PILEVNELI presents a comprehensive selection of paper works by Ali Elmacı, Mehmet & Kâzım, Serkan Sarıer, Defne Tesal, Tarık Töre, Yuşa Yalçıntaş and Kaan Gözütok. The exhibition, which creates a platform for different artists to engage through paper as a medium, showcases a wide range of techniques and concepts, from monochrome ink compositions to oil paintings; from acrylic and watercolor to pastel and dry paint; from graffiti art to color fields, from portrait tradition to post-it aesthetics, emphasizing the potential of the paper surface.
Ali Elmacı, who usually focuses on potency and power relations in his works and creates unique characters in a fictional world, participates in the show with his ongoing vampire series; You Can Find Me in Places You Can’t See. The compositions, made using pan pastels and dry paint in tones of a single color, depict partly eerie yet attractive vampire bodies in the background, divided by various symbols and images on small pieces of paper that could be described as post-it or emoji aesthetics. The artist frequently establishes direct eye contact between the viewer and mostly unsettling figures, creating a space for encounter/confrontation. This time, Elmacı deals with themes of class and power through the fictional character of vampires. Depicted as mortal but immortal, powerful and attractive as long as they can feed, conscious, strategic and intelligent, vampires also emphasize individual and class superiority. Belonging to the realm of the undead, while zombies always represent the masses, an unconscious and uncontrolled crowd that always follows each other with their ugly and rotten bodies, the vampires symbolize individuals with personality, wealth, control and power. Elmacı’s pink and white, eerie figures that look us in the eye are transformed into monochrome, sexy and glamorous vampires that are simultaneously censored and equipped with the exaggerated indicators of the marketing industry. The artist introduces a fresh perspective to today’s world of images, the power of media, and relations of potency through characters that we are familiar with and curious about.
Mehmet & Kâzım, also known as Kissing Cousins, known for their unconventional style and provocative lines in harmony with popular culture, capture a playful aesthetic by using ironic symbols and actions of propaganda and protest in their works. The artist duo, who only present their red watercolor on paper works in the show, embed various motifs, lyrics, comic book symbols and slogans related to hip-hop, breakdance, and graffiti within the world they’ve constructed around this culture. Always emphasizing action and movement while symbolically including themselves in their compositions, the artists often hide issues such as equality, social justice or art economy behind their playful and alternative visual language. Consequently, the protest style reflected through their humour-filled images become a symbol of freedom once again, inviting inclusion into the realm of art to understand and materialize our own reality.
Serkan Sarıer, whose works in the exhibition draw attention to the male figures that seem to be undergoing changes and whose limbs seem to flow, focuses on experiences such as immigration and queerness. Embracing the deformation and metamorphosis of images in his visual language, the artist underlines all kinds of marginalization, the issue of belonging and identity, and realizes series related to themes such as cultural oppression, biopolitics, hierarchy and sexuality. Employing both figures and abstractions in his art, he emphasizes the theme of bodily – spiritual transformation by feeding on ideas of not belonging to a single place, fluidity, and non-identity, which are at the basis of queer thought, while opposing the system and established patterns. Turning the normative structure upside down and dealing with metaphorical disruption, emotional turmoil and infinite change in every aspect of life, the artist establishes an ironic relationship between the historically weighty tradition of portraiture and his own fluid aesthetic.
Defne Tesal, who has been dealing with time, the moment, the past and the future since the beginning of her production, maintains her own space and time through rituals and routines in her works. She predominantly focuses on repetition and the potential of materials. For Tesal, who produces her series with an iteration towards the rhythmic unity of ‘things’ and their regular- irregular arrangement, art is not only a method of concentration but also a field of exploration where she collaborates with material. The artist, who is interested not only in the perfection of lines, dots, and spots, but also in their imperfections and changes within repetition, takes part in the show with her sound drawings from 2017. In these ink-on-paper works, the artist listens to a specific sound with headphones and simultaneously creates free gestures using both hands, detaching her mind from decision-making and planning, only aiming to respond to the music or sound. Considering her body as an instrument, Tesal frees
her mind and hand leading to gestures and marks on the surface. Embodying a distinctive concentration technique and a specific era of the artists, these works prompt contemplation about the interconnectedness of sound, thoughts, physicality, and artistic expression through titles referencing the auditory experiences that influence them. At the same time, the drawings transform into an experimental exploration regarding the capacity for auditory stimuli to manifest as visual representations.
After his intense compositions adorned with symbols and logos, Tarık Töre has shifted towards simplicity, particularly focusing on colors in his recent works displayed in the exhibition. With a flexible attitude always open to technical or conceptual innovation, the artist seeks the path of simplification while still embracing a holistic structure composed of fragments despite evolving his approach. In this process of simplification, Töre takes the method of the artist Stanley Whitney and uses it as a road map, and then begins to bring this new form of expression, in which he juxtaposes colors in blocks, closer to his own compositions and language. By again using fragments on the surface and focusing on the relationship between colors, rhythm, emptiness and fullness instead of figures, he leaves the painting alone with its own potential. These blocks of colors are always open to becoming a background for figures or to transform into new forms with various layers. However, Töre leaves all possibilities on the painting by opening space for the viewer’s perception and creativity. Bringing the process of painting to the forefront by simplifying the color and box formula, the artist’s new series also establishes an inter-temporal dialogue with artists such as Stanley Whitney, Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman, and Paul Klee, known for their color field paintings.
Yuşa Yalçıntaş often depicts children who resemble each other in his paintings, sometimes placed in familiar, sometimes entirely unfamiliar settings, and frequently structured with symmetrical compositions. Perceptions such as identity and time are left out of the equation in the works, which on the one hand seem far from perspective, proportion and realism, and on the other hand, a mystical architecture adorned with geometric and symbolic details. The symbolism in the paintings, the different forms of architectural structures and the symmetry of the figures bring together Shamanism, Japanese and Far Eastern cultures with Turkish miniatures and Jewish mysticism, while opening sensitive spaces for the artist’s own memories and childhood stories. This multicultural visual language accompanies her journey into the past and conveys to the viewer the nuances of how she approaches issues such as home/shelter, rules/social norms, school life/studenthood, the language of architecture/nostalgia for nature. The artist, whose monochrome works in the exhibition again feature children’s games and silhouettes, continues to present metaphors for all human behaviour in his compositions, as always, and continues his effort to understand society by questioning rules, emotions and behavioural patterns.
Young artist Kaan Gözütok, focusing on the concept of the figure in his artworks, expresses that the figure might be connected not merely to the technique of painting but rather to its perception. Suggesting that the definitions of “figurative” and “non-figurative” are not always decisive and only carry some potentials, Gözütok thinks that these two definitions of the figure are not unique to painting. On the other hand, the artist states that the definition of “semi-figurative” can expand the boundaries of a composition, and sees painting, in his own words, “as an applied practice of philosophy.” While questioning the field of art and its terms and definitions, he deepens his field of research by destroying the non-physical, conceptual upper layers of painting. Gözütok, who participates in the exhibition with two interconnected oil on paper series, endeavours to reach a quasi-figurative by pushing the forms he finds while painting towards the non-figurative through various materials and layers. Stating that semi-figurative paintings, including his own portrait technique, have the potential to be everything, the artist continues to question the fact that pictoriality is a form of expression that is shaped not by the paint on the surface, but by the perception of the person looking at the objects depicted, both technically and conceptually.
Press release from PİLEVNELİ
Image: Tarik Töre. Yüzler, Faces. 2023. Dry paint pencil on paper. 120 x 150 cm. Image courtesy of the artist and PİLEVNELİ