Trees sway in the breeze outside a partially torn-away wall in Hatice Akyüz’s video installation “Holiday Room,” named for the pictorial themes of the colourful cartoon wallpaper clinging to the damaged structure.

“This image of a child’s room, a place of safety, half-destroyed and open to the outside, creates a sense of insecurity,” said Tuba Kocakaya, artistic director of the Mamut Art Project, where Akyüz’s work was on display this past week in Istanbul.

Unease, loneliness, isolation and self-questioning – along with glimpses of resilience and re-creation – were among the common themes of what Kocakaya called a very “introverted, autobiographical” edition of the annual fair, reflecting the mood in a country that has been undergoing political and social upheaval.

Now in its sixth edition, Mamut spotlights emerging artists from around Turkey. This year, 50 artists were selected from 1,000 applications to show at the fair, which was held from 26 to 29 April at Küçükçiftlik Park. Their 400 works on display ran the gamut from Ayşegül Altunok’s spare sculptures that use light to create form out of voids to Su Çizgen’s intricately detailed drawings of animals, their lives narrated in comic-book style.

The Mamut Art Project also featured a performance art series, this year aptly titled “Immaterial?” Notably, performance works presented during the fair were offered for the first time in Turkey as collectible items through the sale of their re-performance rights. “Performances are often used as a side event, as a way to draw audiences, but here at Mamut they have become an integral part of the fair,” said Simge Burhanoğlu, co-curator of Mamut Performances.

Among the paintings, sculpture, photography, collage, textile art, video and works in other mediums on display, most were intimate and small-scale, drawing the visitor in close to absorb their details. In Begüm Mütevellioğlu’s drawings, the organic forms of “resurrection plants” – species that can withstand years of drought – emerge from black backgrounds, while İbrahim Ahmet Derindere’s photos pull single or small groups of sheep out from a large herd, forcing the viewer to consider their individuality. The same could be said overall for a show in which each artist’s thoughts, dreams, fears and memories seemed to be laid bare through their work, each a distinct vision bound by common themes.

Featured image: Görkem Usta, Mamut Art Project 2018, fotoğraf photo by Emir Uzun.