Visual Art scholar shares Turkish traditions with Brock community

For Turkish artist Canan Demir, repurposing scrap materials does more than just help the environment — it also allows memories and traditions to live on through items otherwise destined for the trash.

Demir, an assistant professor at the Abant ?zzet Baysal University in Bolu, Turkey, came to St. Catharines as part of Brock’s Visiting International Scholar (VIS) program last August. She’s spent the last year at the Marilyn I Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts (MIWSFPA) studying different recycling systems in Canadian universities and exploring the use of scrap materials in sculpture.

To celebrate Demir’s work, the community is invited to a closing reception in the MIWSFPA lobby on Monday, July 23. The event runs from 3:30 to 6 p.m. All are welcome to attend, and guests are encouraged to bring their families to meet the visiting artist and explore her current installation.

Brock Visiting International Scholar Canan Demir uses found and scrap materials to create art as part of her research at the Marilyn I Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts.

“We are excited to celebrate our outgoing visiting scholar with a fun, family-friendly reception,” said Elizabeth Vlossak, the new Director of the MIWSFPA. “Welcoming international colleagues to work alongside our faculty and students encourages diversity and interconnectivity on campus, and I am pleased to celebrate that as one of my first official activities as Director.”  

Demir and her husband Serkan (also of Abant ?zzet Baysal University) have been working under the supervision of Brock Visual Arts Department Chair Donna Szoke during their time in St. Catharines. They travelled to Canada with their eight-year-old daughter, Simay Nerrs.

“Canan’s research was a great fit for Brock, as our Visual Arts sculpture class, led by Professor Donna Akrey, uses recycled materials extensively,” explained Szoke.

In the recent Gleaners exhibition, for example, sculpture students created new works of art from found and recycled materials. The exhibition is currently showing at the MIWSFPA Visual Art Gallery during regular gallery hours until Saturday, July 21.

Demir prides herself on never using new materials in her work. For her current installation, Intervention, Demir sourced scrap yarn which she transformed into woven flowers using traditional handcraft techniques of embroidery and sewing. The artist was inspired by the idea that all objects have memories attached to them and repurposing those objects brings them new life and tells a new story.

“Six months ago, I lost my mother, and this was a milestone for me,” she explained.  “We opened her old dowry box and I saw all of her handcrafts and I wanted to make installations like that. I used old materials and old traditional techniques. They had an old memory and I gave them new memories and a new place.”

Leigh-Ellen Keating, Director, Brock International, said the Visiting Scholar program encourages top scholars from around the globe to spend time on the Brock campus researching, hosting guest lectures and working with the Brock community.

“Their presence enriches our scholarly community, brings a diversity of thought and expertise and strengthens our partnerships with international educational institutions,” she added.

Demir said the move to St. Catharines was difficult at first, but her family now cherishes the experience and looks forward to how it will influence their personal and professional lives back home in Turkey.

“I hope to come back one day because my daughter and I really love this country,” said Demir. “This is a different country with different people, memories and traditions, so they feed my process, my research and my art. It was a good experience for me.”

Demir’s Intervention will be on display on the front lawn at MIWSFPA until after the closing reception. She will also have a final installation, Circular Text, on display at the Niagara Artists Centre from July 26 to Aug 3.

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