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Monthly Archives: July 2023

La Maison de Barbara: An artist residency in Turkey

I was fortunate to undertake an Artist Residency (AIR) in Ayvalik Turkey at La Maison de Barbara, from 15 June until 15 July 2023.


Serif Kaynar, an art lover, and collector established the residency, in Ayvalik, where his family had lived since the early 1920’s. Constructed on the site of an 1860 tannery, the residency is purpose built to accommodate artists and maintains the original tannery vats under a glass floor.

Serif’s infatuation with French singer and songwriter known as ‘Barbara’ inspired him to dedicate the residency to her. He states that Barbara, “An outstanding talent who inspired me throughout my life.”

The program started in 2016, I am artist number 33 to be hosted at Barbara House. I felt privileged to undertake the program for one month, as generally it is planned for artists to spend between 5 to 16 weeks in residence.

The exchange for the residency is that each artist contributes two artworks to the La Maison de Barbara collection. Currently plans are underway to convert a disused building, in Ayvalik, into a museum to house the Barbara collection. I understand the plan is for it to open in 2025.

Over a period of some twenty years, I have undertaken a wide range of residencies Australia and internationally. Artist residencies vary considerably. If you are thinking of an AIR, look at Res Artis to gain an insight to the variations: https://resartis.org

In 2014 I wrote an article on what I thought constitutes a great and satisfying residency. Having just found it on file, it was written whilst in residence at Montsalvat, Eltham. I confirm what I wrote nine years ago, here are some extracts:

“I enjoy the excitement of the unknown. I do not know what artwork I will make until I am on site, so my application proposals are always written broadly to allow for decisions during the residency.”

“A great residency for me is one that challenges and inspires me to create new works. A great residency makes me think about the site, my relationship with that site and how I will interact with it.”

“A satisfying residency should allow an artist the freedom to develop, create and present the resulting artwork even if incomplete.”

“AIR is an appropriate anagram for often starting a residency has the sense of air; nothing is solid, decided, consolidated, or yet thought out. “

“A great and satisfying residency is one where the artist needs only think of his/herself and his/her developing artwork. It is a residency where life outside of these two things is a world away.”

On the morning of June 15, I boarded a ferry at Mitilini (Mytilene) Lesbos traveling about one hour to the port terminal at Ayvalik. I had received an extensive list of information and contacts to assist me upon my arrival. However, I was met at the ferry by Ingrid and Haluk Aysu who accompanied me on a bus to Old Ayvalik and the residency.

Ingrid, an Australian is the sister to Karen, a friend from Beijing. The world starts to shrink with connections at this point. Ingrid, lives in Ayvalik, told Karen about the residency, who in turn introduced me to the website. Having closed my studio in Beijing the Barbara Residency looked inviting for the future. We all know about 2020 etc and non-travel.

I had booked a walking tour in 2020 in Corsica, with Zeste French Tours that had to be cancelled. I was thrilled that it was to take place in 2023.


Taking a chance, I contacted Barbara Residency to ask about the opportunity to undertake a residency that would coincide with being in Europe. Due to time restraints, I asked if it was possible to be in residence for one month, which is outside of their program criteria. It always pays to ask, you can only be told no.

After sending my proposal, website contact, a series of artwork images and resume, I received an email on 8 October 2022 advising: “We can accommodate you in Ayvalik at La Maison de Barbara from June 15 for 4 weeks in year 2023.  Can you kindly make your plans and advise us with your final decision.”

I am the first Australian artist to be in residence at Barbara House and am now ‘officially’ an ambassador for the residency. Serif rang on the second day of my stay to welcome me, he came to Ayvalik, from Istanbul on July 1 and we enjoyed dinner with Ingrid and Haluk that weekend. He visited the studio and studiously discussed the sixteen artworks that I had on display for him. Two artworks I made are specifically related to Barbara House, the singer Barbara, and the unique location of the property. Serif asked me to select two works for the collection, in which I responded asking him to select the two works that he wanted for the collection. The four artworks were photographed, wrapped, and taken with him for framing in Istanbul. Two days later I was invited to the family home in Ayvalik where I met Serif’s sister Oyo, nieces, and close friends. My artworks and catalogues were on display and shown to the group.

On July 13 Barbara House was open to visitors to view the finished artwork and other pieces created during the residency. People were helpful and Janet contacted locals to announce the event. Janet, from New Zealand, has lived in Turkey for some thirty years. She and her husband, Ramusan, moved to Ayvalik in 2022 after renovating their very quaint house that they had rented out for twenty plus years. They and Haluk were full of information on Istanbul, where I headed on July 15.

This article does not go into the day-to-day details of my residency; however, it shows the generosity of the people around me and how comfortable I felt in the environment.

On July 14, packing up day, Serif contacted me with a party invitation at his house in Istanbul on July 15.  I was pleased that I booked an early bus and after a seven-hour journey arriving at my hotel in time to shower, rest a little and get into party mode.

Again, I met Oyo, family and friends and was introduced as the most recent artist in residence.

The party was in honour of birthdays, friends who travelled from afar and a farewell to me.