Press Release - Sûr
17/02/2023 - 15/04/2023
Zilberman | Berlin is delighted to announce the solo exhibition Sûr by Fatoş İrwen.
For her exhibition Sûr, Fatoş İrwen chose the soil, the earth of her homeland, Diyarbakır, as a theme. This land, the earth of Diyarbakır, where the largest Kurdish majority in Turkey lives, holds not only past and current political histories with its people, its beliefs, its casualties, but also the memory of Mesopotamian civilizations. According to Islamic belief, Sûr is the instrument (trumpet) that the angel Isrâfil will blow to announce the arrival of the Day of Judgment. One could say that Sûr processes death and life together and captures the equation of Death and Resurrection across time. In Kurdish, sûr means border/wall/façade or it can refer to pointing out, calling or making a sound, while it sounds the same as Sur, a district of Diyarbakır. This exhibition will bring all these meanings together into common ground.
To realise this exhibition, the artist visited fields, graveyards, lush gardens, barren lands, mountainsides in her region; got close to earth, merged with its soil. This is the earth that the people of Diyarbakır have been living on, buried in, walked through, and nourished by. İrwen tries to humanise this earth through her installation Harvest of Time and to evoke sensory feelings connected to it; the smell, the sound of birds, the colours. In Harvest of Time, a room is filled with earth, planted with cotton cobs out of hair rather than cotton, to create human lands – fields of mankind to harvest. A video installation with sound is hovering over the fields.
In Hevsel series Irwen depicts Hevsel Gardens through its reflections on the river Tigris. The landscape is illustrated through its shadows, that are visible in the movement of the ink dispersing in the water and spreading on the pages, with reflections hitting the river's shore. There is a flip side to this beautiful and fertile land; it has been subject to significant violence. Even if it was a place to which many poems were dedicated, it’s shadows can be dark and sinister.
In the exhibition, there are 40 canvases made out of a mixture of soil, hair and plants, that the artist has collected from the Hevsel Gardens and Mardinkapı Cemetery. The number 40 also relates to the Kırklar Dağı (the Forty Mountain) in the same area, which is the playground of many legends and myths. In a photograph, a woman is talking into a well. The well is the place where the body and space pour their secrets into each other, a significant place for the artist; the well is her counterpart, a living subject, from where the voices of ancestors can be heard, where history and experiences flow and become one.
İrwen’s work is loaded with her personal history to spin a narrative against masculinity, feudalism and the power of the state. The artist was taken into custody in Diyarbakır in 2017. She was sentenced to prison without any evidence, on the testimony of a secret witness, and spent three years inside. During this time she produced many works, accepting the challenges and her new environment as limitations.
The ground represented in Sûr contains pieces of our contemporary border politics that the artist is trying to excavate and expose. The female perspective cannot be overlooked: the artist puts it forward, bringing the power of historical myths back to mother earth. She’s reaching for something through digging and scraping. If it was possible, Fatoş İrwen would dig down all the seven levels of Earth to raise awareness and understanding for her land.
Fatoş Irwen was born and raised in the historical Sûr neighbourhood in Diyarbakır, Turkey. She studied Fine Arts at Dicle University in Diyarbakır and taught at secondary schools in Batman, Diyarbakır and Istanbul. Her solo show entitled Exceptional Times (curators: Ezgi Bakçay and Wenda Koyuncu) took place simultaneously in Karşı Sanat and DEPO Istanbul in 2021. Her selected group shows include: Of Paper (curator: Selin Akın, Ferda Art Platform, Istanbul, 2021); Art in Dark Times (organized by bi’bak, Haus der Statistik, Berlin, Germany, 2020); Heritage / Matrimonio (curator: Gudrun Wallenböck, Gallery Enrique Guerrero, Mexico City, Mexico, 2019); Not What You Think! (Hinterland Galerie, Vienna, Austria, 2018); Post-Peace (curator: Katia Krupennikova, Württembergischer Kunstverein, Stuttgart, Germany, 2017). Fatoş Irwen lives and works in Istanbul and Diyarbakır.
The exhibition Sûr is accompanied by a catalogue with contributions by Zeynep Sayın, Birte Fritsch und Lotte Laub.
- Fatoş İrwen