At Arter, Ahmet Doğu İpek’s Sculptures and Works on Paper Are Studies in Time and Materiality – – 71Bait

Ahmet Doğu İpek’s current exhibition “A Halo of Blackness Upon Our Heads” at Arter in Istanbul conveys his fascination with the intersection of natural and artificial materials. İpek is famous for its site-specific installations: In supper (2019), set in an Ottoman-era mansion, he played with the parquet tiles to imagine how nature could overtake culture, creating the eerie illusion of a green hill rising through the ground. Similar concerns surface in his “Roots” series (2019), in which he carved the roots of walnut trees to reveal the stones embedded within.

At Arter he presents several related groups of works. For his Subjected (2022) series, he arranged for two boulders, weighing almost 2,500 and 3,300 pounds, to be transported from the Anatolian city of Kütahya to the gallery space in Istanbul, where they lie on giant white sponge “mattresses”. . As an encounter between natural and synthetic materials, the installation also suggests very different timescales by juxtaposing artificial sponges with rocks that have taken millennia to form. The boulders compress the sponges, which exist in a more active state and change color from white to yellow over the show’s eight-month run. The “Figures” series (2021–22) is another experiment with the same component (the artist has a collection of natural and artificial stones). İpek has drawn five stones in black watercolor: they are unique, like all rocks, and their markings, resembling creases and creases, make them read as human faces or palms; The skin-like textures of the stones seem to suggest something of their history and the forces that acted upon them, questions that have a particular resonance in this city. Natural stones are becoming increasingly rare in Istanbul, where new construction sites and skyscrapers are taking over historic neighborhoods and asphalt and concrete are crowding out the foundations of the old city.

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Nearly 150 mixed media paintings make up İpek’s From Faraway and Always series (2020–22); Covering an entire gallery wall, this work features rows and rows of blackened suns surrounded by a yellow glow like a halo. The works demonstrate İpek’s ability to use a minimalist, abstract language that emphasizes repetition and precision in equal measure. The opaque black circles differ slightly in scale, some are blurred or surrounded by different hues, giving a sense of flow. While the dark circles against the light evoke an eclipse, the shapes could also be read as Petri dishes, a reminder of the pieces’ creation during a pandemic. Through the subtly yellowing linseed oil, these works also suggest living organisms and imply a formal connection to the discoloring foam of the “Subjected” series.

While the above works demonstrate İpek’s talent as a superb illustrator and concept artist, the two videos featured are less visually compelling and more intellectually lazy. The one-channel, 10-minute pieces Zephyr I and Zephyr II (both 2021) suffer from mannerism. They are named after the west wind (ζόφος, zóphos, meaning darkness), named after the Greek god Zephyrus, the harbinger of spring. Accompanied by a meditative soundtrack by Turkish artist Ah! Kosmos, the videos feature hallucinatory animations of mingling black shapes, beginning calmly before the shapes dance around like a tornado, later morphing into a gentle breeze. The action looks like computer-generated images, but is the product of a simple gesture: İpek recorded the movement of ink in a large glass of water. As with the linseed oil series, it is in the eye of the beholder what these forms stand for – tornado, sandstorm or masses united in revolution.

Ahmet Dogu Ipek: Zephyr II2021, single channel video, ten minutes.

Courtesy of Arter, Istanbul

The exhibition’s curator, Selen Ansen, suggests that these videos illustrate the tragic and risky interactions between bodies, enacting Aby Warburg’s “pathos formula” – a series of gestures repeated throughout art history that convey movement and emotion. While zephyr Pictures captivate optically, they are ultimately superficial. The emotionally charged visual trope here lacks the rigid formality and resulting clout of İpek’s other works, making them essentially screensavers. Nevertheless, they illustrate the artist’s fascination with the transformation of systems, the relationship between chaos and the cosmos, and the evolution of forms.

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