Women Artists from Turkey: Gülsün Karamustafa

Born in 1946, Gülsün Karamustafa is a multifunctional installation artist, as well as a film director living and working in Istanbul. Her work features the female role in Turkish culture involving their migration from rural interiors into city centers and the resulting changes brought to the country. She references religious icons in her work to depict the Orthodox nature of Turkey.



Double Jesus and the Baby Antelope represents the fashion changes caused by the migration of Turkish women from rural areas into large cities. The women wore “kitsch” fabric designs sought after by women in other countries such as Russia and Ukraine. Gülsün Karamustafa uses iconic pictures of Jesus to show the religious affiliation of Turkey.


Chronographia, 1994, Sixty framed prints, 8.3 x 11.8 in.

Chronographia is an installation of sixty magazine covers of Radyo Haftasi (Radio Week), each with text and commentary by the artist’s father. The gold frames bring an iconic status to the pictured women and emphasized their celebrity status at the time. The installation as a whole represents happier times before the subsequent generation was plunged into political turmoil. Walk amongst the idols of Turkish society and view the work of Gülsün Karamustafa on February 12th at NMWA!

About the Author- Ali Printz is currently an intern in the Library and Research Center at NMWA

Women Artists from Turkey: Merve Brill

The third installment of women artists featured in A Dream…but not Yours: Contemporary Art from Turkey showcases another favorite artist of mine, Merve Brill. Born in Istanbul in 1982, Brill currently lives and works in Berlin. Two of her large-scale paintings on fabric, Bicycle and Just Singing, both from 2008, are featured in the exhibition.

Just Singing, 2008 Acrylic on fabric, 135 x 210 cm.

Just Singing is emotionally heavy. A young girl stands in the midst of a dark, never-ending forest, holding a microphone in front of her face. Her body is blurred and translucent and the trees in the background emerge through her dress and skin. The image represents the loss of innocence. The merging of the foreground and background allude to the need for the young woman to find her own way in a complex world.

Bicycle, 2008 Acrylic on fabric, 250 x 135 cm.

Bicycle features the same commercial fabric for the background that is applied in Just Singing, forming a narrative between the two paintings. A lone, blurred bicycle is transposed within the same dark, gloomy forest. The bicycle appears to be moving, or perhaps lying on its side in a pool that reflects the trees back at the viewer. Whatever the case may be, perhaps the bike was the vehicle for the girl’s arrival into the forest. I enjoy Brill’s paintings because of the seemingly unintentional art historical references. Not only does she reference the Dadaists with her use of readymade fabric, but she also incorporates the gloomy undertones of the German Expressionist movement.

Come see Merve Brill’s work on February 12 at the opening of A Dream…But not Yours: Contemporary Art from Turkey.

About the Author- Ali Printz is currently an intern at the Library and Research at NMWA

Women Artists from Turkey: Leyla Gediz

A Dream…but not Yours: Contemporary Art From Turkey is opening on February 12th in our second floor galleries and will feature 11 inspiring women artists.

Leyla Gediz, Turn, 70x50cm, Oil on Canvas

The first artist that struck my interest in the show was Leyla Gediz, a young painter and native of Istanbul. Her work echoes the propaganda of the pop artists of the 1960s, yet adds a more personal, almost autobiographical spin on the subject. She experiments with mixed media, oil, acrylic, as well as stenciling, adding an urban graffiti edge. Gediz has three paintings in the show, TurnRepublican, and Terakki Remix, all created within the last four years. The paintings, along with the others in the exhibition, play with ideas of gender roles for women in contemporary Turkey. A woman is destined to play a certain role in society, but can she step out of that role under socially complex circumstances and reach for her own dream?

Turn, in my opinion, seems to be the standout of the three works by Gediz. It features a monochromatic  Hollywood glamour shot of Orlando Bloom with another image of a winding, abandoned road transposed over his face.  It seems as if Gediz has removed identity in this piece and replaced it with desolate feelings of the unknown, perhaps what fame and fortune can do to one’s stigma. True character is for the viewer to decide.

Leyla Gediz, Republican, 2006, 50×60 cm, Oil on canvas

Another piece by Gediz is Republican, a series of four identical portraits of the artist’s literature teacher, done in the stereotypical Che Guevara revolutionary format. The image of Gediz’s teacher was taken from a speech she gave on Turkish Republic Day, which celebrates the creation of the republic in Turkey after the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire.  Gediz’s teacher must have had an inspirational impact on her life, as she has given her a revolutionary, dictatorial position within the painting. The final piece in the show is Terakki Remix, a section of wallpaper patterning. Gediz used a stencil to trace the silouhettes of a man and small child into on intricate pattern. The work is simple yet effective and plays with the relationship between parent and child.

Leyla Gediz is just one installment from A Dream…but not Yours: Contemporary Art from Turkey.

About the Author: Ali Printz is currently an intern in the Library and Research Center at NMWA