Mehmet Güleryüz – ‘Painter & Painting’

Istanbul Modern Museum showcases a Turkish master with 200 pieces from six decades

IMG 6711 1024x768 Mehmet Güleryüz   ‘Painter & Painting’

The life and career of acclaimed Turkish artist Mehmet Güleryüz is on exhibition at the Istanbul Modern Museum until June 2015.

200 pieces of work, from over 6 decades, many of it unseen… What more encouragement does one need to attend such an event?

Many thanks to Flint PR for the invitation to the opening night on Thursday January 8.

IMG 6700 300x225 Mehmet Güleryüz   ‘Painter & Painting’

Mehmet Güleryüz

Year: 1973. Place: Paris. A woman stands on the River Seine. Her wish? To end her life. Within moments a young Turk, infact a young promising artist, grabs her hand and drags her out of the water… her dentures dangling she repeats, “Why did you save me?” “Why did you save me?”

I stand in the Istanbul Modern Museum. Year: 2015. I read a story plastered to the wall beside a large oil painting. It is an intimate journey with Turkish artist Mehmet Güleryüz. My eyes then gaze at the desperate, scraggly lined imagery depicting the real life moment from four decades ago.

It is this style of intimacy that allows curator and museum Director Mr Levent Çalıkoğlu to successfully engage gallery visitors with the latest exhibition titled ‘Painter and Painting’.

IMG 6704 300x225 Mehmet Güleryüz   ‘Painter & Painting’The journey highlights the smallest and most sincere details, from Güleryüz’s favourite childhood toy, to the ideas that saw him describe through paint a lost hope in civilization; the political violence and turmoil of 1970’s Turkey.

We are able to enter the mind of a painter even before we meet his paintings. On the outer wall lies a timeline beginning in 1938. It is a collection of words and pictures from his family life, his active role in the theatre and past exhibitions.

It is here that I read and capture the words between a literature teacher (L T) and a not so promising student (M G).

L T – “Lazy boy, what will you be when you grow up?”

M G – “I will be a painter, teacher!”

L T – “There can be no unsophisticated painter.”

Now at the age of 76, Mehmet Güleryüz has not only managed a certain sophistication, but also a critical, expressionist, ironic, socio-cultural and political body of artwork.

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‘I am Listening to Istanbul’ 1996

There are paintings that will connect with each person in different ways and for many reasons. One that got my attention was an oil painting from 1996 titled ‘I am Listening to Istanbul’. It is a mash of colours and energy that really resonated with the Istanbul that I easily fell in love with.

Or perhaps, one may enjoy ‘Side-Show Tent’ from 1965.

The beauty of ‘Painter and Painting’ is that it allows us to go beyond time to the moment of creation, to the moment when paint touched canvas. In this manner, a story placard next to ‘Side-Show Tent’ unveils the following story.

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‘Trolleybus Conductor’ 1970

The framed canvas was being relocated with a horse and cart when an accident or rather an incident occured. The result was an angry, possibly fretful horse and a bloody, shattered coachman’s hand. It may seem like a doomed painting with it later being rejected by a Turkish jury in a competition at the Ataturk Cultural Centre. But, Güleryüz believes things went just as planned saying, “Zeki Faik (juror) considered the painting ‘loathsome’. To tell you the truth, I rejoiced. My aim was none other than to bewilder them.”

Güleryüz believes the art of painting is more than just a tube of paint, a paintbrush and the ability to transfer an image to canvas… He says an artist incorporates a degree of engineering and masters a science of imagery. He also sees the painter as a philosopher, a poet and a writer and believes “painting happens when all these qualities coexist”.

IMG 6751 300x225 Mehmet Güleryüz   ‘Painter & Painting’He is an artist that goes well beyond just the field of oil painting. The Istanbul Modern exhibition is a reflection of his varying skills showcasing his drawings, sculptures, engravings, painted porcelain and performances.

It becomes apparent that performing in the theatre was an integral part of his artistic development helping him to internalize his art giving a deeper understanding of the human mind, actions and how he could best portray these in his paintings.

I have one simple request. Walk the walls within the ‘Painter and Painting’ exhibition. Learn about a master. Read everything from the insignificant to the great.

Challenge: Among 200 pieces and a lifetime of work, let’s see if you can find the answer to my question… What was his favourite childhood toy… and who gave it to him?

Written by Sheldon Heyes


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Mehmet Güleryüz and I

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Museum Hours: Tuesday –Sunday: 10.00 am – 6.00 pm

Thursday: 10.00 am – 8.00 pm

Monday: Closed

BIG TIP!!! Free admission on Thursdays for residents of Turkey!

GOOD TO KNOW!!! Istanbul Modern Museum enjoys a local and expat following because it offers both Turkish and English translations.

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You may also enjoy reading ‘Dialogue in the Dark Istanbul‘. An experiment in awareness – remove your eyes and open your ears in a simulated vision impaired experience.


About Sheldon Heyes
Lifestyle writer for Turkey - I will prepare you for Istanbul. I will show you my city. Stemming from an Australian media background I have been in Istanbul since 2012. With a foreign heart and a writer's pen I have since embraced, danced, swallowed and mumbled the Turkish culture, music, food and language. Currently - Read by thousands of passengers zooming across the globe at 38,000 feet with Turkish Airlines inflight magazine 'Skylife'. Freelance contributor at The Guide Istanbul Magazine. Online guest posts with Freelance journalist published online at And... thanks to popstar and musician Mehmet Erdem, having a bit of cultural fun and flair appearing in the Turkish video clip - 'Aşkımız Bitecek'. Past contributions - Istanbul Timeout and Home Art Istanbul magazine.

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