- What’s On
The most comprehensive exhibition to date of Nur Koçak, one of Turkey’s first photorealist painters, is presented at SALT Beyoğlu and SALT Galata. Titled after one of her works, Our Blissful Souvenirs comprises a selection of early drawings and photographic series, produced between the 1960s and 2010s. The exhibition offers an in-depth view into Koçak’s critically narrative practice, which examines the spread of popular culture from women’s magazines and Hollywood movies through to its repercussions in Turkey.
Our Blissful Souvenirs begins at SALT Beyoğlu’s ground floor, with the Vitrinler [Shop Windows] (1989–2019) series installed in the Forum. These photographs and paintings focus on the reflections of the global consumer culture on various shop windows in central Istanbul, questioning the depersonalization of the female body, as it suddenly became the object of the gaze through the overt display of retail products once deemed private. The presentation also reinstates Ebrusan Vitrini [Ebrusan Shop Window] (1993–1996) to Beyoğlu more than a quarter century later, in which fishnet stockings embroidered with beads or rhinestones, lace lingerie and other accessories are intertwined with street images.
In the multiple series on the second floor of SALT Beyoğlu, Koçak weaves together her childhood memories with scenes of happiness etched into the collective psyche.
Opposing the strict rules set forth by her academic training, Koçak insisted on making photorealist paintings early on in her career. Her determination in this preferred technique and medium, as well as the feminist viewpoint that continues to inform her practice today, helped transform the local art historical narratives that often overlooked or entirely disregarded female identity. Born in 1941, Koçak made her foray into art early on; in primary school she studied under the tutelage of artist Turgut Zaim at TED Ankara College Foundation School. In high school, she studied with abstract exhibitionist painter Leon Berkowitz in Washington, DC, where she was chosen “the best student in painting.” During her education at the State Academy of Fine Arts in Istanbul, which she started in 1960, Koçak first joined Adnan Çoker’s gallery, and later the studios of Cemal Tollu and Neşet Günal. The drawings she made until her move to France in 1970 when she won a scholarship from the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Turkey are exhibited at SALT Galata. This final part of the exhibition exemplifies sketches and studies from that decade, reflecting the drawing-based approach dominant in art education at the Academy at the time.