‘Sour as a Lemon’ defines me, says Nilbar Güreş
Hatice Utkan Özden
In his legendary book, “Le Nom au Bout de la Langue” (The name at the tip of the tongue), Pascal Quinard deals with singularity, philology and the impossibility of the language in a very provocative way - he rediscovers how we lose and find language in conversations and daily life.
Unlike Quinard, Turkish artist Nilbar Güreş never loses the language of meaning - she holds it very powerfully and rediscovers the images by the language she discovers in her works. On the other hand, just like Quinard, using the same technique, she finds a way to rediscover meanings by using images and ideas. As a result, we see social phenomena, things we encounter in daily lives, gender inequality, hierarchies, freedom and many different concepts in Güreş’ works.
Güreş tends to think of her artworks as a painting at the beginning and then evolve these artworks into other material-supported works. “I build and fictionalize all my works as paintings. I start my ideas by drawing them,” she said.
She uses drawing as a language and creates a pure language as she creates. Delivering her ideas via visual language, she uses a variety of media, such as painting, sculpture, installation, photography, film, performance, collage and drawing. This allows her to search for ways to open a new aspect for the viewer to question the designed realities of communities.
“An artist questions and thinks about the process and never accepts things that are naturally given to communities. I create my histories, stories in my artworks while I try to enrich them,’’ said Güreş, who enriches her works with materials and everything she lives by.
Her latest exhibition at Kunsthaus Pasquart art center in the Swiss city of Biel is an example of her visual storytelling approach. She discovers new ways of using the material in her works. Her exhibition titled “Sour as a Lemon” is a perfect way for her to express the way she sees life and herself. However, what she does the best once again lights the way of the creative aspect of life, and she looks through the eyes of communities and others.
“The title of the exhibition comes from an anecdote. I was once speaking with a friend, and she told me that I was exaggerating and called me bitter. I did not think of myself as bitter. I am just sensitive to those things around me,” Nilbar said.
She named her work “Sour as a Lemon.” When she recalls the moment, she said, this work or this title comes from a rebellious moment between my artist friend and me.
“Now, when I go back to that moment and recall the conversation with my friend. I do not think I am bitter. I just express what is right for me and do not hesitate to express my ideas,” Güreş said, explaining this as her search for an anti-hierarchical structure.
She creates her portrait within this understanding, able to criticize herself, seeing both positive and negative ways. And this variety and diversity reflect in her works, creating manifestations of social realities with the addition of humans. We see different materials, such as fabrics, textiles, collages and photographs, while she uses painting, sculpture, installation, photography, film, performance, collage and drawing in her exhibition.
Dealing with inequality
In this exhibition, Güreş uses signs and semiotics very well; she creates her semiotic system. We see a sculpture that she creates as her portrait. While she invents her semiotic system, she uses colors, painting and artworks from diverse scales. It is possible to see a large installation rise to the ceiling or small size collages on a pink wall. Somehow the viewer immediately knows how she deals with questions of inequalities. Güreş shows she is an expert in dealing with social questions such as cultural diversity or queer modes of life in her works.
Güreş’s most powerful approach might be her perspective and her point of view while she looks into society. Even though most of the writings about her deal with gender inequality, it is unfair to limit her perspective and her artworks only to gender inequality. She is way more than that, as she can look at the communities and see the detailed inequalities and hardships, as she can think about every aspect of society in a very detailed and powerful way.
“Gender inequality in society is not only an issue about women but also of class inequality. I tend to create my artworks on a flexible ground to emphasize the inequalities in all ways. However, according to the artist, women are destined to act in a certain way in society, and even though women try to raise their voices, it is always men playing the leading roles in society,” she said.
This year, Güreş received the Prix Maud Mottier Award, which Kunsthaus Pasquart gives to artists who work primarily in the medium of painting.
“For a very long time, I wanted to create paintings. But we all know as an artist we enter into a cycle because we create our artworks in a certain system,” she said, explaining that it was hard for an artist to create something new sometimes as there were expectations from society.
However, as soon as the pandemic started and Güreş found herself at home, she started to paint. “First, we have exhibited the painting works at Istanbul’s Galerist. Not many people visited the show, and I can say not many collectors were interested in the show. However, the same paintings received an award in Switzerland.”
Güreş’s paintings are bold, and once again, the images are inviting us to discover the representation of marginality. Her images are fused in the subject matter. She finds the meanings in images and then lets the viewer discover again.
The exhibition “Sour as a Lemon” will run until June 13.