Istanbul contains a fascinating blend of secular and religious elements. It is a modern city evolving but still carries with it its ancient historical feel. Against a background of ancient architecture, grand mosques, thriving calls to prayer and bazaars that still resemble old trade routes Istanbul is a city equipped with a modern infrastructure, high culture and rich nightlife. Umpteen visitors to Istanbul have little awareness or exposure to the vast city beyond, the rapidly rising skyscrapers of the business district of Maslak.
The Elgiz Contemporary Art Museum is an outstanding reason to acquire a taste for Istanbul’s modern side. As Turkey’s pioneering institution of international contemporary art since the last fifteen years, the Elgiz Museum gives priority to projects that are focused on sculpture. Its current exhibition, ‘Skyline’ (Ufuk Hatti in Turkish) on its rooftop terrace is a splendid experience for visitors. ‘Skyline’ brings together sculptors from four different generations, creating a fresh discourse that emphasizes cultural and visual multiplicity. This year’s terrace exhibition shows thirty-four works by artists from four different generations. Participating artists whose works vary in material and size are: Yıldırım Alp Alanbay, Ufuk Aldemir, Sercihan Alioğlu, Tanzer Arığ, Mahmut Aydın, Ayşe Sultan Babayiğit, Uğur Cinel, Tuba Coşkun, Sibel Çetin, Bülent Çınar, Hakan Çınar, Hasan Çimenci, Bahadır Çolak, Halil Daşkesen, Cemre Demirgiller, Şahin Domin, Ümit Turgay Durgun, İpek Evitan, Songül Girgin, Güler Güçlü, Eren Güler, Başak İşbilir, Sevgi Karay, Hayri Karay, Zeynep Köse, Emre Rebil Özçaylan, Ahmet Özparlak, Francesco Panceri, Çağdaş Sarı, Ergin Soyal, Caner Şengünalp, Carole Turner and Adem Ünlü.
Sculpture is one of the few pieces of art that engages our senses differently than any other type of art, as it occupies space as a three-dimensional mass, compared to paintings that occupy two-dimensional spaces. Paintings and other two-dimensional artwork can suggest density, but sculpture is actually dense. We fully apprehend sculpture by using no only the visual and tactile senses, but sensing the weight and volume behind those surfaces. The sculptures at the Elgiz Museum are volumetric forms possessing measurable height, width and depth and they occupy real space. The play of light on and across the surfaces of these sculptures is incorporated in the work to accentuate forms and textures. Looking at these freestanding pieces can take place over a matter of time, which adds a unique quality to the viewing experience.
There are several sculptures in the display that convey a certain magnetism more than others. Ufuk Aldemir’s Are We Alone in the Universe (iron, glass) has a mysterious and romantic take to it. It poses questions and messages for the viewer to ponder over. Ayse Sultan Babayigit’s Lord of the Flies (wood, mix media) is a work of critical character whereby the piece bears sincerity that brings to mind ‘a word to the wise is enough’. A lot of detail and aesthetic attention has gone into the piece and within the viewer it conjures a sense of excitement along with angst. Ugur Cinel’s Summer (marble, metal) is pleasant and is a demonstration of a fleeing reality. The ship that floats on the marble pattern represents the memory of a departing existence. Mahmut Aydin’s piece Hegemony (wood, metal) is a reminder of the iconic Turkish masterpiece by Osman Hamedi Bey titled The Tortoise Trainer. He portrays the tumultuous relationship between man and nature, showing what seems to be a man trying to tame a group of crows. Mankind has boundless desires and never-ending appetites.
Contemporary sculpture is but a segment of the visual arts offering an excellent vehicle through which one can teach art history, art production, criticism and aesthetics, while employing problem-solving skills. Through the study and practice of sculpture, expressive language in both the visual and literary sense is acquired and refined. With this acquired knowledge, a greater appreciation and understanding is gained not only for contemporary sculpture, but for the relation among all of the arts and the role they play in the development of our social and cultural history.
This exhibition assembles a diverse assortment of talent and flair from the older and younger generations, local and foreign, female and male. Set against the striking backdrop of Istanbul’s financial heart, the show takes on a much broader meaning, standing as a question mark in the city’s chaotic expansion.
Skyline at the Elgiz Museum, Istanbul, is on from 17 June – 7 November 2015.
Shireen Ikramullah Khan is a painter, art critic and museologist based in Islamabad, and writes for Dawn Gallery, Nukta Art Magazine and Blue Chip Magazine. She teaches Visual Arts at the National College of Arts in Rawalpindi.