Lolita’s Tree of Life

Lolita Asil’s 20th  year in art… On Saturday evening, she told about her twenty years in art to a small group of friends at the table she set with meals of Mardin in her workshop. In the same time, the documentary about her was being shot… To be honest, I am not sure how “fabulous” it was to be filmed by cameras while devouring stuffed grape leaves and kibbeh in in an artist’s workshop, among wonderful artworks, however it was an unique experience to accompany Lolita Asil’s heart-to-heart conversation and meals …

Lolita Asil is called to be a marginal artist, I am thinking “which painter or artist cannot be marginal” … However this description can be used for Lolita accompanied with words such as “provocative- surprising-unexpected” …

For she is an artist who paints human beings by examining corpses … She is a very beautiful and a magical woman who attends autopsies, thinks to give up painting when she drew the brain and the heart, raised by her granny…

She was raised by her granny, because …

She has tears in her eyes when she speaks about it …

Lolita was four years old… And her sister was five and a half … Their mother was suffering of rheumatic heart disease. When they ran out of remedies in Istanbul, where they had migrated as a long-established Assyrian family, their mother went to London. And unfortunately, she passed away there when she was only 27 years old… “I have no memories with my mother .. None… She was so sick when even she was alive that she never could have a relationship with us … What I carry inside of me is a huge yearning” she says… …

These kinds of silences possess, in fact, a deep understanding.…

She points to a very beautiful painting which is a bit away from the table. “I painted this one for my mom and I said I will never sell it. And I didn’t … I started thinking after a while after having finished this painting. Which cell and which tissue I had painted. I took an anatomy book and started searching. And I found it. It was written ‘Thymus’ under it. I asked to my teacher … It seems Thymus is the first organ establishing a relationship between mother and her baby … I believe that there is no such thing as coincidence.”

***

Our mutual friend Tülin believes that there is a spiritual bond between Lolita and me. When she finally could threw us together, coincidences and similarities emerge as soon as we starte talking, making us consider that Tülin was right.  … Just at that time, I scream out of joy, seeing that the fabulous sculpture of Feridun Oral, which I had seen in the section of Galeri Selvin at Istanbul Contemporary last year and with which I had fallen in love but was deeply sorry that it was sold, was standing right behind Lolita. She is very scared for a moment. I say “You had this beautiful work! I am very, very happy”. Seeing that statue in the house of someone I know makes me very happy … Now I can come and see it whenever I want because I now know where it is. Lolita smiles at my joy

We talk about our dreams…  I tell about what I dreamed recently. Lolita says “Everyone must write down what they dreamed” … Then the shooting resume… She starts to talk … “I painted nerve cells several times. I realized that the cell structure which describes the universe best is within the neurons. They are in an incredible communication with each other. Life is repeating itself ceaselessly. Think about the sunrise, sunset, what we have been going through continuously in the regular flow of our daily life… There are repetitions in my work also. Just like the life cycle.  The period I was painting the inside of human beings, I mean my inner stance is over.  Now it’s the time of this  power, looking from outside. Which means the three dimensional look and the sculpture take their positions on the scene.”

Lolita goes downstairs, to your home, to prepare coffee for us. Meanwhile, I examine the rooms and paintings of the workshop. I see on a shelf, where newspaper clippings are gathered, an interview of last year by Faruk Bildirici. She says in that interview:

“I wanted to see by autopsies inside of the human being whose outside I have painted several times. There, I noticed that there was no difference between the inside and outside of human beings. I saw the darkness inside human beings who never have 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 has been through even after his death inside of him, on his skin, in his eyes, all over on him. (…) I left the 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. And they opened a new era in my life. (…) I met so many people who do not like my paintings. I, of course, want that number of people who comprehend and respect what I want to achieve increases, not only who love me. I want to change the fossilized character of the audience’s point of view on art.”

***

I am asking her a shameful question like ‘have you seen the Body World exhibition”. I realize the mistake I made the moment I ask the question, although it was a question asked in good faith. Lolita responds me by same good will and patience. However she’s probably tired of this question. Yes, she’s seen it in Manchester in 2006! It was long after she had started to study corpses and attended autopsies. She liked it so much. She says “What I do is the artistic side. Gunther von Hagens, as a medical doctor, is involved with the medical side of the work”.

She smiles when we notice that she only ate the rice among all the delicious meals she has served us. She says “I love having guests and I forget eating in the meantime… And I don’t eat meat”… “When I was in the academy I did not like to draw a beautiful body while I was drawing human beings from outside. I was attracted more by Rubens’ women. It was more interesting to draw muscular, deformed bodies, large bones, feet and hands which had worked hard. Then I was focused on corpses to see behind the bones, the indentations and protrusions of human body. I stopped eating meat after I first attended a corpse study in 1996. I didn’t eat any more, I became a vegetarian. I’m eating fish.”

She will celebrate her 20th year in art this Thursday, under the title “Tree of Life – The Story of Human’ Adventure that Starts from Deep Inside and Spreads to the Universe by Emerging to the Light …”

It took 20 years for us to meet… I wonder how long it will take for you , if you’ve never seen any of her paintings.

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