Born in 1955 in Istanbul, Canan Tolon never studied visual arts academically. She studied philosophy, design, interior design, and architecture in cities around the world, including Edinburgh, Trier, London, and Berkeley. Thanks to this training, she treats architecture as a starting point, frequently using perspectives and multiple vanishing points to explore nature, culture, habitats, industry, and human behaviors.
Canan Tolon deals with such themes as environmental insensitivity and the loss, impairment, and corruption of nature by culture. She uses a variety of media ranging from painting to installation, problematizing the human struggle with nature, culture, life and death. She investigates the cycles of nature and how art may be sustained in other areas of life through the use of such natural materials and processes as straw, grass and rust. The natural materials that she chooses to use in her paintings and arrangements are already beginning to decay, so the completed work is determined entirely by the natural transformations of these materials. In her most recent paintings Tolon emphasizes the values that we have torn down and thrown away through her depictions of abandoned and barren scenes of vast, desolate terrains and battlefields, reeking of death.
In her 2011 series “Reflex”, she explores her artistic concerns via the human body. The references the title makes are like the raw material of the work: stimuli from without, uncontrollable reactions, and ineluctable consequences. As in works in which she studies the dichotomies of nature – culture and life in contrast to death – she explores the idea of the cycle in this series as well. Tolon examines the marks that take shape in the memory when we frequently repeat a specific pattern or reaction. Memory creates a perpetual motion between infinity and reality.
Oil on board
Istanbul Museum of Modern Art Collection