In the last year, multiple solo show debuts in Turkey have appeared at The Pill featuring Francophone artists from abroad whose art makes direct social proclamations about the legacy of Eurocentric racism and other criticisms of art history. Raphael Barontini drew from his Caribbean roots to rephrase the visual vocabulary of white male portraiture, replacing its effrontery with the upright gaze of African profiles and diaspora motifs.
Apolonia Sokol quoted European painters Ferdinand Holler and Henry Fuseli, reanimating classical oil painting with the vivacity of her youthful inspiration to join bodies with the prevailing multiethnic mix. Also pertinent is Soufiane Ababri, who has intrigued by using Anatolian wrestling as a metaphor for male domination, which crept into his singular approach to drawing as fine art, a trail that he has blazed despite academia and placed into the hands of daring collectors.
The paintings of Mireille Blanc take a step back from immediate social import. They are, like the urban geography of The Pill, more removed from the politics of art history. Blanc revises the act of seeing entirely. Like a philosophical conversation over wine, her paintings soften the focus of discrimination. Hers is a light touch, as beautiful as it is bewitching. With the finesse of uncontrived persuasion as natural as the change of seasons, "Spring" sublimates objectivity by reintroducing imagination into the act of identification, be it of a person, a thing or both.
The pigments of her figments
The quality of color in the paint of Mireille Blanc is appetizing. Her raw, visceral palette is edible to the eye, toward a rediscovery of the homophonic etymology of palate. In one of her more vibrant works, the abstract and the figurative coexist. A spinning top of a white-hemmed, crimson ball gown is backgrounded by a snowy cloud of grays. And where the elegant, fictive dress would begin to assume a human form, she swathes a lucid chorus of blues, yellows and greens with uninhibited brushstrokes.
Tastefully indulgent in milky hues and dappled textures, Blanc teases abstraction from representation, and vice versa. Many of her paintings for "Spring" are figurative. The tricolored sweater and buttoned overalls of a child are framed from chin to chest, slicing the depiction off with the tiniest sliver of red at the lower lip. A liberal dousing of spattered white adds a metafictional twist to her magical realism. The sense of sight is the travel partner of illusion.
Mireille Blanc, "Spring" at The Pill.
One of her more accomplished, large-scale works looks down at a tangled bunch of grapes balancing on the leg of a lone sitter whose paint-stained, ribbed pants scream autobiographical. The play of silhouetted fruit contrasts with the beams of bleached light that shoot across their skin and beneath the faceless figure. She also did not picture the face a dreadlocked figure seated in a wooden chair, but held a most unique perspective that is at once completely familiar. In her approximation to human portraiture, Blanc blurs distinctions between the outsider and insider with a sincere, precious sentiment. Her eccentric compositions have the ability to convey emotions of solitude, heightened by the contrasts of living in an age of total connectivity. An individual can feel like a complete stranger, even to themselves in private. Artists empathize because they work from the behind the curtains of consciousness.
On the edge of the art map
Seyrantepe is a hike from the center of Istanbul, especially for art-goers who have ample opportunity to enjoy aesthetic and conceptual saturation in Beyoğlu, where most galleries and museums are located nearer to the shimmering turquoise of the Bosporus. But the young, emerging curator Melike Bayık has given cause for urban explorers to descend through the subterranean corridors of the metro system and rise on Thracian ground.
ADAS (Architecture Design Art Space) is the destination point. The sleek establishment is essentially hidden within a hive of side streets in a post-industrial, working-class neighborhood. But its stylized storefront is fit for uptown culture. And inside, the collection and its curation is impressive. Bayık studied in the arts management department at Yeditepe University. Her thesis was on public space in Turkey and curatorial projects. She is inspired by the ideas of Michel Foucault, and draws from her experience of working with Marcus Graf as his associate curator for nearly 6 years.
Bayık has prepared a relevant show in dialogue with contemporary trends in the rarefied world of Turkish art and its history. ADAS, and The Pill are peculiarly equipped to redraw the relationship between residential and cultural space in Istanbul, broadening and cultivating the standards and demographics of art appreciation. Whereas the richly unique colors and angles in the paintings of Blanc might transcend favoritism of either abstraction or representation as mutually exclusive, the group show by Bayık, titled "Standart," decentralizes Istanbul's art world into unconventional public spaces.
"Standart" is the first show that Bayık curated. ADAS is run by collector Ömer Özyürek, whose proletarian egalitarianism is evident. He can be seen at openings carrying rubbish out to the street in between bursts of hobnobbing. The modest persona of Özyürek and the works at "Standart" maintain a certain subtle continuity. The mixed media painter İhsan Oturmak dramatized the emotional uniformity of schoolchildren with his canvas, "Innovation II" (2013). Oturmak contrasts darker and lighter hues to bring out the enigmatic gloom of childhood under the provincial contexts of obedience and authority. His palette accents darkness where Blanc's work turned pale. "Innovation II" adapts the downcast stoicism of girls and boys posing for an official class photograph in Ankara. In likeminded fashion, the draftsman Yuşa Yalçıntaş reflects on his trial of uniformed primary education in Turkey's heartlands.
"Audition" (2019) by Yalçıntaş is on display near the entrance to ADAS for "Standart." He is an artist in the vein of visionary surrealism, engaging with the image-languages of exotic cultures as diverse as Kabbalah and shamanism. Yet, he has a precocious understanding for the inherent dimension of archaic wisdom in human psychology. He conveys Jungian visualizations through meticulous drawings that relay creative narratives and storyboards of dream logic, single-page graphic novels illuminating Freud's title concept, "Civilization and Its Discontents" (1930).
The two-level exhibition space at ADAS turns upward to reveal examples of post-literate textual criticism in contemporary Turkish visual art. The installation, "Self Defence" (2015), and a fine art print, "Constitutive Lines" (2015) by the Frankfurt-based artist duo Özlem Günyol and Mustafa Kunt blend for a stiff tonic with the video installation, "I Love You 301" by Ferhat Özgur.
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