in my art. I believe a divine force exists in all of us. When I study the human form I insert that divine force into it. I prepare and present it as a perfect being, a perfect creature. I always pray when I go to bed every night and when I get up. I go to church too. I love hymns very much, but I don’t have a good voice.

MY FATHER’S BUSINESS: I TOOK OVER THE SILVER SHOP IN THE GRAND BAZAAR

My father was 82 when he passed away In 2010 and had been ill for two years. His struggle for life in the hospital became my struggle. After his death my life changed again. I had to take a break from art as I had to take over my father’s job in the Grandbazaar. I cried a lot during those first few days. I’m an artist how can I do this job? My father will recover soon and I will be able to return to my art. The silver business was something I knew nothing about, but I am used to it now. In life, you have to accept whatever is happening to you and adapt to it. I quickly began to learn the silver business and could tell without touching an item whether it was genuine or not. My uncle and father learned the silversmith business when they were in Mardin. My father started this business when he came to Istanbul. Trading second hand silver was a business that nobody had thought to do then. My father created the “Sait Asil” brand using no advertising at all. It is thanks to my father that I put my heart and soul into this business. His love for his job and the love of his customers and other shopkeepers for him impressed me. It’s a magical place. The shop enabled many different cultures to enter into my life. I can’t leave painting, because this is what makes me who I am.

 I GIVE MY MESSAGE THROUGH MY PAINTINGS.

I believe love and peace are vitally important for the human race and I tried to project this message in my art. I want my message of peace and love to reach the whole world. I don’t feel my art belongs to any individual but to the world as a whole.

I dearly thank, Beethoven, Bach and Vivaldi who inspired me during the creation of my art.

With my eternal gratitude to my family, (MARİN ASİL, İBRAHİM ASİL, SAİT ASİL, BEHİCE ASİL) who honoured and supported me.

1993       Fransiz Latin Catholic Church – Istanbul

1994       Koleksiyon Art Gallery – Istanbul

1995       Nadya Art Gallery – Istanbul

1998       Vakko Art Gallery, Istanbul

2002       The Marmara – Istanbul

2003       Pi Artworks Gallery Ataturk Culture Center – Istanbul

2003       Harbiye Military Museum – Natural Festival – Istanbul

2003       Dentan –Istanbul

2008       Garaj Istanbul

2009      Cagla Cabaoglu –Art Gallery

2011       20. Year  Exhibition And  Documentary Film , Hilton, Istanbul

2011      “Video Mapping” , Yapi Kredi Cultur Centre , Taxim, Istanbul

2012       “Eternity” Lansman, Suada Istanbul

2012       “Eternity” Outdoor Exhibition, Abdi İpekci Street, Istanbul

2012        Cagla Cabaoglu Art Gallery, Contemporary Art Fair, Istanbul

2014        “Existence” Exhibition And Film “The Seed” Sabanci Museum

1990     Art-Students’ Exhibition, Press Museum –Istanbul

1992     “Youth and Art Exhibition”, Etibank Art Gallery –Istanbul

1994     “Ten Contemporary Artists”,  Taksim Art Gallery – Istanbul

1994     Atik , Antalya Exhibition

1995-96     “The Master’s Masters”,  The Exhibitions by the graduates of Devrim Erbil’s workshop:

1995     Kadıköy Municipal Culture and Art Center –Istanbul

1995     Atatürk Culture Center, Nicosia- Cyprus

1995     Sabancı Culture Center, Yıldız University –Istanbul

1996     Tayyare Culture Center, Istanbul

1996     İzfaş Art Gallery, İzmir

1996     Painting and Sculpture Museum, Istanbul

1996     “Young Artists Exhibition, Atatürk Library –Istanbul

1996  “Correspondences Exhibition”, Kaş Gallery –Istanbul

2002     “Files” by member artists of  UPSD exhibition –Istanbul

2009     “Contemporary Art Fair Istanbul”, Çağla Cabaoğlu Art Gallery

2010     “ ShContemporary Art Fair”,  Shangai-China, Çağla Cabaoğlu Art Gallery

2010     Joint Exhibition of Chinese and turkish Artists, Çağla Cabaoğlu Art Gallery

2010     “Contemporary Art Fair Istanbul” Çağla Cabaoğlu Art Gallery

2011     “Contemporary Art Fair Istanbul” Çağla Cabaoğlu Art Gallery

2011     “Art Beat Contemporary Art Fair Istanbul” Çağla Cabaoğlu Art Gallery

2011     4th Art Bosphorus contemporary Art Fair- Çagla Cabaoğlu Art Gallery

2013     “Art Meets Leather” TUYAP Fuar Centre, Istanbul

2014     “Art Meets Leather”  Asia Pacific Leather Fair, Hong Kong,

2014     “Contemporary Art Fair Istanbul” Baraz Art Gallery

2019     “Lux Exhibition” Villa di Geggiano, Chiswick, London

2019     “Beyond Words” Camden Image Gallery, London

2019     Group Exhibition, Camden Image Gallery, London