At its very core, art holds no judgment and addresses everyone through a form of nonverbal communication. For this reason, it should be accessible to all walks of life. The event Step Istanbul, with the motto "art should be a part of everyone’s life," was held jointly by Contemporary Istanbul and Tomtom Designhood last year for the first time.
It appeared as an art event presenting works of hundreds of different contemporary artists. While guests took in the welcoming, relaxing atmosphere of the event, they also got a chance to purchase art that addressed all tastes and budgets.
Step Istanbul sustains its mission of contributing accessible art this year, taking place at Taksim 360 Project’s building in the Beyoğlu district on Nov. 18-22. As an opportunity to explore art, the event brings together young and dynamic galleries, art initiatives and artist collectives once again.
At the entrance of the event area, pioneering contemporary art gallery Anna Laudel showcases a thoughtfully curated exhibition with brand new or recent works of the artists. The artists presenting their pieces at the event are Özlem Can, Ramazan Can, Tuğçe Diri, B. Hakan Karakaya, Ekin Su Koç, Mehmet Sinan Kuran, Serkan Küçüközcü, Ardan Özmenoğlu, Halil Vurucuoğlu and Sarp Kerem Yavuz.
Collage works by Koç, created with daily magazines, lace and various other materials, first catch visitors' eyes. Deriving inspiration from nature and human psychology, the collages transform into a body with flowers or animals. While they become life itself in this way, they also bring various stories to the viewers.
On the opposite wall, Küçüközcü’s acrylic paintings expose stories that are mostly about surrealistic journeys. The artist’s paintings draw visitors into a dream of a fantasy realm that criticizes today’s world and its problems. Warplane images carrying puppets, balloons, clouds, stars and candies from strings off their tails draw viewers closer to the paintings. This is when one realizes the artist’s perception behind this conceptual painting, which envisions a better place for children and criticizes the societal impact of war. The contrast between the vivid colors of the towed objects against the gray skies and snowy landscapes heightens the effect.
In the same area, another art initiative, the Art for Goodness Association, participates in the event with a group exhibition. The show comprises valuable works by artists who participated in the "One Year in Passage," "Impressions from Anatolia" and "Workshop Cer" projects of the association.
The association has been aiming to contribute to the development of art in Turkey since 2016. It first implemented the project “One Year in Passage” to provide more advanced education to new graduates from Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University in Istanbul. The association then commissioned the project “Impressions from Anatolia,” which supported the education of young artists at the faculties of fine arts of universities in Anatolia. It also founded the project “Workshop Cer” with the participation of professional artists. The workshop meets the artists' needs for production space, providing them a working area complete with modern facilities, free of charge.
The association has prepared a selection of impressive works by the artists of its project for their section at Step Istanbul. “EYE 2.0” by artist Zeynep Çilek Çimen, who is an attendee of the “Workshop Cer” project, dazzles with various hues of blue together with analytic lines. Çimen can be regarded as an auteur in the art of painting. She creates a unique algorithm with her authentic technique of playing with traditional motifs and geometric plans. The artist produces a new language that manages to transform ideas into a novelty.
In “EYE 2.0,” which appears as a poster child for her oeuvre, Çimen chooses to place geometrical lines on an optical surface. While the piece stands out with its stylistic concept, it also reminds us once more that cultural identity can be displayed through symbols.
Another work that deserves mention among the Art for Goodness Association selection is Dilek Yalçın’s “Metamorphosis” from her “Innocence of Things” series. The “Workshop Cer” attendee draws various images inspired by the art world with gouache on linen. I had previously seen two pieces by the artist. While “Naked Banana” reflects the taped banana of Art Basel 2019 on linen, “Vitruvius Dog” combines one of Jeff Koon’s iconic balloon dogs with Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Vitruvian Man” drawing, depicting the artist’s concept of the ideal human body proportions accompanied by the notes based on Roman architect Marcus Vitruvius Pollio’s work.
Yalçın’s “Metamorphosis” is inspired by literature this time. The painting depicts the pen of Franz Kafka and a quote from the writer’s famous novella, “The Metamorphosis." "As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic vermin,” the quote reads. Some details like an insect image on the nib of the pen in the painting make it easier to remember Kafka's story of alienation, which most modern people experience as a consequence of living in the contemporary world.
Özge Günaydın’s "Sameness," comprising of 10 small bronze sculptures, represents a problem of the modern people. The artist shows how authenticity and originality fade away and people become like peas in a pod in modern times through her art of bronze founding.
In the exhibition area D of Step Istanbul, another spellbinding project awaits art enthusiasts. Gallery Diani participates in the event with “Mosaic," featuring works by 12 artists from Turkey, Spain, France and Iran. Each artist has prepared six paintings that are 22 by 30 centimeters for this event. These paintings have been arranged in the form of a mosaic on a wall of the gallery.
The gallery’s founder Telga Südör Mendi says that Step Istanbul is an important event to make art more accessible, especially for new and young collectors. This is why she and artist Şükrü Karakuş made great efforts to arrange the show at the present venue. Among the artists of “Mosaic” are Karakuş, Sylvie Estaynou, Sevinç Çiftçi, Kadir Akyol, Erhan Lampir, Erin Ilkcan Aslan, Hasan Çevik, Feyzan Alasya, Hemad Javadzade, Txaro Fontalba and Ümmühan Tunçtürk.
Karakuş displays some works from his series “SELFIE” for the show. The paintings do not only showcase human portraits but also explore facets of contemporary life. It shows a search for identity in which the selfie becomes a social category-defining tool instead of just photography.
Çevik's artwork for "Mosaic" offers an extension of his exhibition “Silent.” In the artist’s paintings inspired by nature, everything from landscapes to women is represented in an abstract form. While color-shape contrasts are clear, the mood and psychology of the human are reflected in green through these pieces.
The last works that I want to mention in this exhibition are Javadzade’s original pieces of surrealistic compositions. While creating these abstract pieces, the artist uses natural elements like horses and skeletons. However, the thin stripes reminiscent of graphical lines are what give these artworks their authenticity.
Step Istanbul, which welcomes its visitors in line with COVID-19 measures, is also available to art enthusiasts online. Along with visiting the event, you can participate in webinars and follow new media performances on the event’s website.
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