‘Getting Lost’ between colors and realities of life
Hatice Utkan Özden - ISTANBULCemal Gürsel Soyel is an artist who has lived in many places without ever feeling he belongs in any of them. Born in Cyprus, Soyel experienced the horrors of the war in Cyprus before leaving to start a new life in Vienna.
His lack of a sense of belonging led him to call his latest exhibition “Get Lost” “because there is this notion of being lost, being without a home and living without it.”
Although Soyel has staged many exhibitions abroad, his new show at Versus Art Project in Taksim is his first in Turkey.
Soyel is an artist who likes to question his relation with his country and how this relation evolves. And maybe that’s where he finds his wisdom and inspiration in art. When speaking about his feeling of not belonging a place, he said: “This is the state of my fear of being lost. By saying getting lost I mean not being able to settle down, not belonging, created by a process involving my past.”
Even though deep inside he does not feel he belongs to one place, the opposite seems true when viewing his works. Although Soyel loves to work on abstract paintings, he said: “I do not see a pure abstract when I look at my paintings. On the contrary, I see a figure in them.”
Soyel prefers to follow spontaneous impulses in producing his works and often chooses to initially paint the surface of his canvas black. In contrast, the viewer can see that the color the artist uses most often from his pallet is white. He attempts to find a rhythm in the chaos he experiences in himself on the surface of the painting.
In this exhibition, Soyel decided to use some different colors. “Usually, I do not tend to use so much color. I tend to make monochrome paintings. But this time, I used colors. I cannot paint on white canvas. I paint them black, but I use white the most,” he said.
However, what makes him special as an artist is his power and talent to reflect his feelings on the canvas. He has a unique style as he draws. While creating his works, Soyel only cares about the work itself. His only goal is to form a strong painting. “For me, the material does not matter; I look at the work and its strength,” he said.
According to art critic and curator Dr. Marcus Graf, Soyel’s treatment of paint, his selection of format and material, as well as his depiction of shapes, lines and dots in his all-over-compositions follow a radical understanding of contemporary abstract painting.
“However, he does not really care about temporality, trends or styles. The only thing he wants is to create a strong painting,” Graf said.
‘Art not a savior but a gatherer’
Soyel does not believe art can save humanity. “But it can gather together humans and make a difference,” he said.
His paintings and general stance in the art world also support this idea. At the same time, he attempts to explain his feelings and how his experiences, such as with the war, affected his life.
“People cannot escape from themselves and what they have been through. The events and happenings they have witnessed become theirs,” he said.
Soyel reflects his feelings and how the events surrounded him affected his life.
In this exhibition, which includes more than 20 oil paintings of different dimensions on canvas and paper, Soyel presents the viewer with a style that involves multiple layers of thick paint. What he tries to do is to tell us his feeling of “getting lost” in this world. What matters to the viewer is that Soyel is very brave and open.
“There is a rhythm in my paintings, like music, and I want the viewer to be caught up in this rhythm,” Soyel said.
Soyel’s first solo exhibition in Istanbul will be open until June 25.