The many young artists in Turkey painting and sculpting nudes owe much to Berrin Tuncel, a pioneering woman artist who helped bring contemporary western artistic traditions and styles to Turkey.
Born in 1957 in Ankara, Berrin’s talent was recognized early; she participated in a group show in Eskisehir when she was only six. She completed her education in Istanbul, where she moved with her family in 1968. However, academic training proved of limited value in shaping a style at odds with the conservatism of her society. Even though Turkey has in many ways been the bridge between East and West, the country’s political and financial crises in the 1980’s made it difficult for an innovative professional artist — particularly a woman flaunting her country’s conservative, Islamic mores — to find success.
Berrin prevailed, however, by dint of her own indomitable spirit and self-confidence, and in fact became well-known for her nude paintings, many of which she posed in herself.
There are no limits in the subjects of art, the function of art is to delineate, I can draw picture in every subject I think of and want. I am free in art and I like myself and so why should I not draw my own pictures.
Yet for all her trailblazing and boundary-breaking, Berrin also incorporates in the traditional aspects of Turkish society in her work.
Berrin says that her only aim is to exceed herself:
I am always trying to exceed my previous art works with the subsequent ones, my greatest rival is myself and I compete with myself. When I finish and sign my painting, I see it as if it was done by another painter and I become unfamiliar with it.
Berrin’s first show came at the age of 21, in 1980. Since then, she has become something of a celebrity in the Turkish media, and has shown her work in many exhibitions both in Turkey and abroad, including Artexpo New York. In 1987 she also began sculpting, and she eventually moved to New York in 2001.
We are pleased to welcome Berrin Tuncel to Artexpo New York this week.