Yorgo Seferis Gallery in Turkey's Urla moves to new space
Cheryl TanrıverdiEver since Hasan Gürsoy opened the Yorgo Seferis Art Gallery in Urla, he has been asked on a regular basis, “Hello, sir, are you Mr. Yorgo?” The answer is negative, of course, but it definitely provides an opportunity to talk about a major 20th century literary figure, Yorgo Seferis, who lived in Urla until the age of 14 and won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1963.
Gürsoy explains that when he and his partners opened in January 2014, they decided to pay respect to Greek-origin Yorgo Seferis by naming their gallery after him. This gesture to recognize a shared cultural past and encourage the pursuit of art was welcomed by the local community, according to Gürsoy. A positive step in the name of cross-cultural understanding and diversity, the gallery became a venue for artistic events and exhibits.
Now, the Yorgo Seferis Art Gallery has changed location with a move across the street to take up more spacious quarters in a restored stone building, which is said to have once been used as a stable for camels.
With the move, the gallery has expanded its range of activities to include a café along with its regular program of continually changing exhibits, instruction, and events like musical recitals and poetry readings.
Urla’s municipality in western Turkey named the street after Yorgo Seferis in 1998 with ceremonies, which included many Greek visitors and dignitaries.
Şenay Buluğ, Hasan Gürsoy’s partner and fellow artist, has taken over the management of the new café, aiming to create an attractive meeting place for both art-lovers and curious passers-by.
“We would really like to have a lively place where exhibits and classes take place, ideas and projects are discussed, and people expose themselves to art,” Buluğ says. “We want to develop enthusiasm and interest in cultural offerings.” She adds that the newly opened café provides a unique atmosphere where visitors can eat and drink while surrounded by artwork. An interesting assortment of decorative objects is also provided for people looking for a special gift.
The gallery’s four partners are all artists. Gürsoy, recipient of various awards, has exhibited his work many times both in Turkey and abroad. Buluğ is a versatile painter, potter, and sculptor. Ahmet Dut works with multiple materials like wood, metal pieces, and cast-off objects to create collages and pictures. Nuray Özalp, a fervent supporter of traditional Turkish and Ottoman art forms, focuses on three-dimensional works in paper, as well as handmade prints and motifs.
The four partners say that they are committed to promoting the importance of art in society.
Honoring Legacy of Yorgo Seferis
They also want to honor the legacy of Seferis, whose 14 years spent in Urla influenced him throughout his life. In numerous interviews, Seferis recalled his childhood summers in “Skala,” the İskele district of Urla. Throughout his literary work, he often described seaside locations, underwater caves, almond trees, coastal breezes and the light of the sun.
He left Urla in 1914 for Athens amidst war-time struggles, when World War I was beginning, nations were taking sides and loyalties were divided. In 1918, he went to Paris to study law at the Sorbonne. He returned to Athens in 1925. At that time, he entered the Greek diplomatic service, taking various assignments around the world. During World War II, he went into exile with the rest of the free Greek government during the Nazi occupation of Greece. This self-imposed exile increased his always present yearning for a homeland and place to belong.
His diplomatic assignments included a period in Ankara from 1948 to 1950. He died in 1971.
His poetic calling began at the age of 14 when he wrote his first poem. Like his father who was also a diplomat-poet, Seferis wrote poetry all his life. Over the years, he continued to write verse, and received many honors and prizes. His reputation extended beyond national borders when he received the Nobel Prize in Literature.
In accepting the award, he said, “Poetry is necessary to this modern world in which we are afflicted by fear and disquiet. Poetry has its roots in human breath – and what would we be if our breaths were diminished?”
In a way, Gürsoy says, Seferis was speaking on behalf of all forms of art. The Yorgo Seferis Art Gallery is, therefore, a fitting tribute to an exceptional literary figure who once called Urla home.
The Yorgo Seferis Art Gallery: Iskele Boulevard, Yorgo Seferis Street No. 44.
A poem by Seferis
How can you gather together
the thousand fragments
of each person?
What’s wrong with the rudder?
The boat inscribes circles
and there’s not a single gull.
The world sinks:
hang on, it’ll leave you
alone in the sun.
the ink grew less,
the sea increases.
The body that hoped to flower like a branch,
to bear fruit, to become like a flute in the frost —
imagination has thrust it into a noisy bee-hive
so that musical time can come and torture it.