Textural porcelain fields hide curious creatures and other surprises in a stunning series of works by Turkish sculptor Melis Buyruk. “HABITAT” is a collection of large-scale floral ceramic sculptures in natural porcelain tones and 18 karat gold celebrating “the traditionally feminized discipline” of pottery with an artistic twist.

Each of these “habitats” are encased within wooden boxes, tempting viewers to step forward, look closely at each tiny detail, and fully immerse themselves in their individual worlds. The compositions are purposefully monochromatic to produce a disorienting camouflaged effect. Picking out the different natural patterns, some of which have been fictionalized, is like a game.

Occasionally, you may spot something altogether unexpected in these tableaus — like a human body part amidst the flowers, plants, and animals.

I began to engage with these organic forms after mediating on the relationship of humankind with nature, and our current inclination of irreversibly harming the environment,” says Buyruk. “As an alternative to this act of destroying, I wanted to create something new, and create spaces where all species live together without hierarchy. Therefore, my work is very much informed by Darwinian processes of evolution.”

“I feel the use of color, particularly when working with depictions of the natural world, dictates meaning. I like to avoid using descriptive elements such as color. I also prefer to encourage the spectator to immerse themselves into the work and get lost in the details, discovering something new with each viewing. Using color would separate forms more succinctly, and I am interested in non-hierarchical hybridity.”

The animals that can be found in the habitats include rodents, a pig, a bearded dragon, a hawk, and several other birds. There’s a reason the elements of each piece are so uniform, too, with nothing popping out of the field to dominate the others. The Istanbul-born artist says this choice reflects a desire to reject hierarchies within nature, including those involving humans.

I actually chose these animals on the basis of the fear that they biologically instill in humans. Certain animals pose a serious threat to human evolution, which has been engraved in our DNA. We find some animals uncomfortable or frightening because of their shape or color, causing us to negatively and incur a ‘flight’ response. I wanted to juxtapose our age-old, biologically rendered fear against our socially conditioned admiration for flowers, and position them together.”

Buyruk says the pandemic hasn’t affected her artistic practice, since she was able to merge her studio and home in a quiet residential area of Istanbul months before it hit. She’s trying to take advantage of this time to avoid distractions, channeling the urgency of this situation into her work. She hopes the shutdowns and quarantines will encourage people to listen to themselves, think about what kinds of activities they truly value, and continue to make room for these things in the future.

“HABITAT” recently wrapped up an exhibition at Leila Heller Gallery in Dubai, representing the first time Buyruk’s work has ever been seen in the United Arab Emirates, but you can view it in full online at the gallery’s official website. The artist is also a porcelain specialist at the Faculty of Fine Arts at Selçuk University in Turkey.