Born in Bursa in 1966, Arkın Ilıcalı is known worldwide as Mercan Dede. After completing his masters degree on visual arts in Turkey and abroad, Ilıcalı has focused largely on sound and music in recent years. However, in recent years, he is resuming his old job, which he has always kept his interest in, and concentrates on the printing and multimedia branches of the visual arts.
His interest in photography started under guidence of Professor Kayhan Güven of İstanbul University, Faculty of Communication. This interest was intensified by his engagement with 'ebru', a traditional Turkish fine art branch, when he was the assistant of Professor Nur Taviloğlu at the Fine Arts Faculty of Istanbul University. Following, he suspended his journalism education to start anew for a Bachelor's degree in Fine Arts in Saskatchewan University. After completing his studies in printing department of the faculty led by Charles Ringnes, he moved to Montrel to continue with a Fine Arts Master within the Studio Arts program at the Concordia University. After 6 years of master studies at Concordia, he put an end to his academic work in printing techniques in order to be able to priotirise his music works. In 2001, he has been the only Turkish artist to be invited to the “Artist International Direct Support” project supported by Nelson Mandela and Dalai Lama. As a part of this project, his prints were collected in to a book together with other artists from various other countries.
In 2011, he exhibited 'Army of Lovers' at EKAVART Art Gallery and later at Ankara CER Modern. In 2012, together with Carlito Dalceggio, he used the whole 7th floor of Borusan Music House for a huge exhibition of 'Revolution Revelation'.
This exhibition welcomed more than 60.000 visitors. In 2015, he exhibited 'Ancient Time Machine' at EKAVART Gallery Istanbul and later at Büyük Efes Art Gallery in İzmir. These exhibitions were followed by the 'Enchanted Wheels' series which, by the artist's words, contains the notions such as transformation of life, changing of the human beings, spinning of the whirling dervishes and karma. Hosted by EKAVART, this series drew great interest of the art lovers.
After the sucess of his personal exhibitions, the artist continued his work and in 2019, he worked alongside the most prominent contemporary Turkish artists such as Devrim Erbil and Ergin İnan in 'Tribute to Leonardo', the group exhibition which commemorated the 500th anniversary of the death of Leonardo da Vinci. The same year he took on the design of the conceptual room of İstanbul Art Show, called 'Post Truth'.
By the end of 2020, the work he created in his studio in Canada during the pandemic days were exhibitied in Mona Gallery, one of the distinguished art galleries in Kuzguncuk, İstanbul. The works inspired by street art drew a huge attention.
And now, the artist launches the 'Mercan Dede Art House' project that brings together all his work up to date under one roof and offers his works in both original and FineArt print formats to all art lovers.