2016 Emre Zeytinoğlu / It’s As If We’re Listening to Music
  Seçil Erel’s artist book / IMOGA



Seçil Erel held two personal exhibits in April and May of 2016; these had content closely tied to one another and belonged to the same track of thought. Those who observed the works first at Galeri Merkur in Istanbul, then at Siyah Beyaz Sanat Galerisi in Ankara, would have immediately been able to catch the overlap. The exhibit in Istanbul was entitled, “Olduğu Gibi/As it Is”, while the artist entitled the exhibit in Ankara “Kuş Bakışı/A Birdseye View”; in both, canvasses, paintings with light and geometrical areas were created with paper tape, and in addition, colour codings relayed on several notebooks were displayed.

Actually, the referenced overlap doesn’t only exist in these two exhibits of Seçil Erel. It’s as if in nearly all of the works in her exhibits, she takes the same fundamental approach: Those compositions of geometric areas complemented by each other or completed incrementally, created by a derivation of meticulously controlled sections... And series in which adjacent horizontal and vertical shapes are adapted after a lengthy preparations...When we go back a bit, this attitude which we especially witness at the fore as a distinct character in her 2012 exhibit at Alan-Istanbul, “Ilk Ev-Leia/The First Home-Leia”, is sustained at the “Area” exhibit at Galeri Zilberman, and finally reaches the artist’s last exhibit in 2016. We can determine the following from these four exhibits mentioned: In the artist’s other previous exhibits, (like, “Şimdiki Basit Zaman/The Simple Present Time” and “Yalnız An/Moment Alone”) the perspective interpretation, spacing and framing methods seen are significantly pushed to the back and the paintings are transformed into a quite pure architectural resolution process.

A viewer who has for a certain time been witness to this common attitude in Seçil Erel’s works may think that they can easily perceive the works after looking at the controlled vertical and horizontal spaces, and comprehending the logic of the compositions; this is an ordinary situation. Indeed; what is to be perceived there, are lines which follow each other, intersect, become sparse or intense at first glance, and their association with several colours or their detachment from them. Further it is possible fort he viewer to determine immediately the technique which was used fort his: border lines drawn between areas previously designated and the modular integrity of different paint layers within the borders...All of this is applicable to nearly all works, and there is nothing lacking or erroneous in the first impressions of the viewer.

At this point, one should closely assess the viewer who reliably perceives and interprets the works. The artist, by way of the titles she bestows upon her exhibits, signals to certain “things” which “belong to her” and it’s obvious that some stories are created: about settled spaces, temporarily used places, time spent and experiences encountered...and about the emotions which emerge as a result, which can be caught through small clues... Since the geometrical areas and logic behind their creation, as well as the series of compositions emerging from this logical framework can be easily perceived by the viewer, that is, their architecture can be resolved, then what meanings do the names given by the artist have? To ask the question in a different manner, while the compositions are subject to such strict control, and since they contain certain emotions beyond expressing the logic of the works to the viewer (as we accept at the outset the presence of emotions as a result of their names), where are the stories which correspond to these emotions in these works? Or, with another question: Through which methods are the stories relayed to us, what is it that we should seek and find, and in this quest, what means are suggested to us? When the viewer asks themselves these questions, then embarks on a task to seek and find those stories, it is highly likely that they will feel as if there is something they’ve missed and perhaps that they’ve failed to a certain extent in this endeavour. Because there is no ostensible story to correspond with the names of the exhibits. However, has the viewer really failed in this endeavour, or been insufficient in exposing the stories from where they were hidden?

In “Ilk Ev-Leia/The Initial Home-Leia”, the artist begins to mention the place where she was born, and discusses radical changes which entered her life: Being born, giving birth... both personally experiencing and observing from the outside, two lives intertwined, and externalising the emotions of that observation... And a place which encompasses these points of view, a place in which reciprocal points of view come into existence because of one another... In “Area” starting from the plan of a house, a definition of the emotional state of a family who has moved, and the “broad environment” in which they live is offered, and a progression toward an analysis of internalisation took place; finding or not finding peace, turning glances to a distance, a feeling belonging, or not...Two exhibits which emerged afterwards, “Olduğu Gibi/As it Is” and “Kuş Bakışı/A Birdseye View” couldn’t be considered as very different from the previous two, as the emotions triggered by long journeys and changes to settings were discussed there as well. In an interview for her “KuşBakışı/ABirdseyeView” exhibit at the Siyah Beyaz Art Gallery, the artist offered the following: “In terms of visual and content in my paintings which have begun to change, what I find important is the diversification of thoughts and emotions of those which remain with oneself from these places. Rather than being cramped in one’s own space, I realised that in journeys which allowed me to discover the beauty of owing within time in an experimental way, that when I’m outside of my own space, I am free and I look upon myself and my life from different perspectives.”

An eye-catching painting measuring 140x180 in dimension, displayed on the largest wall of Siyah Beyaz Art Gallery, in which maps of places visited were designed as nested with one another, was perhaps the best expression of this statement: An eye which opens to the outside, to the distance, and to an even further distance, the broad angle of each new experience and emotion which are tied together. Actually what the artist stated indeed makes reference to her “Olduğu Gibi/As it Is” exhibit at Galeri Merkur as well; because there too, the traces of this long journey could be easily seen through materials collected from the experiences of those places (small plants placed on a large table, touristic city plans, other small items, etc). But at this point, there was an interesting situation: The works of the artist which appeared as if they were not telling a story, and therefore not accommodating any emotions, were speaking from within the emotions created by those experiences. And perhaps a situation to which the viewer was not able to respond to, emerged at that point: How will we comprehend what the artist is telling us, and thee motions she is relaying, within this rigid geometry? Wherein these works have the stories which will carry the emotions to us, seeped? And why is it difficult for us to find and expose them?

Perhaps there is only one to sense the experiences and emotions hidden in Seçil Erel’s works: Looking at them without seeking signals representing something or another, without pursuing the stories which are derived from those signals, without consideration for the world of indications and by turning our backs to jests that have become cliché...Where and how a geometry is applied by the artist, under what conditions the changes among them deteriorate and a new architectural system is undertaken, under what conditions the edibilities or rigidities of that new system are determined... being able to see all of this and from within that logic, not seeking anything aside from the “centre”...Thus, we must find it sufficient for a viewer in consideration of these works, having comprehended only that rigid geometry.

Then, is it as if we are listening to music? It is such that, for instance, which sounds of nature do the “Pastoral Symphonies” of Ludwig van Beethoven or Ralph Vaughan Williams directly relay to us? None...Is what is to be heard there the sound of owing water or raindrops, the humming of the wind, sounds of small animals, or chirping of birds? And what of Vivaldi? We know well that his “Four Seasons” speaks volumes beyond four different conditions of weather and there action of this upon objects. While listening to Mozart’s “A Little Night Music” we don’t have the need to darken the space in which we are listening to it. When Richard Wagner was inspired by German mythology, he wasn’t obliged to undertake a task such as reciting those stories one by one. We don’t attain any information pertaining to Faust in Franz Liszt’s “Faust Symphony”, etc. ... In those works, only one thing is heard aside from these: a rigid geometrical structure, that is, a language and the awless composition constructed by blocks of sound and their length.

Ulus Baker presents a highly striking reference on this matter: “While Schopenhauer once denied the mimetic characteristic of music, he submitted that it was not the imitation of a woman crying, on the contrary, it was the woman crying with the violin.” This determination of Ulus Baker’s in support of his reference is even more striking, “Music is always a story of “something existing./...Or more and more nature itself; there is a sunny day; there is a rough sea.” There is no need to be in doubt, as the situation which Ulus Baker indicates has long detached from the imagery or mimetic characteristics of “a sunny day” or a “rough sea”, and that piece of music no longer carries the smallest trace of their tangibility. Just as we can’t discuss the similarities between a “violin” and a “crying woman’s voice” so it can be said that where music exists is not a place of senses, but an area of pure emotions. The violin doesn’t imitate the sound of a woman crying, it calls for a “feeling of crying” in a new language.

According to Arthur Schopenhauer a piece of music can be easily comprehended, because melodies, with his description, “say many things for the heart”, but carry no representation. If we want music to express something directly through representation or mimesis, this would go against the nature of music: “For this reason, music such as that should be absolutely rejected, as regardless of how much Haydn and Beethoven even erred and intended to use this, as far as I know, Mozart and Rossini never resorted to this. Because expressing emotions is one thing, portraying objects is something different.” Schopenhauer made reference to the architectural or rigid geometric structure of music and found it sufficient insofar as emotion, for these to be perceived with particular “interest”. However: regardless of how much music is directed towards emotions (the “heart”), as mentioned in the statements above, it should have a language and architectural method able to create those emotions. Gilles Deleuze said, “Everything has a story. Philosophy also tells stories. It tells stories with concepts. Cinema uses motion-time blocks to tell stories. Paintings invent very different blocks. These are neither concept blocks not motion-time blocks, these are line-colour blocks. Music is very different, too, and invents very special types of blocks.” Philosophy, cinema, painting, music and in fact, science...These are creative disciplines and each of them cannot reach the essence of any “thing” without inventing geometries and architectural methods, and establishing some integrity from those inventions. If that is the case, reaching emotions, comprehending the logic of that integrity as an effort in an of itself, means understanding a language.

If the emotions emanating from Seçil Erel’s works can exist in a rigid geometry which is meticulously controlled by her mind, we will say this: Just as Deleuze said, when creating “line-colour blocks” she hasn’t made them the content of a portrayal or used them toward the mimetic characteristics, that is, with the words of Schopenhauer, “[she] hasn’t resorted to this” and rather has presented the architectural method she has applied to her works in a state of “the pure language itself.” Thus that which produces thee motion is the logic of the language and architectural method. In order to reach the artist’s nature and the emotions related to that nature, it is sufficient for us to reach the geometry and architectural logic of the integrity before us.

Therefore we can once again assert the following: What we feel when we look at Seçil Erel’s works is this: More than observing a painting, it is as if we are listening to music... Or, stated differently: In order to comprehend the emotions in her works and to catch their provisions, we should observe them as if we are listening to a piece of music. If the objects, people, sounds, places, colours and many other things will leap towards another place and meet with an “emotional integrity”, and if the relay of this emotion is going to be the goal, this will be attainable through “line-colour” blocks, a loop in the same manner as the success achieved through music’s “sound and length blocks.”

When we observe these works closely, a deep horizon containing all of the clues related to the emotion with slight changes in their composition, different impacts and force of emphasis or dispersement is created for us. Seçil Erel’s rigid geometry is always a story “of something there.”