Jul 31, 2011

Art on Prince’s Islands: Escaping the things we do

While we constantly talk about escaping the city, an art exhibition I saw last weekend made me think of breaking the cycle of things I do rather than places I live in. I don’t mean to deny the pleasure of being in a different spot. I just want to stress the importance of doing something different like watching art works in an unlikely holiday spot like the Prince’s Islands.
Sabuncakis mansion on Prince' Islands, Istanbul at the opening.
Photo: Ahmet Sel.

The art works were the outcome of collaboration among three men, artists who also distanced themselves from their familiar surroundings in London, Tel Aviv and Istanbul respectively. Nick Barratt, Nir Segal and Irmak Canevi, went to art school together in London (Slade School of Fine Art) and are good friends. They spent three weeks with each other in a workshop on Prince’s Island seeing “eye to eye” and produced the art works exhibited in the Sabuncakis Mansion on Prince’s Islands - Büyükada from  23 through 28 July 2011. The mansion is also known as the “house with the eye” for it has an eye on it.

Untitled by Nir Segal.
Photo: Ahmet Sel.

Barratt's triangular installation at "eyetoeye",
Polygon blanket, Princes Islands.
Photo: Ahmet Sel.

Irmak Canevi and his friends and fellow artists came up with the idea of the workshop. The Canevis opened their family house on the island to be used as the workshop venue. The caretakers of the house also took care of the three and selflessly fed one delicious meal after another to the lucky artists. Canevi’s dedication to his second career (second life) deserves the generosity of his support from his family and should be an inspiration to those previous slaves of corporate legal culture.

Irmak Canevi's "sponge island" installation at Princes Islands.
Photo: Ahmet Sel.

Typcial horse car from Princes Islands.
Photo: Nir Segal.

What I like most in Canevi’s work is the respect he shows for the sites of his exhibitions.  Previously, when he participated in a group show organized by Galeri Non and Dilara Moran at addresistanbul, he first made drawings of ‘pebble pools’, as he calls them, that punctuate the geometry of the floor plan of this furniture mall. Hence the name of Project, “Pebble Geometry”. Here, Canevi made a sketch of the Greek orphanage at the island which is Europe’s largest monoblock wooden building. Owing to the state of Turkish-Greek relations, the building has remained empty and decaying for decades, when after a European Court of Human Rights decision in 2010, it was finally transferred to the Greek Patriarch. Canevi used charcoal (one of the favorite things to do in the island is barbeque) and traced the texture of the wood pieces he laid under the paper. For pictures of the orphanage refer to here.

Mixed media work mainly based on the map of the island
by N.Barratt&I.Canevi with "Pendulum" in the background
left by Nir Segal.
Photo: Nir Segal

A happy Nick Barratt at the "eyetoeye"
in front of Nir Segal's neon installation "What? Gone".
Photo: Nir Segal.

This alone makes the cooperation between Segal and Canevi more meaningful in the historic low point between Turkish-Israeli relations. The cognizance of location was also apparent in the “island series” of mixed media.…..They were among my favorites as were the neon light “1500m” and “Illuminous”. I also found the installation “sponges” cute with its suggestion of the colors and cacophony Prince’s Islands absorb in the summer. While the “eye to eye” project smells of summer colors and joy of collaboration, it also had multiple trilogies. Three men working for three weeks culminating in Barratt’s triangular installation at the entrance of the exhibition. Looking for a place for the exhibition, they were helped by Mr. Hayri Özen who has been renovating the mansion from a building (converted from a former Masonic connection with its obvious triangles on the roof. Another piece I liked was by Segal’s Run Lola Run.

Three artists getting ready for "eyetoeye".
Photo: Zeren Göktan.

Irmak Canevi and Nir Segal at work to hang a drawing.
Photo: Zeren Göktan.

Given all this, it can be said that “breaking the routine” did everyone good. Mine started with Yalovalı Kardeşler’s kroket (patates köftesi), a must delicacy for everyone visiting the island. It continued with walking amid horse cars racing by my side; dozing in the garden of the Canevi house and ended with dinner at Ali Baba next to the harbor. Milto and Kapri are all good and seasoned choices of restaurants, although Şükrü seemed to be trying too hard to give the island a needless clubby scene reminiscent of the city. I left the island at lunch time next day to beat the returning crowds. Wasn’t the purpose of going to the island to get some peace of mind after all? With the growing popularity of Istanbul as a tourist destination (and Princes Islands getting its share -NYT agrees-) Büyükada seems less and less able to cater to that need. This is exactly when the art scene comes handyJ.

Travelmind, Zeren Göktan (responsible for selection and curation)
 and admirer Despina Minaoglu at "eyetoeye".
Photo: Ahmet Sel.