A delightful small exhibiton by the Turkish-born artist, photographer and print-maker Guler Ates is coming to a close at the Hoxton Art Gallery. By the time you read this, I fear it will be too late - but do look out for her work.
Guler Ates, who was born and brought up in Turkey, graduated from the Royal College of Art with an MA in printmaking in 2008. Her photography strikingly illustrates the cross-cultural themes often explored by the deracine artist- contemplation of the homeland and its customs from the standpoint of the adopted country. In Ates case, the images interweave Turkish dress, colours, customs and costume with western interiors and artistic traditions. The title of the exhibiton plays on the etymology of the word Orientation with its implications of east-facing and, by implication, the western interpretation of all that “eastern” implies.
Bold slashes of primary reds and blues punctuate dark interiors which mostly fade to solid black. Before disappearing into the darkness, we glimpse sections of tables, chair arms and other furniture or furnishings. The colours turn out to be the costumes of an anonymous female figure, present in each image, part-spectral yet vibrant. The womens’ heads are covered, veiled both as if by Muslim custom as much as by the women of classical Dutch interiors, which the photographs clearly reference.
Woman in Red, above, and Trace of Blue, below, present all these themes. In these images, the interior becomes the exterior as we are forced to move from the rooms and furnishings to the interior life of the women. We do not see their faces, we can deduce nothing from their expressions and so we must cast ourselves into their minds through contemplation of their situation - strangers in “western” settings - although what is “west” and what is “east” is part of the problematic.
In Present and Absent, above, the woman is even less evident to the viewer as she half disappears as she goes down the stairs. Again, the interior becomes exterior to these women: this is, perhaps, the main point Ates wants to make and asks us to contemplate.
Ates has exhibited consistently during the last 10 years so there should be opportunities to see her work in the future. This is the first time I’ve seen her photography and I’ll make a point of looking for future examples of her art.
Hoxton Art Gallery, 64 Charlotte Road, London, EC2A 3PE