Mini-retrospective by Mahmut Celayir opens at Pera Palace


The iconic Pera Palace Hotel is one of the historical landmarks of Istanbul with its glimmering art-nouveau beauty. With its excellently proportioned, neo-classical exterior facade and oriental architecture, Pera Palace has been astonishing generations of visitors as a place of not only accommodation but also culture.

The elegant hotel has recently welcomed a new art gallery within its body in cooperation with Istanbul Concept Gallery. Galata Fuaye has opened its doors with an exhibition by master artist Mahmut Celayir. “Gölgenin Izinde” (“Tracing the Shadow”), featuring paintings from various periods of the artist’s oeuvre, is a kind of mini-retrospective exhibition by Celayir for Istanbulite art enthusiasts. The exhibition was launched with an elegant preview on May 17.

Known as an explainer of Anatolian natural structure, Celayir has a punantilist tendency in his paintings. Celayir was born in 1951 in eastern Turkey’s Bingöl province and studied at the State School of Applied Fine Arts between 1972 and 1976. He worked in the field of graphic and stage design at Eskişehir TV Institute between 1976 and 1978 and in the field of stage design at the Istanbul State Theater between 1982 and 1984.

Mahmut Celayir poses with one of his works. (Courtesy of Istanbul Concept Gallery)

The artist generally focused on the concepts of identity, homeland, belonging, nomadism, land and nature in his art life of more than 30 years. Celayir read his personal history of him and the history of his country through the stories he heard about his homeland Bingöl. Therefore, deserted and abandoned lands appeared as a symbolic indicator of his own nomadic life in his paintings by him. Soil, for example, appeared for Celayir as a representative indicator of deterritorialization.

In his latest solo exhibition at Galata Fuaye, Celayir offers his recent works as well as selected pieces from his previous retrospective exhibition “Peykerun,” which met art lovers at Iş Sanat Kibele Art Gallery at the beginning of the year. While presenting an important part of Celayir’s work based on the natural landscape from the 1970s to the present, “Peykerun” drew the panorama of creating a contemporary language based on local materials. “Tracing the Shadow,” on the other hand, with its wide selection consisting of oil canvases, acrylic pieces, silk printings and collage works, exemplifies all of Celayir’s productions of him. The common point of all of the works of different materials at the exhibition is that they depict scenes from the memory of Celayir, who has been sustaining his works by him in Istanbul and Berlin.

For his paintings, Celayir says that the topography of the geography he comes from has a very important place in his artistic adventure as a material. “These places, which are full with archaic traces, where glorious kings once walked, and where I follow a full memory of exile and migration, show an undeniable value in the act of creating for me,” he explained.

A work by Mahmut Celayir from “Tracing the Shadow,” acrylic on canvas, 2006, 150 by 200 centimeters.  (Courtesy of Istanbul Concept Gallery)

A work by Mahmut Celayir from “Tracing the Shadow,” acrylic on canvas, 2006, 150 by 200 centimeters. (Courtesy of Istanbul Concept Gallery)

Noting that humanity heads toward losing its identity, the artist thinks that the sensitive cultural balance between humans and nature is disrupted due to political and technological ambitions. “Nature, which gives us a sense of trust and embraces us, is being taken away from us slowly. Like many artists, I am in search of a longing that contains sadness. We are all after a lost paradise. With my natural depictions, I want to emphasize our own stories and crown our experiences. Of course, kneading this local material with a contemporary perspective and moving it from a subjective field to the universal is another side of the job,” Celayir added.

The digital and non-fungible tokens (NFTs) leg of “Tracing the Shadow” is also undertaken by the international technology company 4ARTechnologies, headquartered in Switzerland. After the preview of the exhibition, a Midnight at Pera Palace special event was held at the ballroom of the Pera Palace with the contributions of 4ARTechnologies. At the event, the attendees were informed about the NFT works of the exhibition.

“Tracing the Shadow” can be visited between 11 am and 7 pm every day until June 25 at the Galata Fuaye, on the minus second floor of Pera Palace Hotel.

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