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Erinç Seymen

Rampa, Istanbul, Turkey


Surprise Witness I, 2011, ink pen on paper, 70 x 100 cm

Mother’s eyes have been scrubbed out (Untitled, 2011), whilst Daddy’s (2011) are everywhere, his face a seething, lenticular mass echoed in the puckered craters of his lapels and the wide-open, ominously pupil-less ‘third eye’ in the centre of his hat. But the children, their own eyes heavy-lidded, bruised shut, have strayed out of sight into the stalactite-punctured caverns of Surprise Witness I (2011) and II (2012) where silent, impossibly intricate machines replace the enchanted castles and gingerbread houses in the nightmarish underbelly of some fairytale or other.

Intervening between this split diptych, which framed the opening section of ‘The Seed and the Bullet’, Erinç Seymen’s first solo show at Rampa, a crawling torso – all muscular contours and sweeping collarbone – carried a boarded-up treehouse across his back. A tangle of root-like sutures stretch down from his truncated limbs, reaching into the off-white emptiness of the surrounding paper. The drawing is scathingly titled Patriot (2009). Neither home nor homeland are safe havens for the Turkish artist whose grotesque, paranoid Daddy figure in his military cap is a reproach of the violence both of the nation state and the Oedipal family structure on which it has typically been modeled.

Daddy, 2011, ink pen on paper, 100 x 70 cm

Identity and the possibility of belonging were also at the fore in Seymen’s multimedia work Sangoi (2012), which formed the second part of the show, reached by following, as if tracing the children’s errant footsteps, the labyrinthine re-configuration of Rampa’s subterranean space (pulled closer by the murky green of the walls). Four facing walls were each covered by a set of 13 small-scale drawings – neat and precisely surreal hybrids of birds and tools, bleeding fruits, sprouting shoes – with fruits representing desire; shoes, class identity; birds, cultural identity and weapons political power. On a two-channel video in the corner, four faceless players watched simultaneously from above and behind exchanged the drawings – transformed into unranked playing cards – in a continuous game, the rules of which were either long-lost or willfully obscured. Cards switch hands mesmerically, as if under the hypnosis of the looped, discordant melody accompanying the piece, locked in a perversely zero-sum game where exchange has no meaning; loss and gain are empty terms.

This slippery, schizophrenic shuffling of identities seemed somehow at odds with the rigor of the classificatory system and the tight, neurotically precise cross-hatch of Seymen’s line-making. Though hybrids, the Sangoi drawings were complete, hard-edged and perfectly-formed, offered hieroglyphically, as symbols of some unknown code, specific if undecipherable. Sangoi is strange thing – a project sprawling, in fact overreaching, in its ambition (and therefore open to criticism of being either too totalizing, too schematic; or otherwise not complete enough) but pleasingly restrained in its means. Seymen told me that he had originally planned this project as a map, which would have taken us deeper into the Deleuzian territory that the show had already hinted at. (With the rebuff of the Oedipal family, which perhaps also accounted for the blindness of the eyes everywhere; the fusion of natural and the machinic; and, in the fantastical vegetation sprouting in the fairy-tale caverns or the women’s torso, bound kinbaku-style and surrounded by lush, splayed lilies – Serva ex Machina, 2010 – the stirrings of a particularly fecund desire.) The playing cards came about as a method of containment, to limit and order an ever-growing collection of sketches.

Seymen’s work suits restraint and fits neatly to the self-contained card format. The Sangoi cards are meant to be handled – in the centre of the room is the playing table used in the video with a pack spread across it – and there is a smooth tactility to his finely rendered objects which suits their silky surfaces and rounded corners. The drawings are less successful in the bigger format of the Surprise Witnesses and other works earlier in the show, where enlarged scale does not translate to heightened drama or narrative depth. But then, as the ‘bullet’ and ‘seed’ of the exhibition’s title suggest, Seymen is an artist who appreciates the power of small things.

Amy Sherlock


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About this review

Published on 09/01/13
by Amy Sherlock

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