Semiha Berksoy's extraordinary life on and off the stage in exhibition
ISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News
The exhibition titled 'Wall of Hallucination,' presents highlights from Berksoy’s prolific and multi-faceted career and offers a dynamic interpretation of her oeuvre, as well as her unique perspective.Turkey’s legendary opera and theater artist, late Semiha Berksoy’s first gallery exhibition has opened at Istanbul’s Galerist.
The partnership between the gallery and the Semiha Berksoy Foundation aims to promote Berksoy’s work in Turkey and the world and to support the establishment of a Semiha Berksoy Museum within five years. Beyond being an exhibition space for the artist’s works, the museum is planned to be a living venue that includes a theater stage, a concert hall and classes for performing arts education.
The exhibition titled “Wall of Hallucination,” presents highlights from the artist’s prolific and multi-faceted career and offers a dynamic interpretation of Berksoy’s oeuvre, as well as her unique perspective. A selection of paintings, audio recordings, videos, photographs, personal objects and documents are presented through a biographic and thematic approach in the exhibition.
Berksoy said she saw the reflections of people whom she defined as supreme characters, who left great marks on her life, on the “Wall of Hallucination” situated in her room.
The artist lived a life among the spirits of her loved ones; she turned to them for inspiration and kept them alive through her paintings. The artist did not see death as an end to existence, but considered it a part of life.
Berksoy focuses on people and incidents that shape her life through love, death and music mostly with her self-portraits. Having lost her mother at the age of eight, it is visible in Berksoy’s work that she used art as a medium of self-expression and as a way of holding onto life, whereas love is the source and meaning of life for her.
She was committed to opera, theater, art, people whom she was inspired by, animals, plants and to life itself with love.
Berksoy’s opera career, which started in 1929 and traversed many countries and difficulties, ended in 1972 when she asked for her retirement. She carried over her experience from opera and theater, which enabled her to express emotional intensity with only one gesture, to her practice by depicting her wisdom and disappointment using simple brush strokes.
She created scenes coming out of dark emotions, from underneath the line, which in her words “holds death and life, past and future at an equal level, indicating that the concept of time does not exist.”
Born in 1910 in Istanbul, Berksoy was accepted to Istanbul Municipality Conservatory in 1928. One year later, she gave her first public concert with Cemal Reşit Rey. In 1931, she starred in “In the Streets of Istanbul,” the first Turkish sound movie by Muhsin Ertuğrul.
In 1936 she was accepted to Berlin State Music Academy and graduated from the opera department on top of her class. She became the first Turkish opera artist to perform in Europe when she played the leading role in “Ariadne auf Naxos” in honor of Richard Strauss’ 75th birthday.
In 1998, Berksoy was awarded the title of “State Artist” and the following year, she performed in Robert Wilson’s “The Days Before: Death, Destruction and Detroit II” in Lincoln Center, New York.
In a life dedicated to art, the prima donna also made great contributions in the field of visual arts, particularly with her paintings, installations and performances. Her works have been exhibited in retrospective shows at İş Sanat Kibele Gallery and Yapı Kredi Kazım Taşkent Gallery in Istanbul, in addition to many prestigious institutions in Berlin, Paris, New York and Vienna such as Manifesta II in Luxemburg and Venice Biennial curated by Rosa Martinez in 2005.