Home Magazine Deepdiving into Berfin Cicek's Art

This week Kooness interviews the artist Berfin Cicek who shares her inspirations, dreams and virtues.

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Kooness: What Does Your Artwork Represent?
Berfin Cicek: My art represents my thoughts and observations of everyday life, mostly my response to very personal experiences. Since I use art as a form of communication, often my intention is to prompt my audience into questioning societal or environmental issues through the visual narratives I’ve composed, to really get them thinking about aspects of life and the system we’ve been brewed into. There is a clear contrast between my style and the stories that I tell - my style is very playful as it’s a way to keep the inner child in me alive, but dive in and you’ll find the deeper issues I’m addressing. It’s a bit like wasabi - fun and play-dough-like on the outside, but strong as f*** in the inside!

Kooness: What Inspires You? / What are you inspired by? /Where do you find inspiration?
BC: Inspiration is everywhere. It depends on how you look and perceive the world beyond your eyes. Since I use art to express my strong internal emotions that are generated by external factors, inspiration can be as simple as the way I connect to nature when I’m up in the mountains, or to a bizarre emotional breakdown in the city. My sketchbook and canvases are just a diary where I jot down a visual journal. I am also obsessed with oil paints, from their smell to the thickness of the paint. It allows me to freely work and tweak without having to worry about it drying so quickly! In terms of style, I have always had a weird connection to cubism and a touch of realism. In cubism I get to break down shapes and restructure a composition in a surreal way. I like to keep the colours and shapes as simple as possible while communicating a complex story. Our brains already over-complicate visual information, so I think it’s important to balance that out with clarity.

Kooness: Where are you from and how does that affect your work?
BC: Being born and raised in North London to a Kurdish-Turkish-Alevi family has been a really interesting upbringing. I’ve been raised between three different cultures and often get lost between them. The more I felt lost, the more I got closer to my inner voice and found a chance to get to know what I really enjoy and love doing in this life: art.
 In my family, art is cherished as a hobby rather than a career. I’ve been the black sheep by quitting my job in architecture to follow my passion in art. It’s been a tough and incredibly challenging journey to get my family to understand and accept the path I’ve chosen for myself. I understand their worries, as it’s uncommon to make a living as an artist. However, what I chase for in this life the most is creating as much as possible, as the rest, especially material things, doesn’t really matter. After all, materialism is a temporary pleasure, art is a permanent pleasure.

Berfîn Çiçek. Artist Residents of TEV Soho, 2023 .


Kooness: How can your work help or affect societal issues?
BC: Philosophically, I’m all about answering questions with more questions. We’re often taught to chase the answers in life, by teachers, parents etc, because arriving at that final destination gives us a feeling of comfort and success. I feel this quest for certainty and objectivity can have a negative effect on our society, and is a way that people get entrenched in myths and stereotypes surrounding racism, sexism even without meaning to - people just love to put others in boxes, so they can be ‘understood’. My art exposes people to more questions rather than answers, and I feel it’s a way I can subtly open up their minds a bit more, making them think deeper.
My work doesn’t just cover being an artist, I am also the founder of Cicek Gallery, which has a specific focus on supporting artists from minority backgrounds. There are thousands of incredibly talented emerging artists out there who need support, especially those from the underrepresented demographics. There’s still a huge imbalance within the art industry, white male artists still dominate 94.6% of the market - how bizarre?! Imagine all the other female artists still unheard of? There’s clearly a gap in the art market and it was a no-brainer to start-up an independent art gallery where I can support other emerging artists of underrepresented demographics. That’s exactly why Cicek Gallery was born.

Kooness: How do you navigate the professional art industry?
BC: The art industry is complex. As an artist, when I felt ready to launch and grow my name within the art industry, I immediately felt lost. I had no support and there’s never really been a solid structure in how to become an established artist like there is with other professions. Major galleries don’t care about emerging artists unless they’ve been ‘approved’ by some other major institution. Frankly, I found all of this nonsense and as an emerging artist, I noticed that I wasn’t the only one…
Starting from complete scratch as a one-woman band, with zero experience in the industry, I began to pave my way through and build Cicek Gallery. Still in our infancy, we now represent 10 incredible emerging artists of different ethnic minority groups, females and LGBTQ+ in a bid to blend out the imbalances of our industry and support these artists in their artistic careers. As an online based art gallery, we are quickly growing our online presence through our website, social media, and organising pop-up exhibitions across different locations to bring our art and audience together. In our first year, I’ve secured a major global law firm to sponsor our inaugural exhibition back in October 2022. This year, we have some really exciting sponsors lined-up to support our art program and artists. Today I work closely with our in-house GM Marcus Howard-Vyse and various freelance art advisors to reach out to as many art lovers as possible. So far it’s been an incredible journey, despite how challenging it is!

Berfin Cicek. Self-Portrait, 2022. 

Kooness: Do you have a network of other artists, and how do they support you?
BC: With the birth of Cicek Gallery, I’ve been able to form a network of closely knit artists under one roof, as well as build an extended network through the art events and social media tools we’ve been extensively using. As an artist myself, it feels great to have a network of artists you can relate to, support each other, bounce ideas off each other and execute brilliantly curated shows. As a gallerist, it is my duty to support our emerging artists as much as we can with the resources we currently have. I hope to be able to continue supporting them in the long term.

Kooness: What are your ultimate career goals?
BC: Ultimately my goal is to become a fully established blue-chip artist, while building Cicek Gallery up and establishing ourselves as an independent art gallery continuing to support emerging artists from underrepresented demographics, taking our shows from London to other cities around the globe.


Cover image:  Berfîn Çiçek. Fragile, 2023. 

Written by Kooness

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