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Interview with Art Therapy Practitioner Belma Bozkurt

We talked with the painter and expressive art therapy coach Belma Bozkurt about art therapy.

Can you tell us a little about yourself and your work?

I am Belma Bozkurt, a Certified Art Therapy Practitioner and a CTI Co-active certified coach. My artistic journey takes the form of expressionist abstract art, where I explore the realms of emotions and the human experience. Beyond my role as an artist, I am dedicated to community service as an expressionist art therapy coach on a voluntary basis.

My work has been showcased at both international and national art fairs and exhibitions, marking moments of connection and reflection. Notably, my art was featured in a special exhibition commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum in Japan. In May 2023, I presented sixty of my artworks in a solo exhibition titled ‘Shade of Branches’.

In my artistic practice, I intertwine mindfulness techniques with the exploration of human connections in the modern world. My philosophy toward art is encapsulated in the belief that “Perfect is not a way to be reached; the original and authentic form a very enjoyable journey in the moment.” Through my work, I aim to offer the audience an experience of spiritual awe, immersing them in the timeless atmosphere I create.

What do you reflect in contemporary art?

When I stand face to face with the canvas, it’s just me and my thoughts, and in that moment, I am alone with the canvas. For me, being free means being original. Expressing myself without boundaries, and laying it all out on the canvas with my original thoughts is significant to me. In contemporary art, we also reflect the era. As an artist passing through this contemporary period, sending this message of love to the future is meaningful for me.

What nourishes you in the creative process?

I feel a great curiosity and courage to confront my emotions and delve into the depths of exploration. My awareness, curiosities, the beyond of the unseen, and a mindful moment may inspire me. It excites me when people can feel that moment by looking at my paintings.

Can you tell us a bit about your personal exhibition, “Shade of Branches,” which received positive responses?

From April 27th to May 3rd, I presented my three years of work with 60 pieces at the Caddebostan Cultural Center. I embarked on this journey with the idea that we are all branches of a tree. I believe that unity and togetherness are crucial, especially in challenging times. Using techniques from art therapy, I reflected on situations I became aware of in myself, inspired by a cherry tree hanging outside my room from my childhood. I conveyed different emotional themes within the context of our modern life to the audience. I think the branches reflect my own existence, portraying a life filled with satisfaction, value, and meaning, akin to a life enriched by birds. The feedback I received highlights that the intense emotions captured in the pieces are effectively conveyed to the art enthusiast, emphasizing the uniqueness and authenticity of the works. Personal growth and analysis are a lifelong pursuit tailored just for me. I am excited to continue walking this path as long as life permits.

You are also an art therapy practitioner. Can you explain what art therapy is?

Art therapists are typically psychologists or psychiatrists with a keen interest in art, while art therapy practitioners are individuals who provide support in non-pathological situations or in settings that serve psychologists and psychiatrists. For example, art therapy practitioners can offer support to children of divorced parents, children with asthma, or individuals going through the process of divorce or dealing with chronic illnesses.

I am both an art therapy practitioner and an artist with a focus on painting. Art therapy is defined as the “regression of the ego,” a return to a problematic period, a regressive state. It involves delving into an era of pain, trauma, or loss that we have covered up. My mentor, from whom I received my training, describes it beautifully as being like items taken out of a box. Through art therapy, we open the lid of the box, and elements from the past are revealed.

Art therapy can be conducted on a one-on-one basis or, preferably, in group settings. We use art as a tool, and in art therapy practice, literature, painting, poetry, music, and drama can all be utilized. The choice of the appropriate method depends on the individual or the group therapy topic. Different tools may be used for different subjects. For instance, if you are trying to differentiate a subject you are undecided about, you might use rhythm techniques to find the right choice. If you are working on boundaries, you can create a picture with a matched participant on the same paper, discussing the experience depicted in the artwork to identify distinctions.

Belma Bozkurt

How is art therapy applied?

First and foremost, you use the tools of art—paints, pencils, perhaps handicraft materials, and even writing. A subject that you find difficult to express verbally begins to visually unfold through the practice of art therapy. Once it is laid out, when a person is faced with it, accepting it, discussing it, and realizing it becomes much easier. Psychiatrists and psychologists can also use this method if they choose to, and there are significant figures in Turkey who use it. It must be applied by capable hands.

Can you provide an example of the application?

If we need to give an example, six individuals are sitting with me. I am moderating the session. Each person identifies a dilemma they are facing, for instance, “Should I choose this job or that one?” Everyone disperses into the room and individually works on their rhythm tailored to the two questions in their minds. A rhythm pattern is established for each response, and we encourage them to play that rhythm while answering the question. This helps them find the answer that resonates with them and understand why. The person leaves with a newfound awareness. While this might be done in a one-on-one therapy session with a psychiatrist, as an art therapy practitioner, it is meaningful to know where to draw the line and prioritize healing without causing harm. In my practice, since I am also a co-active coach, I approach art therapy as expressive coaching. I continuously update my practice with the training I receive.

Selma Bozkurt

What are your plans for the future?

I aspire to not only exhibit my work in Turkey but also on a global scale. I’ve particularly observed a significant interest in art among children and young people at exhibitions and fairs. As young artists, especially those talented individuals immersed in the new global world, we should strive to advance the artistic vision in Turkey. Through voluntary initiatives in high schools and universities, we should collectively work on enhancing the love for art, the perspective on art, and the mindset of collecting art among the youth. Perhaps, in the future, significant collectors should pioneer as artists who successfully represent Turkey globally.



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