Even if the blockbuster exhibitions are full of photography and video works, painting is still the most demanded form of art-work in the local art market and artists are keen to show their painting skills, because painting—or the handmade art work—is still a signal for the public to discern whether the artist is professional or not. Today’s young generation is reflecting its ideas, concepts, interpretations, criticism mainly through painting, photography and video, but also through artistic and cultural events which they organize particularly without a curating hand in it.
Throughout the 1990s, the urgency of the artist was “identity” in political, ethnic, gender-oriented locations with references to their origins or traditions. Since 2000, while a group of artists of Turkey are running after more global pursuits, producing works for international curators and audiences by following the concept and strategy trends, another group is still dealing with the local issues and problems. Sometimes, the artworks look like newspaper headlines with pictures or propaganda posters dealing with daily local politics.
Photography with all its possibilities of true or false representations, with its illusive appearances or with its possibilities of monumentality is being utilized by almost all artists. Documentary photography is the basis of socio-political artworks as well. Yet, the ambiguous issue in photographic works is the relation of the image to the conceptual framework of the artist’s manifestation, or the already worldwide consumed criteria that are repetitively being employed for the impact of the photographic image. Convincing and persuasive photographic work comes with its theoretical and philosophical background which can only be mapped out in the expanded oeuvre of the artist.
Regional exhibitions, or exhibitions that unite artists from neighboring countries that have past and present political and cultural relations are no doubt a fertile soil for new productions and events. When I was curating together with Magda Guruli the first comprehensive show of Georgian artist in Istanbul during the 10th Istanbul Biennale, I indicated that we have to admit the weakness and the absence of communication and knowledge in the relationship between the culture and art worlds of Turkey and those of the Soviet world during the Cold War period and that presently we (mostly curators and museum directors) are making a special effort to fill the vacuum created by the apathy between 1950-1990 via cultural and artistic activities.
In the 1990s, when the discovery of the other was the fundamental quest, West European curators and museum directors have united the artists of East Europe, Balkans, Greece and Turkey in eclectic group shows. Looking back to those exhibitions, there is no doubt that they have motivated the artists to democratic openness and the local art scenes to acknowledge international criteria. The encounter of the artists of the onetime polarized cultures created a new synergy in transforming the theoretical, philosophical and conceptual fundaments of contemporary art. The macro-events have prepared the field for in depth encounters or i.e. the empty parts of the macro-picture can only be embroidered meticulously through a more profound collaboration, which I believe Bahcesaray exhibition will be an interesting model.
Beral Madra, March 2008