6 Artists You Should Meet When You Travel To Istanbul

Scream Catcher by Elif Sanem Karakoc

Scream Catcher by Elif Sanem Karakoc

In the six months I have lived in Istanbul I have come to realize that this city is the most diverse place I’ve ever been. It can be both, the most stunning experience and the hardest challenge. Put in one word, Istanbul is intense. It’s western and oriental, it’s incredibly vibrant. It definitely is the most beautiful city to me, but also the harshest. Working in a contemporary and new media art space and being confronted with the local art scene it was here that I truly experienced for the first time how important it is to not just be and accept but to also be a creator. Art is an incredibly powerful tool; it can shatter an unbearable situation and express what you feel without even opening your mouth. From observing and exploring Istanbul’s art scene with all its different influences and outcomes, these are the six artists that I find most inspiring and who you should meet when travelling here.

Barış K

Barış K at Sónar Festival (2013)  photo by Pere Masramon  Red Bull Content Pool

Barış K at Sónar Festival (2013) / photo by Pere Masramon / Red Bull Content Pool

Even though listening to Istanbul born and raised DJ Barış K before in Berlin, it was in his hometown that I really started to get the depth behind his music. His psychedelic disco sound is combining exactly how you might experience today’s Istanbul and Turkey, oriental but modern, chilled but also tense, a definitely energetic and memorable tune.  Barış produced his own radio shows for nearly ten years, broadcasted by Istanbul’s Dinamo FM and Acık Radio, followed by him participating in and curating multiple music projects. In releasing ‘Eurasia’ and the Istanbul 70 edits on Nublu label, co-curating a festival for psychedelic and Turkish folk bands, ‘Anapop’, and forming the funk collective ‘Insalar’ together with Cem Yıldız, his love for supporting and promoting Turkish music is more than visible. His track ‘200’ is dealing with all the issues of gender, politics and religion Turkey has to face at the moment. Besides regularly playing in Istanbul’s Minimüzikhol and Gizli Bahçe, Barış is performing in venues and festivals all over the world now.

Göksu Gül

 Göksu Gül - Untitled III (2016) / copyright the artist

Göksu Gül – Untitled III (2016) / copyright the artist

Being picked as one of ten participants for this year’s CEC ArtsLink residency program in New York, Ankara-born Göksu Gül certainly is a talent to watch. Graduated from Istanbul’s Marmara University Fine Arts Faculty’ Painting Department in 2006 she is since then working as a cartoonist, painter and sculptor. All of her works reflect her curiosity and eagerness about biological processes and the development and beauty of nature. The investigation of environment and the interaction of possible life forms is also the topic of her next collaborative exhibition at BLOK art space in Çurkucuma together with Iranian artist Ebrahim Mohammadian. When looking at Göksu’s thorough artworks you might witness DNA string and cell-like elements, crossing the line between real and unreal, possible and impossible and giving a gentle glimpse of her interpretation of natural cycles. Besides Istanbul, she has had exhibitions in Barcelona and Berlin and was part of the MAMUT ART PROJECT 2015 in KüçükÇiftlik Park. Along with other Turkish artists, Göksu is part of ‘Istanbul Zombie 2066’, a collective graphic novel by Mery Cuesta which is published in Istanbul and Barcelona.

Cevdet Erek

Cevdet Erek -  Alt Üst (2014) installation view / courtesy of the artist

Cevdet Erek –  Studio (2005) installation view / courtesy of the artist

Multi-talented new media artist, musician, writer and teacher Cevdet Erek knows how to play with different elements in his installations, attempting to challenge the viewer to question his first, intuitive view of a given space by combining image, sound and video. By studying architecture at Mimar Sinan University of Fine Arts and later receiving his master’s degree in Sound Engineering and Design at Istanbul Technical University as well as additionally performing in Istanbul’s rock band Nekropsi during his studies, he attained the mandatory tools for his works. Cevdet has had solo and group exhibitions all over the world and was participating in Biennales in Marrakech, Sharjah, Istanbul and Sydney. He was a member of the 14th Istanbul Biennale advisory team and his incredible, experimental volumes were shown at the same event at ‘A Room of Rhythms – Otopark’, an empty carpark in Çurkucuma. He received several awards for his work , was responsible for numerous movie sounds like Emin Alpers ‘Abluka’ and created the sound installation in Orhan Pamuk’s Museum of Innocence in Çihangir.

Hera Büyüktaşçıyan

Hera Büyüktaşçıyan - The Recovery of an Early Water (2014) Installation at the Patriarch’s Pool, part of the Jerusalem Show VII: Fractures, Al Ma’mal Foundation for Contemporary Art Jerusalem / photo by Issa Freij / copyright the artist

Hera Büyüktaşçıyan – The Recovery of an Early Water (2014) Installation at the Patriarch’s Pool, part of the Jerusalem Show VII: Fractures, Al Ma’mal Foundation for Contemporary Art Jerusalem / photo by Issa Freij / copyright the artist

‘Different’ is a very applicable term for inspiring artist Hera Büyüktaşçıyan as she always felt ‘different’ from people around her, always being special, never really fully integrated into a community. Being part of a minority in Turkey, Hera, who has Armenian and Greek roots, dedicated her research and art to the exploration of the collective memory and identity of her historical and cultural origins, combined with the integration of Turkish myths. After graduating from Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University in 2006, Hera’s artworks, mostly installations, deal with certain fragments of her past; memory, displacement, absence, isolation and belonging, identity, space and time. Water is one of the recurring elements in her works, symbolizing the constantly flowing nature of memories. She participated in numerous art residencies, counting Stockholm, Yeveran and the 56th Biennale in Venice 2015, where she presented her works in the Golden Lion-winning Armenian pavilion. She has had exhibitions in Ankara, Jerusalem, Rome, and Athens as well as in Istanbul’s new art space Alt Bomonti, 5533 and SALT. Hera’s works will be shown at this year’s 12-day ‘Art around Moda’ festival in Kadıköy.

Elif Çağlar

Elif Çağlar and Bilal Karaman  photo by Erdal Mahir Cüran

Elif Çağlar and Bilal Karaman photo by Erdal Mahir Cüran

When seeing jazz-singer and producer Elif Çağlar performing she seems so confident, just having absolute trust in herself and her band while managing to expose her fragile side simultaneously when singing about love, society and protest. But apparently, simply having an incredible voice and talent is still not enough to make it as a female jazz singer in Turkey – you need to be assertive enough to show your own will and Elif possesses this persistent and highly resistant characteristics. She has made history by being the first female jazz artist in Turkey to write all her compositions and arrangements for her first album and also being the first Turkish person who graduated with an award from New York’s Queens College in the Aaron Copland School of Music where she obtained her master’s degree in Jazz Performance. Before that she studied Jazz Composition at Istanbul’s Bilgi University and released her album “1-10” with her band “Bagdat Avenue”. You can listen to her remarkably expressive voice at jazz festivals all over Turkey and Europe. Moreover, she is regularly performing in Istanbul’s Babylon Bomonti.

Elif Sanem Karakoç

Mezzanine by Elif Karakoc

Mezzanine by Elif Karakoc

Even though her creative talent was visible since early on, who would have thought that when Elif Sanem Karakoç started taking memoir pictures with her first 3 megapixel camera at the age of 14, this skyrocketing talent would have her first solo photography exhibition in Finland only two years later? You might not only identify  the emotions or moments Elif wants to capture in her photos but also her own progress of constantly exploring her own creativity and discovering new approaches, experimenting with self-portraits, street, food and human as well as darkroom photography. Instinctively, Elif has always been eager to capture that one special moment and create something contemporary while still being emotional, sometimes nostalgic, occasionally approaching to integrate a back-to-the past touch in her photos where everything ancient can conduce as a source of inspiration to her. Elif collaborated with several prestigious magazines like Vogue, Zero and Madame Figaro as well as international authors which decided to use one of her photos for their book covers. She graduated from Istanbul’s Marmara University of Fine Arts Photography Faculty in 2014 and has had exhibitions in, among others, London, Bucharest and Nantes and was participating in projects in Artistanbul and Galeri Zilberman on İstiklâl Caddesi. She was also part of the 8th Korean Turkish Exchange Exhibiton in Istanbul.

Documented and written by Charlotte Kroll.

Always curious about cultural understanding and exchange of any kind, 25 year old Charlotte, who grew up in a small city in the Harz mountains in Germany, moved to New Zealand after school and later studied Intercultural Communications, Economics and French in Germany and Slovakia. She participated in several projects abroad and moved to Istanbul in 2015 where she has been working in an art space while additionally composing articles about local events and Istanbul’s struggling art scene.