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Having exhibited her works since the early seventies, Sevil Soyer has been an artist who has preserved her own style in a large variety of topics. It is her perserverance in originality of style that makes her works appealing in the eyes of the spectators. However, I shall confine myself by mentioning a few points, which I consider the most prominent, concerning the form and the subject matter of her paintings.
In Soyer’s paintings, there is a formal duality that has not changed since the beginning, which is “texture” and “formation”. First, let me deal with the texture. Every object, which we perceive through experience, is actually composed of textures, the surface of the consecutive particles and the pores. However, we hardly take these characteristics into consideration. It is especially interesting that some objects leave an impression of texture on us. Grasping such objects, Sevil Soyer exposes them in their uniqueness, occasionally abstracting them from their natural environments: moss, sky, cross-sections of the trees, shimmering water, tulle, cobwebs, fishing net, woman’s hair, wings of butterflies, lace etc. This is an endless list for Soyer. (Is it possible to consider a reed flute used especially in Mevlevi music as a texture to be painted? We should ask her.) The texture bodily penetrates into all her paintings, embodying the figures of women, the torsos, the heads she has portrayed and is sometimes focuses on a specific point, as if being the ectoplasm of these objects, and diffuses again.
The figure-shaped formations and the second element of the form, are in permanent interrelation with the texture. In her “batik” works (from an earlier period in her career), the impression that side-by-side masks leave on us is worth appreciation. When we give a further look, a transition takes place and these masks, which seem to have no third dimension, transform into three-dimensional “puppets”. Some figures are directly created from the texture itself; especially from the lace-texture. We also notice some human figures surrounded by the fishing net texture or having the same texture in their eyes. In her lately exhibited paintings, we notice that the texture formations have been considerably controlled and their aesthetic effects have been looked for. For instance, in her “Lace Woman”, the body of the woman formed from the lace texture creates an impression of a dress on one hand and it transcends it on the other; in other words, it diffuses the body into space.
There is also in Soyer’s subject matter: the human figures neutralize the distinctions between man and woman. The tree and the animal figures too, resemble human figures. A grotesque approach is apparent in the formation of these figures; especially in Venice portraits and in the early women torsos. In this way, the artist intends to underline the details and significance of life in all aspects.
Another characteristic approach of the artist is that she emphasizes the previous existence of the objects she has created, such as framing the masks, the puppets and the torsos, the projecting figures among the postcards and the playcards. All these suggest that she approaches nature in terms of the objects of culture. For her, culture seems to be the symbol of nature.
Professor Onay Sozer
“Gosteri Art Magazine”, Pg. 78, May 1987
Sevil Soyer is continuing her individual art philosophy and aesthetic vision of art in changing sides.
Sevil Soyer is an extraordinary artist and she is continuing her original art philosophy together with her aesthetic vision of art since the 1970’s, from one side to other. It is a kind of stability that has given her art a special concept and it had grown into a very interesting art for people who visited her last exhibition. I would like to touch in this article, not the meaning in her artworks, but her forms and themes.
There is a form-duality from the beginning to the present in her art. Between the texture and the forms. Let’s take a look at texture. According to our native knowledge and experience, everything we perceive has surfaces, combined parts and pores, but we don’t recognize all these characteristics every time. Sevil’s “things” create a textured sense. She keeps and collects these things, apart from their natural circumstances, and creates a new abstract purity: moss, sky, tree. Crosscuts, moving water, tulle, spider webs, woman hair, butterfly wing, lace, etc. This is an endless list and for sure, Sevil doesn’t exhaust them, but creates them. (Maybe she can create a texture for a fluted voice.) These textures are moving freely in the painting surface, becoming dense all around women’s bodies, trees, portraits and then dispersing them again.
The second formation, which is the elements of things, is in uninterrupted communication with the textures. We see at her latest exhibition the very affecting masks, standing side by side, that some from her previous batik works. They have no third dimension; also her art work of baby heads is three dimensioned, from her next art period. They are all here, together at her last exhibition, mixed and created in a new way. The layers of these baby heads give a sense of texture. Some forms are made by a lace texture only. Some faces or human figures have net textures in their eyes. The latest pictures have more controlled textural forms and aesthetic effects. “Lace Woman” (1987) is a typical example. The lace texture in this perfect picture seems to be the element of the body, while at the same time a dress and also an element that disprses the body into the space of the art. She can create three or more forms by using only one texture and she can give all of them a very original aesthetic touch.
Another firm intellectuality in her art concerns her “creatures”. According to Sevil individual creatures exist. As masks, baby faces, human bodies are framed with giant play cards or postal cards, they show that they are living. All of these point out that she looks at everything as a cultural element. Culture for her is a sign of nature. At this point the texture I tried to describe above may be one of her questions that we haven’t yet explained or it may be something of our subconscious still not figured out but natural. At last, this is not only another important art exhibition of an extraordinary artist, but also a new way to see things about the world and life.
“Hurriyet Gosteri Magazine”, Pg. 62, May 1987, Istanbul
IN SEARCH OF PERFECTION
First of all, a “perfectionist“ character should be pointed out while describing Sevil, who is an unyielding perfectionist at every moment of her life, about everything she observes and experiences. When she starts painting, the perfectionist character reveals itself more then ever. You will hardly ever meet an artist who is as discontent as she is with what she has painted. She always finds something missing or unnecessary in her paintings. She adds things to them or subtracts things. Yet she is never content with what she performs and is always in search of perfection.
What a hard life, especially for an artist in Turkey!
Sevil loves adventure in her art. As commonly stated, “there is no final sketch” for her. She tries to reach such perfection in front of the canvas. The consequences are, of course, fatigue, distress and discontent. She scarcely likes her paintings. You will never hear her saying “that’s it!”
Another noteworthy aspect of her character is being uncompromising when her art, style, philosophy of art and even the dimensions of her paintings are concerned.
A third aspect of her character should be added to the former two: her love of research. She does not only research into her own art (perhaps least into the art) but into a wide range of disciplines from philosophy to science, from music to mysticism. She is an intellectual in the true sense of the word. Her experience acquired in all fields of her interest can be traced in her works, yet it has been so well assimilated that it shows itself as the aesthetic value rather than the content. This “trinity” (perfectionist-uncomprimising-researcher) is the essence of the work of Sevil.
The forms are the specified figures of what has been distilled from all these aspects. Initially, a woman figure can be seen, but the one who has been appreciating Sevil’s paintings for a long time will be suspicious, for it is not a “female” at all. To be able to see that, it is necessary to know that there is no sex distinction in Sevil’s paintings and that she has never been interested in such superficial details. Other aspects of the figure will gradually be noticed, for the figure is not alone but is surrounded by objects: several trees as an indistinct stain, a construction, a church perhaps, and always the lace and the fisherman’s net texture, gilding in some paintings, a column and a space all seeming empty.
Thus the work transcends the figure and leads to abstract effects and association. It requires an uncompromising study in depth and a search for perfection. Otherwise, you will object to and be repelled by it.
These paintings will also mock you from behind.
These are her characteristics since her academy years; not acquired lately but having been improved by time, not artificial but structural characteristics. She is the first to use the “air brush” technique surprising many people when she was a student. The fisherman’s net texture has been her favourite for long. The best form of these techniques and the style exists in Sevil’s paintings because they are neither artificial nor plagiarized. Sevil has chosen such materials because they fit in well with her philosophy and she very well knows when, where and how to use them.
Sevil has a great respect for colour. She is very conscious of value and the suitability of colour; thus chooses only the ones fitting her style and character: a firm balance of black and white, a good style of stain, a relaxed design and the sound interpretation of all these.
“Sanat Cevresi” Art Magazine, May 1987
SEVIL SOYER AND HER ART
I have been particularly interested by Sevil’s work since her time at the academy. She standed out as the research-minded student out of the class. She was interested in doing research not only in art, but also in other disciplines including philosophy, psychology, politics, technology, ancient civilizations, theology, mythology, music, mysticism, anatomy and so forth.
The variety of her interests, during her studies, encouraged her to search and experiment using new styles and techniques – she was by all means an “extraordinary university student”. Though she used to accomplish the assigned work successfully, she actually preferred and insisted on spending much of her time on research and experiments.
She visited Italy and learned “batik” in Venice. She also visited the North African countries and studied their art. These are just two of the examples which reveal her research-minded personality. I have noticed this aspect of her throughout her work, which I incidentally came across and greatly admire. She acquired her favourite techniques in the Academy. She very well uses them in her work now. Her use of texture as a form hasn’t changed since those years. At times she built forms with textures and eventually she started to use the fishing-net texture technique.
This technique has became a significant and distinguishing characteristic in her art ever since. The use of fishing-net and lace textures, rooted in her early years at the Academy, is still her style today.
It would be unfair to consider Sevil as an artist who is simply “obsessed” with a single technique in her work. The variety of her interests, as mentioned above, has been a motive for her to make research and experiment further. Thus, Sevil has become a genuine artist, who has not repeated herself but acquired and improved her own style.
Sevil’s use of colour is also particular. She was deeply fond of colour whilst a student at the Academy. Her work was dominated by red, green and blue. Gradually, she has picked the colours which best fitted her technique and style: grey and black, or green and black. Red was Sevil’s favourite colour in her time at the Academy. However, particular shades of red are used more consciously in her work now. The patches, shades and light of the classical style have gained new and fresh forms in Sevil’s work.
I have been admiring her compositions for many years. Sevil has a refined, delicate and firm design. In my opinion, she is a research-minded and cultivated artist who I consider both a student and a close colleague of mine. I am proud and privileged to be able to sing her praise.
Professor Devrim Erbil
SEARCHING OF THE CULTURE IN THE NATURE
Sevil Soyer’s exhibition, actually painting-installation and dimensions exhibition “Made in Sections” pushing us to think about these concepts: Exhibition and gallery. Soyer, deconstructing the gallery which became popular since 18th century after Louvre, but at the meantime she reconstructing it, to where? In the most frightened area, the middle of nature, but it is not a frightened area after all, because there is not a middle of the nature. So? Before try to find an answer, let’s talk about how Soyer deconstructed the modern and rationalist gallery.
Gallery theory as we know change the person to an “eye”. This “eye” flows from one canvas to other with no gravity of thoughts, but now at her exhibition person is not only an “eye”. He or she under pressure of the senses of touch when passing by a narrow, transparent tunnel and standing in the transparent “sera”. There are raindrops, high volume voice of rain. His or her vision is punching by sense of to touch and to hear. The “geometry”, space and dimensions of modern gallery is loosing its ideal construction, geometry is turning a material, getting wet, there is not one surface of gallery for to be ideal, there are many surfaces, there are holes between surfaces. The hero is not the visitor (like in common gallery) after all, there is not Odysseus, even there is not “the ghost in the machine”, but there is only one hero: this installation.
Here this exhibition telling that visitor is not has any control on his or her own culture, aesthetic, etc. You are in a store of Narmanli Apartment; you are still in Macka, in Istanbul, in this mega-village. Here, in this installation area, there is not an abstraction, no difference between inside and outside.
The deconstruction of exhibition coming from Soyer’s statement of sera and fixing with this statement: The contents of sera (children, flowers) are at the otside of sera, actually by this way there is not an inside. The main functions of sera (such as to care, to mature, to protect, etc.) change to the elements of paintings now. The nature here is just the moment, a rough drawing. Between you and children there are transparent plastic cover, water, rain and emptiness, which you never can fill up. The children are running towards to you, but to come together is impossible. You can go inside by the entrance at left; there are paintings, landscapes, but most of them looks unfinished or rough drawing. Actually we figure out suddenly that, nature, culture and technology is never finished. The installation is a symbol or a declaration of this unfinished world. Is this a dream, an illusion or a disappointment? Both of them maybe, some parts of a dream we are still living in it.
Soyer’s artwork (this is the first part of three installations) has a fresh point of view about current relations of culture and nature. The main purpose of philosophy was to penetrate to the nature and to conquer it (like a man’s action to get a woman with or without her permission!), but we know now there is not a nature to conquer. The nature or the soul of nature is just a passage; soul is in between with the human and the nature. There are endless transitions from the culture to the nature; Soyer shows us by an unforgettable and perfect aesthetic (the nature by a memory, the culture by a sense of back and forth).
At last, everything will stay between us and the nature, to the infinity. Same as Soyer’s art.
“Sanat Cevresi Magazine”, Pg. 9, March 1994, Istanbul
TO COME FACE TO FACE WITH THE WET GREENS OF CHILDHOOD...
I came face to face with the wet green grass of my childhood at the art “Installation” of Sevil Soyer…The green grass of May. At the fourth store of an old Istanbul when I was walking from Macka to Tesvikiye…
The entrance of this apartment catches you first. High ceilings, marble stairs, doors. You are at 1930s, like to watch a black and white movie classic. At the fourth store, an open door invites you inside. You are going in. Suddenly you are in a transparent tunnel. And there is rain.
When you are walking in a shock you figure out there are two children watching you other of the tunnel. They seem like run on the wet green grass when they see you. You can try but you can not touch them.And also they can not touch you too. They are your childhood. You can touch just to the transparent wall of the tunnel. Rain is your teardrop, tunnel is crying.
When you are going on to walk slowly, you are coming another space. You are under a dome, a transparent dome. You are hearing the voices of rain; it is high now. The rain drops in your face and you want to look at sky. There is a dirty sky and some other voices. Not the bird songs, only the voices of disturbed nature. Yes, you have to escape, immediately. Exit is at right. You escaped!
First, there is a cry of a tree, it is praying with its dried branches to dirty sky. But then here they are again: Green leaves of trees and sun shine, red flowers side by side. Yes, these are paintings. Another trees, green hills. Soft, wet and cool.
Last year there was a popular music group called “Enigma”. One of their music clips had a mystic story, telling from the end to the beginning by a special film technique. Fruits are turning back to trees, etc.
I think I was in a movie from the end to the beginning like that video clip. It was just watch an exhibition; it had more meaning than that. First of all, that was not a regular art gallery. One of the Istanbul’s historical apartment organized with all its details for to cover up to this art activity. Wood doors had painted in green, the wood floor had polished naturally, today’s technology used for lights, rain system, voice effects.
In her manifest about this installation, artist describes a “sera effect”, and giving us an idea how is to live in a sera. And I think, you can find yourself not only in sera, but also in your mother’s womb. This “Installation” has many points coming from classical art, and also many points coming from modern art. Postmodern, if you like to put it a box, but I think it’s more then this.
Today, art is looking for “different places”, theatre at the street, concert at the metro… Sevil Soyer’s “Installation” is a very good example, a store of an apartment is fixed tottaly with her message in her work, because like painting doesn’t stay inside the wall, closed doors.
Now I wonder what can I do to push everybody, artists to go and watch this “Installation”. What can I do to wake everbody up to think about his or her life, to remember that once there was wet, green grass?
“Sanat Cevresi Magazine”, Pg. 10. March 1994, Istanbul
THE AREA OUTSIDE OF THE PROGRAM
The Hasbahce, the huge garden of the historical Yildiz Palace, was a stage for an art activity name “ Oh Beautiful Istanbul”, from the 23rd – 25th of September, created and directed by Sevil Soyer, in the name of the Ministry of Culture. One of the most interesting works in there was “The Area Outside of the Program”, created by Sevil Soyer, Gabriella Baptist, and Onay Sozer. Here is the statement of this remarkable artwork written by participants and creators.
Some areas of Hasbahce, the garden of the Yildiz Palace, were prohibited to the public to install our concepts. We marked these in the map of the garden and called it “ the area outside of the program”.
Prog-ramme, means pre-graph, the writing which come before the alphabet, before art, before a work of art as a “decision maker” and an “outside-maker”. That means the censor to cover to cut out, to close.
The censor doesn’t darken the lights of the past and present art only, but closes the eyes of art’s future (the self-censor of the artist). The censor reaches the last point by prohibiting not only the ideas, but also words one by one. (“yildiz”, “burun”, “saray”, “Abdulhamid”, were a few of the censored words in the near past).
When we –Sevil Soyer, Gabriella Baptist and Onay Sozer- were talking about the exhibition areas, they saw there were “areas outside the program”. Furthermore, we recognized that these areas were growing and pushing the borders of the city by the stream of history. Almost all the city we could call “the area outside the program”.
The full censor, which goes down even to the words, shows that the work of art is never prohibited fully, never fully programmed.
The applied censor is the art itself. “Positive censor: (R. Jacobson). The uncensored words and drawings tell the contents of the prohibited ones. Which wrap doesn’t shape by the thing it covers? It isn’t clear that the art is inside or outside of the programmed area.
At this point Gabriella Baptist and Onay Sozer remember the words of Hannes Meyer, who was the president of the Bauhaus. He’d written a letter to the Nazis’ mayor in 1930, “Ich durchshaue alles, ich verstehe nichts”, Onay Sozer translated this sentence into English: “ I’m seeing everything, understanding nothing”. Gabriella Baptist said this: “Ich verstehe alles, ich durchshaue nichts”. In English it was: ’’ I’m understanding everything, I’m seeing nothing“.
There is a glass wall between reality and us. We see everything when we look through the glass but we can comprehend nothing. If we look at the glass itself, we begin to understand everything even if we can not see something at the back of the glass.
We formed an “area out of the program”, without closing the area, just covering it with transparent tablets (plaques), it was visible/invisible, but existing, crossable but prevented.
Only the program is visible when everything is put in the program and is announced out of the program. The program covers the out of program but the only thing we have is the out of program.
The program prohibits the out of program areas but gives a freedom at the same time. The installation is in our eyes not outside of us: There is an invisible obstacle, yes, but at the same time an indicator. An installation non exists.
The areas out of the program are marked on the map of the exhibition and the map of Istanbul by red lines.
The transparent tablet was building up a chiasmus by using both sides of it. (Chiasmus: to reverse the elements of two word groups, which have the same word lines).
The nonexist installation: The installation is created by self-censorship, the impossibility of installation, an unworkable installation.
The installation of impossibility. The prohibited dimension (the dimension of ideas, dreams, and creations) itself burns out when it gets a message, but isn’t the dimension prohibited or rejected?
Isn’t the dimension itself “the area out of the program”?
The article of all these discussions created the visuals. “The Area Out of the Program” is installed with five transparent tablets.
“Hurriyet Gosteri Art Magazin”, Pg. 42,43. November 1994, Istanbul