Diana Page: “In Istanbul, I am particularly interested in the peculiar and unlikely beauty of the city.”

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Where do you come from Diana?

South Africa, the harbor city of  Cape Town was my home until we moved to Istanbul nearly six years ago, but I grew up in a small town in the semi–desert region of the Eastern Cape called Grahamstown.

You come from far away ! Why and when did you choose İstanbul to come and live with your family?

We came with a sense of adventure; our son, Tem was five at the time, and we really wanted to experience living in another country. Turkey presented an exciting and unknown opportunity for all of us. As a painter of cities I was thrilled by the prospect of living in Istanbul, a city with vast layers of history, and also like Cape Town a city on the water, a city of passage and journey.

How would you describe yourself?

A keenly focussed dreamer.

What is interesting to you about Turkish people?

It is an amazingly diverse society,so as soon as you make a generalization it’s sure to be contradicted by something that happens at the next moment. I really appreciate the friendliness and warmth I experience on a daily basis. I love all the small shops and services and the people who run them, that haven’t yet been completely swamped by the monoculture of large cities.

You are a painter. Can you describe your work? Which influences?
I have been exploring cities as a painter for nearly two decades. My paintings are a poetic interpretation of the city I live in but they also draw on memories and reflections, and I hope, provide a thoughtful testimony on the city. In Istanbul, I am particularly interested in the peculiar and unlikely beauty of the city. Not the grand and obvious beauty of its monuments, but rather the strange and unlikely beauty of a half built construction emerging above the Bosphorus, or a container ship spun from its mists. It all starts in my countless drawing books where I forge the visual language of my paintings.
“Wave” Oil on canvas, 120 x 120 cm.
Are you involved in other things than painting?

I also work in performance and video, which unlike the solitude of the studio, is all about creating connections, especially with other artists, and performers. This took me back to Cape Town recently, where I staged a performance as part of a public arts festival “Infecting the city”  bringing together a contemporary dervish dancer, Ziya Azazi from Antioch with two singers, and a poet from South Africa and USA. This was the third in a trilogy of Rooftop performances for “Women’s Voices” that all started in Galata, Istanbul with the performance piece and video “Kadının Sesleri” I was exploring the city of Istanbul and really liked the idea of bringing women’s voices into the richly resonant sound space of Istanbul. On the strength of “Kadının Sesleri” I was invited by Axis Gallery to workshop a similar rooftop piece in Redhook, Brooklyn, New York City. This year I completed the trilogy with the performance in South Africa.

What is according to you the aim of art?

Art proposes an inquiry into the world; it presents new ways of seeing, and experiencing our everyday reality. It reminds us of wonder and mystery, it challenges our preconceptions and nourishes the soul.

Is art necessary for  the education of children? Why?

Art is an essential component of the school curriculum. In that it teaches children to appreciate different points of view, and to explore new ways of seeing the world, it fosters a more tolerant and humane society.

What are the places you like to be in Istanbul and that also might influence your painting ?

Absolutely everything!  But my walk to my studio on the Bosphorus is always special. Watching the ships coming and going from the Black Sea and then so many places to treat oneself visually, the Archeology Museum, the Chora Church, a wander through the area around Rüstem Paşa and of course Rüstem Paşa itself. But I like to get a bit lost in the city, always discovering new places and people.

Are there any turkish artists that inspired you or that you admire?

I love the work of Antonio Cosentino and I was excited to discover the Hafriyat group. Burcu Perçin is a young painter I admire. It is interesting to compare these artists’ explorations of Istanbul with my own. Hale Tenger is a conceptually orientated artist whose work I really enjoy.

How would you describe Istanbul with your five senses? As a smell, a view, a touch, a flavour and a sound?

I find these very difficult to separate…the senses all influence and impact on one another. But Istanbul is velvet, honey, concrete, fish, metal and flowers!

Do you have an exhibition/project coming next?

I am excited to be taking the work I have done in Istanbul back to South Africa for a solo exhibition.  I am currently editing all the footage of the voice performances into a short film.

Any other thing you want to ad?
Yes my website!  www.dianapage.co.za where you can also find my blog.
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