Ahead of her month-long exhibition at Ink Factory HQ, Defné Cetin had the chance to talk to us about her eclectic range of work, her pathway to becoming an artist, her unique visual style, and plenty more. Read the interview below to find out more about this artist we’re delighted to be showcasing, and make sure to pop by to check out her stuff in person from 3 Feb – 6 March.

Can you tell me a little bit about your background? How did you get interested in creating and selling your art?

I started to really draw when I entered university. During lectures, I got very bored, so I began drawing during classes. I brought ink pens, watercolours and I sat in the back of the class so that it wasn’t too obvious I wasn’t taking notes. Then it kinda grew on me, I was drawing more and more – on the métro on my way to university, in the corridors when we had breaks. 

I started to think about selling my art in Ireland, where I met people that were showing some interest in what I was doing.

Who or what is your biggest inspiration?

Concerning the subjects that I illustrate, I am mostly inspired by music – as you will be able to see during the exhibition. My favourite drawing-exercise is to “illustrate” the music. Either by focusing on the lyrics, or on the melody. In my head, some melodies imply specific movements, specific colours and shapes that I try to lay down on paper.
I also enjoy representing various feminine figures, for instance with my “Little Ladies Portrait” series, I try to celebrate the diversity of womankind. The portraits feature ladies with different skin colours, different hair types and colours – but all of them with three eyes!

Concerning the style, I think that I was mostly inspired by the environment I grew up in. On some drawings, you can get some oriental vibes. The patterns and colours that I use, the jewellery that my characters wear and the movements that my characters do are certainly coming from the fact that I’m half-Kurd (from Turkey) and that part of my family is Iranian. So I grew up seeing oriental art around me.

 One of my biggest visual inspirations is african art. I grew up in Kenya and Madagascar. My mother is a huge fan of african masks, wooden sculptures, fabrics, paintings and wax. I love the shapes that the bodies and faces can have. I love the colours and patterns that are used. So I guess I got inspired by these quite a lot.

How do you get your work out there?

That is actually quite complicated because I hardly know people in the art industry. According to friends, I am very bad at advertising and communicating on my art. When people show interest in my art, I tend to freak out a bit and to not seize opportunities that I actually regret not seizing some months after.

I mostly manage to show my work because friends advertise on my behalf, or because I get to meet lovely people that make me feel confident about my art. Which is the case with the people from The Ink Factory?

 Having two of my own drawings tattooed on my left arm also helps starting conversations about my works; it’s a great portfolio!

What’s the most enjoyable part of being an artist?

I would say that it is the freedom of expressing yourself through pens, inks, paints, clay, etc., and meeting interesting people. I was working on some window paintings in a Parisian bar, and it really was a nice thing to talk with the passersby – especially when they were kids. It’s great when your own creations can generate a discussion.

Do you travel between France and Ireland a lot? What do you think about Ireland?

The first time I travelled to Ireland was when I was 18. I wanted to travel to Ireland for a very long time – I never really knew why, but the country always appealed to me. So I managed to talk my parents into sending me to Dublin to a language school so that I could improve my English. Then I went back in Ireland a couple of times. I finally ended up doing my year of Erasmus exchange at UCC, and then did my MA in International Journalism at the DIT. After that, I travelled to Ireland again three or four times!
To me, it’s very close to a perfect country. I do not feel well when the temperature is above 26°C – so no danger with that there. I also love how people in Ireland can just be themselves. You can dress pretty much how you want to, people are more easy going and it is easier to go to shop owners in order to talk about your works. They actually take some time to listen to what you have to say – which is more complicated in Paris.

Your works have a sort of surreal feel to them (extra eyes!) – how did you come to create your artworks in this style? Are you particularly influenced by an artist or a movement in art?

When people ask me about the third eye, I never know what to answer. It kinda came up just like this. Three is my lucky number, I also use the third eye to break the symmetry of my characters’ face. I guess it also helps them to see better.

The surreal style is something that I am very attached to. While I admire the technique of the artists that are able to reproduce the “realness” of the world, it is an exercise that doesn’t interest me at all because of all the rules that I would have to apply.

When I draw, I enjoy not being constrained by proportion rules, I like adding one arm or two, not respecting any perspective rules or to put any colours that I feel like using. Most of the artists that I admire are graffiti artists, who use a lot of colours and create their own world. If you are curious about it and want to treat your eyes with some wonderful art, you should check out Dulk, Curiot, Inti, Kashink, Okuda, Seth, Mart Aire, Gleo, Os Gemeos, Dabs Myla and many more.

For your signature portrait works, are they based on real people or are they characters created entirely in your head?

At first I wanted to show some portraits at the Ink Factory, but then I changed my mind. The portraits that I generally do are not representing people in particular, they are completely created as I draw. For the “Little Ladies Portraits”, there is no draft, I draw them directly and hope that the result will be satisfying.

What works will you be exhibiting at The Ink Factory?

I will be showing some drawings especially made for this exhibition with amazing golden frames handmade by The Little Framing Company (Bristol, UK). All the works will illustrate a specific song, that I listen to on repeat until I finish the drawing. Some of the artists that inspired me so far come from very different musical scenes: Girl Band, JAIN and Franz Ferdinand are some of them.

Those new brooches look awesome! Can you tell me a little bit about them?

Thank you! I started to paint on big Plexiglas boards and realised that I could actually create some unique jewellery pieces with the same technique. I create the design, cut the shapes I need and paint everything by hand. All of the pieces are unique, and I sometimes create custom-made jewellery for my customers.

What are your plans for 2018?

I have no clue yet. I might try to do an exhibition in France in the suburban town where I used to live – Malakoff. My plan is to work on the same technique that I used for the “Monstropolitan” exhibition I did at the Bernard Shaw, that later moved in Paris: painting on a black and white picture.

I really just hope that I will be able to keep on with my doodles.

Finally, what’s the best advice you were ever given?

I always refused to go to an art school. I think it is a great way to learn artistic techniques and history, but I never wanted to be an art school product. I’m afraid that they might unconsciously format my way of creating things and I do not really understand how some art projects could be graded anyway.

But at some point I found myself hesitating and thought that maybe I shall go to an art school to get a diploma that would say “Hey, she can create stuff”. I talked about it with an artist that I admire, and to make it short, he told me to just keep on doing what I was doing and to believe in what I was doing. It re-motivated me, and I’m glad that I had this conversation with him because I re-focused on my work and managed to show my creations around and gained more confidence.

Defné Cetin’s newest work will be exhibited at The Ink Factory HQ, 15 Wellington Quay, Dublin from 3 February – 6 March

You can explore more of Defné’s awesome work and keep up to date by checking out her Etsy, Instagram and Facebook pages.

Words: Evan Musgrave