Different Spaces, Different Objects, Different People… Meet in Şebnem Altuntaş’s Shadows…

Once I saw her paintings I started to chase the shadows. Prolonged, shortened,colliding with each  another, shadows  that deform and alienate from their "owner"… They make you think about  so many things ! Thank you, Şebnem Altuntaş ! As a matter of fact I have always been  an enthusiastic  day – dreamer… Thanks to you I will possibly bump into the lamp posts  more often than before from now on … I never had much of concentration, but now I am definitely distracted by the shadows…

How long in fact  have you been stuck around to these shadows ?
I hope it  won’t be an exagerration if I say for many years on. In my childhood  I used to associate shadows  with many different things. A childish perception I would say…it’s different , as you know, as a child one has a vast imagination…it is a completely different perception and  cognition of the world. I used to observe the shadows formed by the light of the lamp post outside my window. I thought that shadows of trees reflected into my room were weird creatures and I was always very scared of them. That’s how I thought when I was a child. Now shadows form  one of the main elements that I transfer on canvas. As if  the shadows of people, animals, lamp posts would  get out of the canvas and plunge into real life in various  forms…  unperceivably dip into life.

What did you chase  the most ? Was that the light or the "owners" of the shadows ?
Shadows fall on same space, have same colour and look alike. They collide with each other, change, and deform their shapes. I chased almost everything starting from momently captured, prolonged shapes of  people and other things distinct from their real looks, the motion of life, the chaos of the city, people of various cultures, from cats to tram poles…and I don’t think I will stop chasing them. I will keep waiting fot the time,the moments, the ‘light’, that source of inspiration for  the artist that makes shadows meet their "owners". Also, I will pursue the "owners"  of shadows,  alienated one from another, ones that possess different characters and ways of thinking…


Shadows in your paintings outshine their "owners". Your paintings represent esthetic designs that capture the "moments"… How long have you been working on this series ?
There were some hints of shadows in my 10th solo exhibition in 2009.Those days I used to go to different quarters of Istanbul and tried to snapshot various images. And then I noticed that I had pointed my camera towards the ground and had shot the shadows of lamp posts, people, bus stop charts, the names of bus stops. First, I called this a travel notebook… Later I transfered few of these works on canvas. Various people in various places in the  same  city… I brought  together their shadows. I have been thinking on this project for few years. I have always wanted to do this. And then the time came and the series of Shadows is already here.

On what criteria did you classify the paintings into groups of two or three ? 

In fact, everything is so clear. The time we are living in is very tough, dynamic…We live fast and  consume fast. Bringing together the paintings  was not made by chance. It is an accord of pictorial contrast. Like cold-warm colours…big-small shadows… "Shadows" bring  various  people, spaces and cultures together within the frame of the rules of painting… They are bringing and keeping every person, every object together.

Do you exhibit your sculptures for the first time?

Yes, this is my first time… I have been longing for working in a field I had been fascinated by for many years back. I didn’t get any education on sculpture, though, but  I often used to visit my friends studying statuary during my school years… I had observed them working with clay in the sculpture workshop. Also, our professor Özer Kabaş had us make clay sculptures  according to a painting of an artist during our basic fine art lessons. Since then I have been fascinated by tridimensional  staff. My exhibition named "Shadows" is a good excuse for making and exhibiting sculptures.

What material did you use in your sculptures? What are their dimensions ? Are they also  shadow projections?

I used cuts of iron sheet 3 mm. thick. Primarily, I transferred the shadows on the canvas, secondly I conveyed them tridimensionally  on iron out of the canvas. The sculptures of the series of "Shadows" will be placed again individually or in groups of two looked at from a different points of view. Some of them will be placed on a base, others will stand on the floor in the space, among the visitors…

I am looking forward to seeing your exhibition. To ask my last classical question: How would you define  your Istanbul by your five senses?

My heart always beats strongly for İstanbul. Whenever I have felt like  giving up everything“ it has been the city that has gives me the desire to start  from scratch, the city where I get sad, joyous, the city that I love, where I am being loved and the city where I share my life… 

Tears come to my eyes whenever I cross the Bosphorus. When I leave this city I feel a sadness of a lover that has been separated from his beloved for a few days. Returning to my city revives me again.


Istanbul is my native city where I was born and where I gave birth, the city whose atmosphere, odour, the bridges, trams, bagel sellers, even the sweat smelling buses I love and I miss. It is mine. With it’s  magnificent silhouette of it’s windows that shine like gold on the sunset, with it’s lights and shadows it is mine. And I belong to it…

In his song  Ne me quitte pas!” Jacques Brel says to his love “Let me be the shadow of your dog, don’t leave me!” Whose shadow would you like to be ?
If only love were like it was described in songs… Especially if only there was a love like the one in the song you mentioned… Loving somebody means feeling the fear of being abandoned. I never felt something like that. On the other hand, as a matter of fact nothing in the world belongs to us! Sometimes you are being abandoned, some times you are the one that abandones. 

There is nothing like possessing something for a long time. That what is lasting is the process of creation,  the producing  and the ability of leaving a pleasent echo in the memory, a recollection of a nice smile.  If only we could manage to live with lots of tolerance without doing harm to the others, without egoism… I would like to live without stealing anyone’s time or without being anyone’s slave. But I would not like to be alone, too… Being with Istanbul, with my daughter, the loved ones, with my shadows…




Şebnem Altuntaş was born in 1968 in Istanbul. She entered  the University of Mimar Sinan, The Faculty of Fine Arts in 1986, getting her education at the workshops of Neşe Erdok and Adnan Çoker she graduated at 1990 with the best grading mark. 

Her education on lithography, engravings and serigraphy techniques have intensive reflections on her works.


During her post graduate studies tutored by Professor Devrim Erbil from the University of Mimar Sinan Institute of Social Sciences, the artist Altuntaş has prepared the thesis on "Forms of Reflection of Impressionism  on Turkish Painting and Their Local Stylisations". She has participated with her works on dozens of group exhibitions.

Şebnem Altuntaş is continuing her work at her atelier in Taksim. Her 7 th solo exhibition could be seen  on 12 - 27 July, 2012 at the Çukurcuma Artist Art Gallery in Istanbul.

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