Anna Schwarz is an Austrian interdisciplinary artist and sculptor. She holds two Master’s degrees, one Master of Fine Arts from the Academy of fine arts Vienna and another Master’s in Fashion Design from the University of Applied arts Vienna. Schwarz is currently in Istanbul for a 3-month stay as part of the Austrian International Residency Program of the Federal Ministry of Arts, Culture, Public Service, and Sports.
Balak graduated from Anadolu University, Faculty of Communication Sciences. She develops her artworks, mainly drawings, paintings, and videos, in her studio located in Heybeliada, Istanbul.
How Schwarz and Balak met?
Schwarz discovered the story of Balak when she read an article in the Austrian newspaper “Der Standard” about how the Austrian police violently scratched Balak’s face on her passport.
The artist Balak who was supposed to start her Master’s degree at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna, had all her plans canceled by a visa refusal. Schwarz, touched by the story she had just read, contacted Balak and offered her help.
They met in person for the first time this July, at the beginning of Schwarz‘s residency in Istanbul.
What are they preparing for the Mahalla Festival?
This subject is personally linked to the two artists but in different ways. Schwarz and Balak share similar artistic interests. Together they are reflecting on “how the unseen, unsaid, and forgotten are part of an obstacle to furthering narratives.”
For Balak, many things will remain unsaid and unseen as she was not allowed to be part of Vienna’s life. Scratching her face on her passport is also a way to make her unseen.
Schwarz feels the same way about her father, who died when she was seven years old and seemed forgotten. He was a graphic designer, photographer, and sculptor, and there were things they didn’t get to do together.
Their artwork for the festival is named “In Between Things – Unpredictable Emotions“.
The venue of the Festival, Kurtulus Greek school, is also a meaningful place. It is a school with no children because it closed due to a lack of Greek community. But it’s like the story continues because the school is still here. We can consider that the duett (Schwarz/Balak) “didn’t find the topic of their artwork, but it’s the topic that found them.”
The two artists have shared artistic skills, such as painting, so they are preparing four canvases for the festival. They will work with painting, drawing, and a mix of collage. For this purpose, Balak and Schwarz will use local materials bought in different Istanbul areas. The two artists like collecting all sorts of things to give them new meanings. They walk the streets of Istanbul searching for objects, materials, and fabrics. Together they visit the markets, the bazaars, and the stores.
If you are enthusiastic about seeing this presentation, we will be pleased to welcome you at the Mahalla Festival between the 1st and 10th of September 2022 at the former Greek School in the Kurtuluş district on the European site of Istanbul.
The Austrian Cultural Forum Istanbul will support the two artists’ presentations.