Turkish Delights

Whew! Five posts in five days. While that may not seem like much, I have trouble blogging monthly. It all began a week ago when Rachael Ashe told me that there are online challenges to blog every day for a month, so I decided to first see if I could even do five in a row. I'm proud that I've done five, and I think I'll sign up for one of those challenges sometime soon. I'd like to plan it out first, and work on a theme like "The Business of Art" or "Expressing your Creativity." Stay tuned for that.
And speaking of Rachael, she asked me, "When are you going to blog about your Turkey trip? I want to read about it!" So by request, here's the art I saw in Turkey:

I love going to Europe, and luckily Patrick’s obsession with all things Byzantine has already taken us to Venice three times. However Constantinople was the true Byzantine capital, so we finally went to Turkey this summer. I found Istanbul to be much more of a European city than I had expected: the narrow cobblestone streets, the vibrant café life, and the cultural diversity. Indeed, Istanbul has a geographic foot in both Europe and Asia, balancing neatly in the centre.

When we travel in Europe, we spend the first days exploring the must-see attractions, in this case: Aya Sophia, the Blue Mosque, the Dolmabahçe Palace, Topkapi Palace and Kariye Müzesi. All of these sites are magnificent in their own ways, and I was dazzled by the mosaics, the grand scale of the buildings, and most of all the strange evolution of many of these buildings in their conversions from Christianity to Islam, and then partially back again. As always I eventually begin to crave something bright and modern. At this point, I take over the itinerary and we head to the nearest modern art museum or exhibition, which happily every European city always has. 

In this case we went to the Istanbul ModernA former warehouse, right on the Bosphorus Strait, has been converted to an elegant art museum. The building has some great permanent art installations, like the suspended book ceiling on the lower floor and the chain link & bullet hole staircase. The exhibitions rotate, but there is an emphasis on modern Turkish artists, most of whom I was completely unfamiliar with. We saw a retrospective of Burhan Dogançay, who did a lot of paintings of urban walls, something I find very inspiring as well.
Usually when I visit a museum, there is one artwork I end up falling for, in this case it was Horrible Shark by American artist, Mark Bradford. From the first time I read about Bradford, I was very interested in his work because he uses an excavation process as I do. He uses found materials like the paper flyers torn from the walls of his neighbourhood or the perm papers from his mother’s beauty salon. I was not allowed to take photos at the Istanbul Modern, but I did find one online image of this painting. Unfortunately, I feel like the colours are not correct here, the pink was more vibrant and you don’t really get a sense of the depth of the work. The painting is huge and amazing, I could examine its details for hours.

Horrible Shark by Mark Bradford (Photo from the blog of Kileigh Hannah)

In addition to the Istanbul Modern, we went to some contemporary galleries along the main pedestrian mall, the Istiklal Caddesi. There was an amazing variety of work, and we particularly enjoyed the Erwin Wurm exhibition at Gallerist Tepebasi. Wurm is an Austrian artist who has a great sense of humour, and the small rooms with antique detailing set off his work beautifully.

Erwin Wurm at Galerist Tepebasi

The huge gallery building of  SALT Beyoglu was very impressive as well, a minimalist space full of cement and straight lines. We saw some interesting American photography there. One slightly disconcerting thing is that even the smallest galleries seem to have armed security guards. Security guards are more prevalent in Turkey in general, but having them in gallery spaces seemed to me to politicize the artwork in some way.

The lovely Misir Apartments building has been changed into a series of small galleries. The whole building has elegant architectural details and exploring it was a real adventure. We walked into one dishevelled gallery, where a middle-aged man dressed in a coverall sat in the middle of a trash-filled room. When I asked him if he was the artist, he barked something in Turkish and a hipster girl came running out to explain that he was only the locksmith. The show idea was that they were cutting gallery keys for anyone who wanted to come in and create art at any time. Since one of the hottest bars in the city is at the top of Misir Apartments, most of the art seemed to have been created in drunken stupor, but the idea was a brave one. Also in that building we saw these interesting paintings by a young artist who used faces taken from the newspapers for his subjects. Unfortunately I have lost my notes, but I will continue to search for his name.

Mystery portraits in the Misir Apartments

I love maximalism and there was one bravura exhibition which used colour, detail, and ornamentation to the max! Two artists, one Canadian and one Turkish, have created a multi-storey extravaganza of art. The show was called Revolution Revelation by Arkin (Mercan Dede) and Carlito Dalceggio, and I was able to take a number of photographs. The amount of work which went into the show was incredible and the whole experience was like a funhouse ride at the fair. You kept going up flights of stairs and finding more craziness. Rather than explain the complexities of this show, here's a visual smorgasbord for you:

The studio where it all gets created.