We have always enjoyed finding great artists, projects or presentations in places that are not normally in the spotlight and recently found this in Istanbul, Turkey. Between December 9, 2021 and January 15, 2022, Merve Morko presents its large bespoke exhibition Yes it is alive, no it is not, in collaboration with UP Art Project at KÃ¼Ã§Ã¼k MustafapaÅ?? a hamam.
We have been observing Morko’s work for some time now and remain constantly fascinated by the diverse and distinct approach to her practice and the variety of media and techniques as well as the methods in which she has been working. Driven by the idea that materials of any size can easily be turned into an effective medium for transmitting ideas, she has been working in paintings, sculptural works, installation and photography, and this particular show seems to be the culmination of all these different tendencies. In her paintings, she often meticulously blends computer-generated visuals into doodles, splashes, or rough gestures and signs, while in sculptures and installations, she uses everything from existing, ready-made, ephemeral, ephemera, to non-artistic materials as the binding element between them. To some extent, this approach inspired the idea behind the show which revolves around the idea of a clear and well-defined distinction between an artificial object and a natural one. Interested in the way we assess our impending surroundings and adjust our actions accordingly, the artist proposes a question about concepts learned and preserved within the relationship between form and matter. More precisely, Morco wonders whether the properties of artificial things that are the product of designed and conscious work are defined by objective and general criteria as natural things created from the unintended effects of material forces.
Using this important moment, we reached out to the artist to learn more about her practice and the ways in which diverse media can intertwine and complement, about being an artist in Turkey, and about balloons and cowboys.
Sasha Bogoyev: What attracts you to work in such different mediums, materials and technologies and what kind of work will be done with any technology?
Murphy Morco: I’ve never been a single physical/average person. For me, it’s not just about completing an artwork, it’s about thinking and experimenting with materials. The time I spend with the material tells me a lot about the kind of business you want to turn into. The texture of the material, the working principle, the feeling you create inside me is what directs me to production.
How do the works relate to each other, or what are some of the elements, qualities, or vibes/feelings you have been trying to keep consistent?
Honestly, there is nothing constant and lasting for me. As life moves, so does my productivity. The only constant is me, my mind, and my hands. But there is a radical idea that brings together the works in this gallery, which I have been thinking of for years, in reading, writing and painting, which is the term ‘neighborhood’???? and its relationship to matter.
Have any of the works inspired others and how does that usually work?
Yes, especially the paintings and sculptures affect each other deeply. But also video and sculpture go hand in hand.
Is there a meaning or symbolism behind the inflatable things, such as the big hat, balloons, etc.?
Inflatables have always fascinated me. For many years, I have produced and worked on works in different ways. The ability of an organism to grow, contract and change its shape is incredibly impressive. The synthetic material suddenly begins to acquire vivid properties. But this cowboy hat in particular is a tribute to my mom. While making the horse statue for the show, at some point I thought about adding a rider to it. And as I thought about who would be the rider of this horse, a picture of my mother from her youth popped up in my mind. In the photo, mom is dressed in a full cowboy costume as she is on her way to work at the age of 17-18. By the way, I would like to convey a little information. In our culture, there is no Halloween. Wearing a costume was a very unusual choice for a woman in Istanbul in the 1980s. Long story short, there are many pictures of cowboys in the gallery, which for me symbolize the strength of my mother and the women of my family.
How much work or any aspects of it are inspired by the fact that you live in Turkey at the moment?
Even the country I live in has an impact on the way I go to the toilet. It is impossible for me to stay away from art. Living in a country like Turkey where you wake up to corruption, theft, murder and discrimination every day requires a full time job. There is a saying we use here a lot: “Geography is destiny”. Living in Turkey brings a lot of burdens and troubles, but at the end of the day, I was born in this land, I live and work here, so you can see an expression of this in every step I take and every work I do.
Who are the “those who sleep in Buyukada” to which this exhibition is devoted?
Important, we come to emotional questions. Last year I tragically lost my cat, my mother and my son. They died in agony 4 days. While I was looking for their burial place, I thought of “Buyukada”. Buyukada means the big island. It is the largest of the nine princesses islands in Istanbul. Two of my close friends live on that island and I asked them to recommend a place I could visit whenever I wanted. Suggest me a place where they usually have a good time. At the top of the island next to an abandoned ancient Greek orphanage, the third largest wooden building in the world. I prepared a grave for them there and it was a wonderful funeral day, which was very difficult to describe in words. Butterflies were flying everywhere, a stray cat was accompanying us during the funeral, and it was lying next to the grave all the time, and at one point the cows came to us and began to graze. It was an unforgettable day for me in every sense of the word.
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