Art galleries are gradually opening their doors to art enthusiasts to quench their thirst for the physical experience of interacting with artworks although some art lovers are still enjoying the comfort of online browsing. In this Guided Tour, we visit Istanbul to discover its diverse art scene presented through its galleries.

Bozlu Art Project

The historical Mongeri House in Şişli is currently home to the Bozlu Art Project’s artistic events. The house is an important example of early Republican civil architecture and is currently hosting the Memory Palaces exhibit curated by Dr. Özlem İnay Erten.

Named after the “Memory Palace” technique used by Ancient Greek and Roman civilisations in order to visually recall information through spatial environments, the exhibit invites viewers to contemplate the life stories of Italian-born architect “Giulio Mongeri” and the “Mongeri House”, analysing the nature of the relationship between space and memory.

Curator Dr. Özlem İnay Erten explains that their aim in preparing this exhibit was to shed light on Giulio Mongeri’s life and the history of the Mongeri House with archival information and documents, therefore attempting to approach the notion of a “Memory Palace” – the exhibition’s main concept – from the perspective of contemporary artistic practices through Meliha Sözeri, Server Demirtaş and Evren Erol’s artwork.

Memory Palace, installation view. Courtesy of Bozlu Art Project.
Memory Palace, installation view. Courtesy of Bozlu Art Project.
Memory Palace, installation view. Courtesy of Bozlu Art Project.
Memory Palace, installation view. Courtesy of Bozlu Art Project.

The exhibition is on view until the 14th of August.

Galeri 77

Over at Karakoy, Galeri 77 is hosting Vav Hakobyan’s first solo exhibition in Istanbul titled Utopia Inside Out. Hakobyan merges illustrative figuration with deconstructive abstraction, as in his paintings in which all elements are equal. Instead of propaganda, manifesto and dogma, the artist believes in the power of art, not as a tool for representation but as an instrument for creative imagination and envision.

Vav Hakobyan’s current work is characterised by a spontaneous and impulsive use of colour and figuration. He alters the classic notion of balanced composition, symmetry, light position, prospect, history and balance of saturation to create alternative icons and unknown figures that do not have a past or a future in any existing reality. Through a dynamic and permanent change of forms, and a constant transformation of figures, the artist creates aesthetic diversities and extreme contrasts.

The artist’s paintings are aesthetically never easy to grasp. They resist fast consumption. Although discussing pressing topics like violence, madness, and other socio-political issues, the works are always open to various interpretations, as the artist does not impose any doctrine on the spectator. It is a great quality of his oeuvre that he refuses to formulate populist concepts or superficial criticism. Indeed, Hakobyan refers to socio-political incidents without overly controlling how they are perceived, so as to displace them from the hands of the audience. This is an important value which empowers the audience and invites spectators to participate in the decoding of the pieces. The paintings make the audience think for themselves.

Vav Hakobyan, Utopia Inside Out, installation view. Courtesy of Galeri-77
Vav Hakobyan, Utopia Inside Out, installation view. Courtesy of Galeri-77
Vav Hakobyan, Utopia Inside Out, installation view. Courtesy of Galeri-77
Vav Hakobyan, Utopia Inside Out, installation view. Courtesy of Galeri-77

The exhibition is on view until July 11th at Galeri 77’s space in Karakoy, Istanbul.

Pera Museum

Etel Adnan’s Impossible Homecoming exhibition at Pera Museum brings together 60 years of work by the artist and poet whose life spanned nearly a century. Curated by Serhan Ada and Simone Fattal, the exhibition reflects the rich identity of Etel Adnan who was born in Beirut in 1925 to a multilingual, multi-faith, and multi-cultural family and region. Never indifferent to the wars and political-social upheavals that beset her life, the artist uses writing and painting to create her works. The retrospective exhibition includes oil paintings, drawings, prints, ceramics, carpets, leporellos, and a film by the artist who “has mastered more than one medium.” Visitors can also listen to recorded interviews made with the artist at various points in her life. Etel Adnan opens up a rich area of discovery and interpretation for the audience with her seasons, landscapes, signs, imaginary planets and satellites in the sky, and impressive energy.

The daughter of a Syrian-Greek mother and an Ottoman officer born in Damascus, both of whom were isolated from their congregations because of their marriage, Etel Adnan has produced works that bear the traces of her roots. Co-curator of the exhibition “Impossible Homecoming” Serhan Ada points out that Etel Adnan’s identity has been shaped by migration, exile, and asylum and states that the exhibition is prepared with a holistic approach towards Adnan’s work.

Etel Adnan, Impossible Homecoming installation view at Pera Museum
Etel Adnan, Impossible Homecoming installation view at Pera Museum
Etel Adnan, Impossible Homecoming installation view at Pera Museum
Etel Adnan, Impossible Homecoming installation view at Pera Museum

The exhibition is on view until August 8th at Pera Museum.

Pi Artworks

Pi Artworks Istanbul showcases the works of artists Serdar Acar and Yilmaz Bulut in a duo exhibition titled Pink Hills and the Mule. The exhibition brings together works dealing with the concepts of death, mourning, anxiety and desire with different perspectives and approaches from each artist.

Serdar Acar, Pink Hills, 2021, acrylic on canvas, 110 x 90 cm
Serdar Acar, Pink Hills, 2021, acrylic on canvas, 110 x 90 cm. Courtesy of Pi Artworks

In his current series Death, Mourning and All Other Desires, Serdar Acar focuses on the last fifteen months he has spent at home during the pandemic. Acar reflects on anxiety, loss and desires he has experienced during this time through his new painting series. The artist transfers outdoor images, which he calls “symbols of the uncanny”, using soft colours and simple language. In most of his compositions there are surreal figures positioned at the foot of his pink mountains or on green plains, and sometimes on the edge of a lake. In the exhibition Pink Hills and the Mule, the viewer approaches the gallery space and faces 45 individual 20x30cm paintings grid a long side three large paintings.

Along side Acar’s paintings, there is a series of black and white drawings and sculptures of animal parts made from iron wires by Yilmaz Bulut. Yilmaz Bulut’s works present a narrative about the memory and human-nature. He carries out his works by considering the socio-political situations and processes of this togetherness with the conception of a human-animal. The artist creates within an approach including fragments of socio-political events, these fragments come together and form layers in his works similar to the structure of memory. He presents the events to the viewer in a part-whole relationship including a reminder of the events through the parts. Just as a memory leaves a trace in life, the artist displays the same reflex with the lines.

Yılmaz Bulut, Stones, 2021, pencil on paper, 70 x 100 cm
Yılmaz Bulut, Stones, 2021, pencil on paper, 70 x 100 cm. Courtesy of Pi Artworks

“Pınk Hılls And the Mule” is on view until September 10th at Pi Artworks.

SALT Galata

Deniz Gül, Klavuz [Plungr], 2016-2021, a page of a Turkish spelling guide marked with red pen. Courtesy the artist
Deniz Gül, Klavuz [Plungr], 2016-2021, a page of a Turkish spelling guide marked with red pen. Courtesy the artist
Speculating on the multifaceted nature of words and translation studies, artist Deniz Gül is interested in spoken and written language as an art form. The main elements of her practice—texts, sculptures, and installations—start with sound and focus on the reflection of words, objects, and actions, like the enactment of a feeling, an idea, or a coincidence. In her works in Scratch and Surface, the second exhibition of The Sequential program, Gül moves away from visual media, and uses words to oppose the definition of language as little more than a means of communication. “How is language practiced? How to monitor the involvement and effects of words in periods of economic, ecological and social crisis?” In the exhibition, presented across three floors of SALT Galata and online, she gives priority to sharing her interest in these questions with the visitors while aiming to develop new perspectives on established familiar relations with language.

For the artist, language is a fiction that is always being reconstructed; a geography in which boundaries are constantly negotiated. Defining the act of writing as an irregular playing field where words change and transform, in Klavuz [Plungr] (2016–2021), Gül scans a Turkish spelling guide line by line, making written interventions from connotations without any effort to reach an absolute meaning. Marked pages from Klavuz are on view at SALT Research on the ground floor.

Deniz Gül, Klavuz [Plungr], 2016-2021, installation view. Photo by Zeynep Fırat
Deniz Gül, Klavuz [Plungr], 2016-2021, installation view. Photo by Zeynep Fırat
Tavlamalar [Temperings] (2021) is composed of phrases that result from a word evoking, or best described by the artist as “tempering,” another. The sound recording on floor 1 resembles a poem.

Deniz Gül, Tavlamalar [Temperings], 2021, installation view. Photo by Zeynep Fırat
Deniz Gül, Tavlamalar [Temperings], 2021, installation view. Photo by Zeynep Fırat
Permeating the daily flow of the information screens at SALT Galata, Kartpostal [Postcard] (2017–2020) comprises snippets of film shot by Gül in various countries. These moving images, which consider the everyday and the mundane through the idea of a visual alphabet, are also a modest attempt to reinterpret the aesthetics of postcards—recalling representative images like habitual landscapes—in a digital environment.

Initiated during a series of workshops carried out by the artist and a group of participants as part of SALT’s Study Groups in October 2020, the anthology project Çeviri [Translation] will continue alongside the exhibition. Developing in three stages, the project focuses on scrutinising urgencies and ongoing debates in language, while deriving possible equivalents of numerous concepts in Turkish and making them widely accessible. The anthology consists of texts, artist talks, and lecture-performances under titles such as postcolonial theory, feminist and queer thinking, new materialism, technology and data use. An output of a joint intellectual production process by artists, curators, writers, and scholars invited by Gül, Çeviri is compiled on a website available for remote online viewing as well as having a dedicated site on the ground floor.

Featuring five independent exhibitions by Barış Doğrusöz, Deniz Gül, Volkan Aslan, Aykan Safoğlu, and the duo Fatma Belkıs & Onur Gökmen, The Sequential is programmed by Amira Akbıyıkoğlu and Farah Aksoy from SALT, and will take place at SALT Galata throughout 2021.

Deniz Gül, Kartpostal [Postcard], 2017-2020, a still from the video work. Courtesy the artist
Deniz Gül, Kartpostal [Postcard], 2017-2020, a still from the video work. Courtesy the artist
The Sequentıal II – Scratch and Surface is on view until July 4th at SALT Galata.

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