Contemporary Art @ Boğaziçi - Interview Project, 2010

Johan Tahon (1965, Menen)

Tuba Ayalp

Johan Tahon is a sculptor, he makes interesting big sculptures, some of his sculptures are exhibited in public areas. I made my interiew with Johan Tahon via skype and I enjoyed. He usually comes Turkey and works here, when he was here I couldn’t make my interview because he was busy. Johan Tahon collects clays of Muslim artists and ten years ago by chance meets with Dağhan Özdil who also makes collection of clays. They decide to work together in Turkey. Johan Tahon loves Turkey and works in İznik instead of İstanbul. He believes that Turkey is the only country where has turquoise. In addition to this, he thinks that Turkey has a different soul and sufism. He says that sufism affects his sculptures. Johan Tahon is seen as a heritor of Lehmbruck. It is possible to see the effects of the works of Lehmbruck in Tahon’s sculptures. Tahon’s several sculptures look like Lehmbrucks’. However, they used different materials to make their sculptures. If you research their works, it is unavoidable to think that they both produce their works with the same theme.

Tuba Ayalp: How would you define “new media art”?

Johan Tahon: New media art can be defined as a new style of art. New media art is a genre that encompasses artworks created with new media technologies, including digital art, computer graphics, computer animation, Internet art, interactive art technologies. Today, lots of artists are interested in this kind of art, actually some of them are good at this, but i think art should be done only with yourself. Nothing or nobody should help you, you must be alone while doing your art. I make my sculpters without getting assistance of computer, internet, any kind of technology, I love being on my own while making my sculptures. My feelings, thoughts, and I are the parts of my work, I am away from the any kind of things. In that way, new media art is not what I do.

Tuba Ayalp: When did you start to sculpture?

Johan Tahon: I was interested in sculpture since when I was a child. When I was a child, I follow the things about scuptures by media and periodicals. At the age of 15, I started making small sculptures. I studied art at the Koninklijke Academie voor Schone Kunsten in Gent and then I decided to make a long career in this. If you want to have a long career then you must first and foremost love process. All else should pale in front of the love of what you are doing as you make your work. That will sustain you over many an arid time vis a vis galleries, sales, and shows.

Tuba Ayalp: What inspires you to create art and how do you keep motivated when things get tough in the studio?

Johan Tahon: Inspiration for me can come from innumerable sources. I.e.: Artists whose work I love, artists whose work I have just been exposed to, books, music, film, situations in the world.
When things " get tough in the studio"? I usually move to another medium when I hit the wall in the one I am working in at the moment. That almost always works for me.

Tuba Ayalp: What different side of sculpture does affect you?

Johan Tahon: The psychological thruth of the unconsiousness affected me the most and is still my greatest interest. While I am making sculptures, I am out of my conscious. This feeling is the most beautiful thing that I can ever feel. I have to say that I consider as if it were not me that making the art, it is someone else.

Tuba Ayalp: How did you come up with the idea of sculpture, a totem for Wouter Bos?

Johan Tahon: I wanted to make a sculpure as a life performance. Like a shaman in a contemporary society. I made a sculpture and my art is dedicated to The Ministry of Finance in The Hague (a mastodon of an office building) and the minister of Finance Wouter Bos. This sculpture is 14 meters height. I am very happy with my sculpture.

Tuba Ayalp: You are making human sculptures, animal sculptures and the sculptures that i can not define, which of these do you enjoy while you are making?

Johan Tahon: I enjoy them all, I make everything in need of my own psychology and hope it will be understood in a social way. I see my sculptures as a one thing, I can not seperate them as human, animal or other things. All of them are my works, I can express myself freely while making these. I am bad at math, so I had to develop a system where I can construct things without the use of mathemetics. I can express myself with my sculptures without seperating these.

Tuba Ayalp: When I look over your sculptures, I realized that you are making many head figures, is there any meaning of it? Why don't they have bodies?

Johan Tahon: The head is the part of the body that you talk to, in that way it is closest to the soul. So, I generally prefer to make head figures. When you talk to someone, you look at your head. If a person is sad, happy, crying, excited, you understand it with his face. Human thinks with his brain and the whole knowledge that is learnt during a person’s life is in his brain, brain is also a part of head. So, I think head is the most important part of a person’s body.

Tuba Ayalp: You are really making very interesting things, the figures that i can not understand, do you want to make the people tell something with these figures or are they just your working?

Johan Tahon: No. They are just my workings. I think, making art is a special feeling, by making sculptures I find myself. In this way, I don’t feel that I have to tell people something, people already know that what they understand, so I make my art for me. Making sculptures makes me feel good and special. The intention of feeling that I have to tell and teach people something makes me feel unconfortable.

Tuba Ayalp: Is there any time that you can not decide what to produce?

Johan Tahon: No. I always find something to produce. As I mentioned in the previous question, I don’t make my art for people, I make it for myself. In this way, being free doesn’t make me feel that I have to produce something all the time.

Tuba Ayalp: Which feelings, thinkings, emotions affects you, while you're doing your art?

Johan Tahon: All emotions that is part of my life become part of my art. All emotions have a different effect on me. I can not say specific emotions. Your emotions create you and you are a slave of your feelings. In this way, any emotion, feeling affects me.

Tuba Ayalp: Do you have turning points about your arts? If any, what is/are they?

Johan Tahon: Most important turning point was the death of my father. Let's say that there is a Freudian problem there. Everything changed from that point on, even the way I looked at reality.

Tuba Ayalp: A documentary about your life and work is planning to be broadcasted. How does it make sense you? (being the subject of the documentary)

Johan Tahon: It's fantastic!! It makes me feel special. When I obtained an offer of this, at the beginning I was anxious. Then, I liked this idea. If a documentary is planning to be broadcasted, I am good at my works.

Tuba Ayalp: What are your future plans about your art?

Johan Tahon: Making new sculptures and open new exhibitions are my plans that I can realize in the near future. In september I show new work in the Aya Irini in Istanbul. It is opening on the 6th.