Culture

Mundane nostalgia made psychedelic

BEIRUT: Art is an integral part of society. Unfortunately, access to it tends to be restricted to an elite of art aficionados; the bulk of society is prevented entry.

This is the sentiment Turkish artist Yigit Yazici wants to express through his art, specifically in “Layers of a Tale,” a show comprised of 23 untitled acrylics on canvas and wood, currently on show at Art on 56th.

Yazici’s goal is to transform objects from daily life – trucks, cars, barbershops and motorcycles – in order to, as the exhibition essay would have it, “give the observer a new perspective.”

Regardless of the medium, these paintings are signposts to a psychedelic, pop art world where vivid blues, pinks, greens and yellows mingle with a strong sense of nostalgia.

Gallerist Noha Wadi Moharram said she discovered Yazici’s work during a trip to Istanbul. She fell in love with the explosions of color in his oeuvre. The artist’s technique, she continued, consists in putting a canvas on the floor and then applying layers of paint to it.

Due to the amazing clarity with which he renders detail, some of these paintings have the aspect of silkscreens – perhaps a reflection of Yazici’s practice of reproducing his photographs in some of his paintings.

One work depicts a restaurant. At first glance it looks like an agglomeration of geometrical patterns and colors reminiscent of an electronic circuit board. So elaborate is his application of color to represent the effects of light and shadow – Yazici renders detail with acrylic pens – that figuration, while realistic enough, is almost secondary.

Yet a kitchen it is, with table and chairs to the right, the counter on the left and a coat hanger at the center.

Moharram explained how in one painting, the onlooker may find several layers of paint. This juxtaposition can be a bit overwhelming, but it makes the journey into the heart of the piece that much more diverting.

Another work portrays a barbershop, one that he photographed in New York City. Again, the detail in the figuration is utterly realistic, while the colors are not so restricted.

Fluorescent pink is as pervasive here as it might be in a piece of pop art. Ironically, for all the unhinged realism of the coloring, the nostalgia radiating from the work is reduced not a whit. This barbershop wouldn’t be out of place in an early-20th-century film.

Human figures are distinctly absent but neither are they particularly necessary: Any onlooker can easily imagine the liveliness of the place.

More nostalgia is embedded in a canvas in which Yazici represents an antique camera, rendered against a light-blue background. Aficionados of historic photography practices might detect the work’s reference to an edition of camera called the Semi Olympus, with its vertical folding bed.

The same might be said about Yazici’s depiction of a diesel train engine, which, in lieu of realistic landscape, is embraced by an elusive series of numbers and letters – 3 5 5 K S.

Yazici’s figuration highlights specific aspects of the machine – again, as if to remain true to the play of light and shadow on the surface of the thing – while elsewhere the engine’s surface has been turned over to a depiction at once more fanciful and decorative.

The artist’s decision to refrain from naming his works facilitates onlookers’ desire to make the work his or her own, at least in terms of interpretation.

Yigit Yazici’s “Layers of a Tale” is now up at Gemmayzeh’s Art on 56th until March 20. For more information, call 01-570-331.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on March 08, 2013, on page 16.

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