Turkey is a country at the intersection of Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. Because of this, its artists have a long historical and cultural mixture to find their inspiration. The Turkish art scene has experienced great expansion within the past ten years, especially since it was named 2010 European Capital of Culture (Harris 2010). The painter Ekrem Yalcindag talks about the growth of the art scene, saying, “Ten years ago there were merely three or four galleries in Istanbul. Today this number exceeds 250” (Harris 2010). Art critic Maryam Eisler believes that part of the expansion of the Turkish art scene is because Turkey wishes to gain entrance into the European Union, which means Turkey wants to be seen as “a new, open and liberal Muslim democracy” (Harris 2010). This positive view of art by the Turkish people and the art world is a good thing for Turkish artists; this paper will review three Turkish artists including Candaş Şişman, Ekrem Yalçındağ, and Ara Güler,
One of the young visual artists in Istanbul, speech did not come easily for Candaş Şişman. Born in Izmir, Turkey, he did not speak until he was five years old (Şişman n.d., Erel 2011). His childhood was filled with drawing and even a “spider web” that he and his brother built in their room; after finishing studies at İzmir Anatolian Fine Arts High School, he studied animation at the Anatolian University in Eskişehir, Turkey (Şişman n.d.). In spite of his studies at the University, Şişman gives the most credit for his artistic development to “the Internet and music” (Erel 2011). Şişman often works with musicians in Turkey, providing live visuals for their concerts, album covers, and posters (Erel 2011).
According to the Bio on Şişman’s professional web page, “his works contain a naivety and simplicity in contradiction with the commotion and ideology of life in general” (Şişman n.d.). A look at his gallery on his website shows the many types of work Şişman is involved in, including drawing, painting, and the fantastic visual/sound installation titled Flux (see http://www.csismn.com/F-L-U-X) commissioned by Plato Art Space of the Plato collage of Higher Education (Şişman n.d.). The visual animations accompanied by sound offer the best idea about how Şişman develops his work. In both Flux and AVATAR (see http://www.csismn.com/AVATAR), a very simple shape, the circle, begins to move and transform into an even more complex image.
Painter Ekrem Yalçındağ, born in 1964 in Adıyaman, Turkey, graduated from the Faculty of Fine Arts at Izmir Dokuz Eylül University and earned his Master’s degree there as well (Turkish Cultural Foundation n.d.). Influence of artists like Robert Delaunay and George Seurat are obvious in the impressionistic style of Yalçındağ’s works (Dirimart 2011). The intention of his exhibition, Impressions from the Streets (see http://www.art-agenda.com/shows/ekrem-yalcindag/), is to watch “everyday life as colours” (Dirimart 2011).
Yalçındağ gives credit to his research at his University library as a big part of his development as an artist and his attempt to “build an artistic language” (Yazıcı 2011). His early artwork included public art and collage, but in later years, Yalçındağ has focused entirely on painting (Yazıcı 2011). The influence of his past work with three-dimensional art remains in his current work; for example, when talking about the circle paintings from his Impressions from the Streets exhibition, he said, “Those circle paintings become more of a sculpture rather than two dimensional works. The sculptural effect was important to me” (Yazıcı 2011). Yalçındağ spends his time working on his art in both Germany and Turkey (Turkish Cultural Foundation n.d.).
Photographer Ara Güler, born on August 16, 1928 in Istanbul, Turkey, is often called “The Eye of Istanbul” (Fallis n.d.). This is because of his famous black and white photographs of Istanbul depicting its people and architecture. He is known as a photojournalist, but a simple glance at a few of Güler’s photographs (see http://www.araguler.com.tr/istanbul.html) reveal that he is also a great artist. Güler would argue with the idea that he is an artist, because “he doesn’t consider himself to be an artist, nor does he believe photography is an art. Photography, he says, ‘is more important than art’” (Fallis n.d.).
Güler’s photography and fame has spread far beyond the borders of Turkey. Working for international publications including Time-Life, Newsweek, and more, he has also photographed heads of state, celebrities, scientists, and war-torn areas (Fallis n.d.). However, location and photographs that form the basis of Güler’s skills originate in his hometown of Istanbul where he first fell in love with the camera.
Visual arts have an increasing importance for Turkey, especially in this era of globalization. With more of the world using the Internet, more people can become of the great variety of culture Turkey has to offer to the art world. Younger artists like Şişman have taken advantage of this by providing extensive professional web pages displaying their work, making their art accessible to a worldwide audience. It was disappointing to find that Yalçındağ’s professional webpage contained almost no information, while Güler’s had no English translation which could limit his future audience. However, with the increasing enthusiasm of Turkish citizens for the visual arts, it seems that today’s Turkish visual artists have the best chance they have had in centuries to flourish.
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