“This Place We Call World”, curated by Öykü Özsoy, was the first solo exhibition after three years of hiatus of the recently passed away Turkish artist Selma Gürbüz (1960-2021).
The exhibition, hosted into Istanbul Modern’s Beyoglu temporary space, opened its door in November 2020 and closed in August 2021. However it is still possible to easly “walk” through the over 100 works by Gürbüz, thanks to the Virtual Tour offered on the Istanbul Modern website.
“This Place We Call World” showcases the 35 years of artistic research of one of Turkey’s leading artists in contemporary art. Myths, legends and fairytales from all around the world are entwined with the inspiration taken from the world we live in, narrating stories about humanity, nature and life.
Merging elements, techniques and issues that belongs to Western and Eastern cultures – from the Iranian, Indian and Turkish miniatures to the Far East art, till the Western paintings – Selma Gürbüz takes us into a journey through a visual encyclopedia, of what it seems to be the border between dreams and reality; a place where it is possible to explore the human condition into existence and passage of time.
The power of Gürbüz’s art works is so strong, that even the virtual experience cannot suppress the artist’s exhortation to face, embrace and overcome the dreams and fears linked to the life and death concerns living inside everyone of us.
Human and animal figures are illustrated as an inseparable unions immersed into different shades of the African landscape, which deeply influenced Gürbüz after her trip into the continent.
Archetypical, ancestral and timeless creatures emerge in works about death, survival, sickness and healing—each a part of the life cycle—in which the subconscious manifestations of these themes are visualized.
During an interview for Argonotlar, Gürbüz talking about her “Creatures” (2019) series explained how this symbols and images were always within her:
[…] Nature, animals and creatures were always intertwined in my paintings from the very beginning. These creatures are not entirely new either; Before, jinn, certain creatures and transformed creatures were entering my paintings in different forms. Remember my early exhibitions “Magie Grise” (1996) or “Mundus Elementaris” (1997). More than 20 years have passed. I feel the need to look at nature with different eyes under the influence of the myths, tales, imagination and experiences I have read. These animals and creatures have always been in my subconscious. Maybe they’ve been popping up more lately. These are more like ghost figures. These creatures are like ghosts in nature. I do not separate them from living creatures in nature. They are like a part of nature.
Paintings, installations, drawings, videos and sculptures present us a cross-section of the mysterious and colorful world that she creates with her unique image repertoire and artistic language, developed using diverse materials over the years.
Selma Gürbüz said about the exhibition:
“This Place We Call World” […] It is a very special exhibition for me because it brings together my recent works for the first time and convenes examples from different periods of my artistic career. […] Although not exactly a retrospective, this exhibition can be considered as close to a retrospective as it gets, given the large number of works and the fact that they’re from different periods. For me, each exhibition is a reckoning; I get very excited. Sharing my works with the audience, unfolding my world before them gives me indescribable feelings… Each exhibition is also a new idea, a new feeling within me. That’s why I feel lucky, because my mind is always full. An infinite abundance… That’s how I know that no exhibition is the end. Each time, I have this need to say something new through a new exploration and a new breath.
This exhibition is also part of the Istanbul Modern continuing effort to increase the visibility of women artists in Turkey. Oya Eczacıbaşı, Chair of the Board of Istanbul Modern, announced that the Istanbul Modern is acquiring one of Gürbüz’s new works, on view in this exhibition: “Take Care of Each Other”.
Selma Gürbüz was born in Istanbul in 1960, began her art education in 1980 at the Exeter College of Art Design in the United Kingdom. She graduated from the Department of Painting of Marmara University’s Faculty of Fine Arts in 1984. Gürbüz has participated in numerous exhibitions in Paris, Rome, Buenos Aires, Barcelona and various cities in Japan, and her works are included in several museum collections, including The British Museum in London, Galerie Maeght Collection in Paris, Istanbul Modern, and Ankara Art and Sculpture Museum. She left us on April 22, 2021 in Istanbul, at the age of 61, after losing her battle against cancer.