John Craxton’s first-ever exhibition in Istanbul

John Craxton’s first-ever exhibition in Istanbul

John Craxton’s first-ever exhibition in Istanbul

Meşher, a multidisciplinary art space in Istanbul, is celebrating the life and work of painter and designer John Craxton (1922-2009) with an exhibition titled “Drawn to Light.”

Launched on April 5, the late British artist’s first solo exhibition in Türkiye will be on display until July 23.

Meşher is hosting the biggest and the most comprehensive display of Craxton’s artworks ever to be showcased. “Drawn to Light,” curated by Ian Collins, a friend and the biographer of the artist, brings together a diverse selection of works spanning the artist’s long career.

Featuring nearly 200 works, the exhibition offers a wide-ranging presentation of Craxton’s artworks, including a monumental tapestry, paintings, drawings, prints, book designs and personal effects. The exhibition charts a joyful creative life moving from war-time darkness into light and from monochrome to brilliant color. The window display features an example of the vintage motorbikes the artist loved to ride.

In addition to loaned works, the exhibition features 44 artworks from the Ömer Koç Collection, whose holding of Craxton works is second only to the John Craxton Estate.

Photographs by the American photographer Robert McCabe and the London-born painter Nicholas Moore also enrich the exhibition.
First traveling to the Aegean in 1954, McCabe’s photography focuses on its landscape and people, providing a close parallel with the art of John Craxton.

Nicholas Moore’s photographs show scenes from his 1985 trip to Istanbul with John Craxton. A frequent visitor and an admirer of Istanbul, Craxton’s revelatory exhibition invites art lovers to explore his art and life in the lands he loved best.

“John Craxton’s art is all about joy – in line, in color, in places, and most of all, in people. Visitors who have never seen it before, respond to its essential life force immediately. It cheers us all up,” says Collins.

Craxton’s early influences include Picasso and Miró, and at the age of 14, he studied An Allegory (Fábula) by El Greco, forever his favorite artist.

Rooted in travels to Greece and Türkiye, Craxton’s affection for Aegean culture and landscape shaped his adult work. His powerful compositions in linear color reflect a subtle and highly personal symbolism, as well as a sensual life in the sun. Mythology and archaeology, particularly Byzantine mosaics, Turkish carpets and Ottoman architecture, were key influences in Craxton’s work.

For nearly 50 years, Craxton created many of his best works in an Ottoman studio on his adopted island of Crete, Chania. He was a prolific portraitist of cats and goats. Although having famous friends, he depicted ordinary people, including sailors, shepherd families, and his companions in taverns and cafes.

Following visits to Istanbul over several decades, the mosaics in Hagia Sophia and warm encounters with local people were reflected in the spirit of his pictures. Traveling along the Aegean coast of Türkiye from Troy to Ephesus, his passions ranged from ancient sites to traditional cuisine. Arcadia was a word Craxton used habitually to describe this Aegean paradise, and he saw himself as a proud “Arcadian.”

“Drawn to Light” will be accompanied by a program of events organized by curator Collins and the Meşher team. Various talks and workshops for adults and children will be held free of charge.