I first encountered Berlin-based Turkish artist Ekin Su Koç’s works at Step Istanbul, an art event that presented works of hundreds of different contemporary artists last November. The artist’s eye-catching collage works, created with daily magazines, lace and various other materials immediately drew me in. While deriving inspiration from nature and human psychology, these collages transformed into a body with flowers or animals. They seemed to be representing life itself and narrating stories to me at the same time.
Anna Laudel’s second gallery in Germany’s Düsseldorf recently presented Koç’s solo exhibition titled “Altbau” to art enthusiasts. When I learned that the exhibition can be viewed online, I seized the opportunity to enjoy the beauty and aesthetic of the artist’s pieces once again.
On the first floor of the gallery, plaster wall sculptures combining Berlin's old apartment motifs that offer visual richness and handmade fabrics of nomads from Turkey’s Aegean region welcome visitors. Scrutinizing the concepts of identity and belonging via new materials in these works, Koç says that these sculptures are designed as a part of the old walls of the gallery space, which turns them into site-specific pieces.
Anna Laudel’s Germany branch, which was launched in 2019, is housed in a renewed building bearing old, architectural details. The word, Altbau, which gives the exhibition its name, means "old apartment" in German and is used to describe, especially venerable structures with stucco ornaments. In this sense, the gallery building and the exhibition’s name and works constitute triple parallelism with references to art history.
The wall sculptures of Koç beguile the viewers with the power of contrasting materials. It is possible to read them with references to patriarchal and post-colonialist traces in daily life via this contrast in their bodies. According to the artist, what excited her most in these hybrid works was using the trousseaus of Aegean women whom she does not know. While elaborated fabrics chosen from these trousseaus bring breezes from Anatolian lands, the German apartment motifs remind of plasterworks from the Roman Empire. Therefore, the pieces both evoke the feeling of an archaeological find and gives reference to a utopian world where all genders and cultures live together equally.
Koç is an artist who freely uses various types of materials in her works as can be understood from her collages and wall sculptures. Following her graduation, the artist had a chance to visit several museums, fairs, galleries and to attend workshops, residency programs abroad. Noting that all these experiences provided her with intellectual freedom, she said that old weavings, decorated fabrics, synthetic silks, laces, plants, epoxy, reflective foils, neon and plaster are among the materials she uses professionally. She implied that there is a long list of other materials that she wants to experiment with. “My material mostly changes in line with the content of my work,” she added.
As I have an eye for free-spirited artists, it was not surprising for me to figure out Koç’s desire for liberation in her art. Its reflections were visible in her artworks from the very first moment. Tracing the emancipated steps of the artist at Anna Laudel, I saw the artist’s collage works, which are my favorite, and canvases in different areas of the first floor. The collages belong to Koç’s “Someone” and “Multiple Identities” series while the canvases are from the “Corrected Storytellings” series, which focuses on human relationships with nature.
‘Moon or Mars’
After examining the details of Koç’s collage works with huge admiration, another series captured my attention at the exhibition. Created with dried plants and featuring various vanitas symbols, these circular canvases were so intense that time just seemed to stop for me. The epoxy cover on the plants and symbols make the figures on the canvases appear as if they were frozen in time.
These works from the artist’s “Moon or Mars” series tell a story similar to the wall sculptures. While the sculptures fictionalize a utopian world, the epoxy-coated canvases create another planet with foggy dystopian landscapes. Questioning the future of the Anthropocene era in one respect, in the series Koç following an urge triggered by a question asked by the curator Ipek Yeğinsü: "What would it be like if we could start a new life on other planets?"
Reading and searching on the Anthropocene era and the destruction of nature at those times, she contemplated the possibility of creating a different environment, leaving consumption culture and habits behind to begin a new life on a new planet.
“At that point, I started painting foggy and shapeless landscapes in an unfamiliar atmosphere on my circular canvases thinking of them as the moon's surface. Then, I sprinkled images of ancient sculptures, cultural remains, colorful figure collages, birds and dry plants as symbols of nature on these canvas surfaces and covered them with epoxy. In this way, it was as if these figures and plants were transported into space with all their colors and trying to start over. Epoxy created a frozen feeling in time,” Koç said.
Although the subject of the impressive “Moon or Mars” series was developed after a thought process inspired by Yeğinsü, Koç mostly reflects her own observations obtained from personal mood swings and the social effects behind these swings in her art. Tracing the artist’s oeuvre would help understand her themes better. While her “Heirloom” series focused on the concept of family with the combination of collected old black and white family photographs excavated from abandoned migrant houses and laces knitted by the artist’s grandmother, Koç revealed the duality of the notions of belonging to a family or a society and being an individual. The theme of her series “Antibody” developed when her concept of family intertwined with the health problems that the artist experienced. Her “Happy at Nowhere” series is inspired by her feelings when she moved to another country with references to the themes of migration and a sense of belonging.
“The information that I learned for the first time is also inspiring for me,” the artist said. She added: “For example, when I first heard that the word history was not commonly preferred because it is a word combination of his-story and refers to male-dominated dating, I was astonished, which gave me a nice inspiration to rethink and produce the concept of gender.”
Regardless of the subject and theme, Koç tries to share an emotion or draw the attention of viewers to concepts that need to be changed through materials and forms in her works. Among these emotions, childlike innocence, being able to love and find a different incomplete or undefined body beautiful and finding a moment to think about the concepts of nature, belonging and identity without judgment come to the fore.
The artist lastly touched on the challenging days that the art world is going through due to the coronavirus. Explaining that the psychological and material burden of the period is a little bit challenging, Koç implied that it is very exciting and very precious that Anna Laudel Gallery provided a 3D digital solution for her solo exhibition. You can visit Koç’s fascinating exhibit from the comfort of your home through a link on the website of the gallery until Jan. 16, 2021. The gallery also accepts visitors by appointment as part of the preventive health measures for a safe gallery visit.
Please click to read our informative text prepared pursuant to the Law on the Protection of Personal Data No. 6698 and to get information about the cookies used on our website in accordance with the relevant legislation.
6698 sayılı Kişisel Verilerin Korunması Kanunu uyarınca hazırlanmış aydınlatma metnimizi okumak ve sitemizde ilgili mevzuata uygun olarak kullanılan çerezlerle ilgili bilgi almak için lütfen tıklayınız.