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Friday, September 22, 2017

Mertim Gokalp

Strawberry Kiss, Mertim Gokalp
Maja, Mertim Gokalp
No other type of art has changed more in the last 150 years than that of the portrait. Back at the beginning of that arbitrary time period, roughly 1867, a painted portrait was usually quite dull, stiff, highly posed, and lacking in excitement. The only critical factor was whether or not the outcome "looked like" the sitter; but of course, that goes without saying with any portrait. Though the Impressionist were primarily landscape oriented, the advent of impres-sionist portraits was the first break with the stodgy tradition of stoic classicism. They must have come as even more of a shock when first displayed than did landscapes by the same artists. In the years that followed Expressionism also left its mark on portraiture as did Cubism, and even Surrealism. However, no artist in the history of art changed the nature of portraiture as much as did Andy Warhol in the 1960s and thereafter. So distinctly characteristic was his work that he scarcely even had imitators.
Sacrifice of the Model (series), 2015, Mertim Gokalp
Quite apart from the effects of all the "isms" upon the painted portrait, no other factor had more to do with the new freedom involved in painting portraits during the past century and a half than did the development of portrait photography. Yes, it put many portrait artists (especially the miniaturists) out to pasture, but it also freed all the others from the slavery of realism. It's interesting to note that today, virtually all the stylistic elements mentioned above are still viable and to varying degrees, still popular. For example, take a look at the work of the Turkish/Australian artist Mertim Gokalp. Usually when I write about artists today, there arises the phrase, "He (or she) also paints portraits." I dare say that today, even the best portrait artists among us also paint any number of other areas of content, many in fact, more often that they do portraits.
Sacrifice of the Model, 2015, Mertim Gokalp
That's not the case with Mertim Gokalp. He paints faces and figures to the exclusion of all else. Gokalp normally paints with a fair degree of Realism, but that's not to say he's a slave to that style. His portraits can be quite impressionistic at times, and expressionistic at others. And, like many artists today, Gokalp paints series, his bearing themes such as the "Sacrifice of the Model" (above) in which Gokalp seeks to direct the viewer’s attention to look behind the canvas, to think about all the models, artists, artist’s wives, all who sacrificed sometimes an ear [Van Gogh], their vision [Monet], or the ability to hear [Beethoven] for the sake of art and recognition. Clearly, art is dearer than eyesight, space, and liberty, beyond what can be valued, rich or rare, no less than life itself.

Bille Brown in a Turkish Bath, 2013, Mertim Gokalp,

Self-portrait, Mertim Gokalp
Mertim Gokalp was born 1981 in Istanbul. He holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University, Istan-bul. Founded in 1882, Mimar Sinan F.A.U. is Turkey’s leading Fine Arts Uni-versity. Mertim moved to Australia in 2009 and since then he has participated in many group exhibitions and solo exhi-bitions. His contribution to the contem-porary Australian art scene has been recognized by the Australian Government with a ‘distinguished talent’ visa, allowing him to live and work in Australia. He was a finalist in the Archibald Prize in 2013 with his portrait of Bille Brown (above), and a finalist in the Doug Moran National Portrait Prize 2015 with a painting from his "The Sacrifice of the Model" series.

From the "Feathers and Kisses" series
Another of Gokalp's series, "Feathers & Kisses" (above) aims to unveil the mysticism of women using angelic and divine references, hence the ‘feathers’, while exposing something deeper, instinctive, and natural--the ‘kisses’. In another of Gokalp's series, "Borderline," he presents a pervasive pattern of instability, of interpersonal relationships, self-image, and marked impulsivity that begins by early adulthood and is present in a variety of context. This series of works mainly focuses on psychological struggles of contemporary women, inspired by his subject's relations with various objects.

The Red Shoe--Simon Burke,
Mertim Gokalp
And finally, in a series that might seem rather mind-boggling to most portrait artists, Go-kalp's "50 Faces of Balmain," from 2012, showcases 50 portraits of Balmain locals (his hometown) by Mertim Gokalp. The Contemporary Gallery of the Balmain Art and Craft Show hosted a solo exhibition as a special event. The Red Shoe--Simon Burke (left) is from that series. For Gokalp, painting is a synthesis of feelings, inspirations, reactions and struggles; it is a way of breathing in and out…Painting portrait is one of Gokalp's passions as it is a great area to explore the underpinnings of human psychology. Using the narrative potential of portrait painting,, he aims to challenge the viewers and confront them with their most inner feelings. Gokalp's portraits are not literal representations of people posing or sitting. They are instead, subjective portraits of the psyche. All portraits reveal something about the subject, but they are open to many interpretations as they are enigmatic most of the time. Gokalp's portraits are a celebration of the human form. He aims to capture particular psychological moments. He paints a reflective, subjective relationship with his subjects. As an artist trained in a Fine Arts Academy, he always tries to live up to the standards of great academic masters.

Transient, Mertim Gokalp

Mama Keeps Me Warm,
Mertim Gokalp


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