Mike Berg arrived in Istanbul shortly after the 1999 earthquake. However, our conversation started with a passionate description of his ranch and the peacefulness he felt in total silence.
Mike Berg, gouache, 2018
A father of four and newly a grandfather, Berg delights in moving between his three worlds, a loft studio in New York, a home studio in the wilderness of Washington state, and an old wooden house studio in the shadow of Ayasofya in the heart of old Istanbul.
But there was never any art market rhetoric in the time we spent over coffee in his beautiful home/studio, unusually located in the back streets of Gulhane.
'When I first got here I was immediately taken by the city because I love pattern, design and texture. It's everywhere here, and you can see it in my work, there's a certain overlap there.'
His new show at Gallery Nev, across the Galata Bridge in Karaköy, Persuasion (İkna), opens tonight (March 30) and is not to be missed. You can also see stunning pieces at Siyah Beyaz Gallery in Ankara, which describes them as ‘spontaneous metal wall pieces developed from ink drawings and gouache paintings that develop into kilims'.
‘Tactility and expression' is how Berg himself describes his work, ‘I always loved calligraphy, Japanese, Chinese and Arab script. I'm interested in nakış (needlework) and Islamic metal work as a source.' A lot of these metal pieces he compares to ‘kafes', the latticework screens on windows of old wooden houses.
Berg is self taught, he studied political science and later won a scholarship to the prestigious Skowhegan art and sculpture school in Maine. He walked out after 3 weeks.
Portrait by Monica Fritz