A Cultural Journal

    SELF-PORTRAIT IN ISTANBUL

    Written by: Alia Bilgrami - Posted on: December 31, 2012 | Post your comment here Comments | 中国 (Chinese)

    Google Translation: اُردو | 中文

    SELF-PORTRAIT IN ISTANBUL

    In my previous blog I had mentioned that there was a second show in Istanbul that caught my interest when I was visiting a few months ago. Once again, the work stood out and the underlying concept was preconceived by the gallery and executed by the participating artists. The exhibit ‘Self-portrait’ at .artSümer opened the season with an edgy twist, fully exploring the topic at hand.  It was less thought-provoking in a wider context than the exhibit at Egeran Galeri called ‘Minor Truths’ and more of a personal journey for each artist. As the title of the exhibit implies, the work centred round self-portraiture and each artist responded to the concept with their own set of experiences very much at the forefront of the work or at least subconsciously present.

    Untitled (left) & Untitled (right), 2012 oil on canvas,
    25(r) cm (2 pieces) By Zeynep Beler

    As you may imagine, it was an interesting experience to say the least. Self-portraiture is probably one of the hardest topics to deal with for an artist not only in terms of how they represent themselves in the art itself but also in terms of ensuring that such a personal endeavour is engaging enough for viewers and critics who may or may not be able to relate to the work. Furthermore, an artist, by putting himself or herself ‘out there’ is already constantly vulnerable and to put on display a very intimate piece of art or series of work could potentially be even more nerve-wracking! Self-portraits have been explored throughout art history and to come up with an ingenious approach is exceedingly difficult and challenging.

    The staff at .artSümer was kind enough to give me a ‘sneak peek’ before their first show of the season opened as I was leaving Istanbul the next day. I was not able to see all the work that went on display but was nonetheless given a long tour of the work that had already been installed. The idea was to have a group exhibition of all the artists that the gallery officially represents as well as to welcome the new artists that .artSümer has taken on recently. Collectively, the artists seemed to work well together in the space that first opened in 2005.
    Self-portrait, 2011, Stitching and mixed media on fabric, 34 x 51 cm, By Merve ustunalp

    The twelve artists in the show chose to approach the subject in ways that were equally engaging but it was Merve Üstünalp’s work titled ‘self-portrait’ and ‘id photos’ that really left a long-lasting impression, both visually as well as in terms of the sentiment behind the series. Throughout her childhood she had moved from place to place because of her father’s job. This feeling of displacement and subsequent self-alienation was graphically rendered in colourful collages made of fabric and embroidery, referencing id photographs of her that had been taken in various studios. She looked different in each one of them and perhaps this transformation added to her sense of self-alienation.

    There was something haunting yet compelling about Serra Behar’s installation that not only had the qualities of both three and two dimensional works but also contained a performative element in its process. In ‘the me in the mirror, the you in me’ she asked people who are close to her to collaborate with her physically in the act of making art. The work was also a testament to the communication and interaction between the artist and her spectators. Using the plaster moulding technique, the artist had a series of self-portraits made of her by people who she is closest to. The work was displayed together as one and although each visage was obviously similar, the difference in the expressions and the skill in the craftsmanship differentiated one piece from the next. The last oval mount had been left empty. This left the viewer wondering why this was the case. Perhaps that empty space had been left for more self-portraits to be made by new people who the artist would encounter later on in life, who will add to her experiences and create new memories.
    The Me in the Mirror, The You in Me, 2012, mixed media, 36x26 cm each (8 pieces), By Serra Behar
    Oto-colonial, 2012, 70x53.3 cm, By Tayfun Serttas

    The highly sensational contribution by Tayfun Serttas added some sizzle to the exhibit.  Serttas juxtaposes himself into a setting that he contrived in a corner of his home. The composition brought to mind classic studio mise en scenes. ‘Oto-colonial’ was a bold piece of art that questioned the historical interface between the daily life cycle and artistic applications, in a satirical way. Positioning his own portrait in place of the deer’s head in Osep Minasoglu’s photograph, he echoed the original photograph by holding a set of antlers, another symbol of power or triumph.

    The other artists in the show included Zeynep Beler, Fulya Çetin, Gökçe Er, Damla Faro, Burcu Gökçek, Onur Gülfidan, Gözde Ilkin, Emel Kurhan and Basim Magdy.

    Click to view picture gallery

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