sefer memişoğlu ‘the eye’s ray’
guest curator sanneke huisman
19 November 2017 - 17 December 2017
Light is everywhere; it surrounds us. But how can we see light if we cannot see without light? A poetic and philosophical approach to an omnipresent phenomenon is central to Sefer Memişoğlu solo exhibition at Bradwolff Projects, Amsterdam. The Eye’s Ray is part of the ‘to remind you’ project, which consists of the solo presentations of Thierry Oussou, Aliansyah Caniago and Sefer Memişoğlu; reflecting our collective (multi-) cultural memory.
Curator Sanneke Huisman invited Memişoğlu; the presentations by Thierry Oussou and Aliansyah Caniago are realized in collaboration with and on the invitation of curators Ashley Swagers and Christine van den Bergh. The title of the exhibition is derived from the essay of the same name by Italo Calvino; in The Eye’s Ray, the Italian writer and journalist describes the eye as the basis of the human brain and therefore of human thinking and acting. Calvino goes back to the origin of scientific thinking about the eye, which is remarkably inventive. Early scientists claimed that the act of seeing was performed by luminous arrows coming from the brain; they described light as a spiritual force that actively illuminated the outside world.
Using these and other possible interpretations as a starting point, Memişoğlu presents an overview of his work. Calvino’s visual analysis of sight and light is reminiscent of cinema and photography techniques, allowing light rays to create a print or an illuminated illusion in time. Black and white photography and cinema are preceded by paintings full of light-dark contrast, clair-obscur, or rock paintings created by firelight. In line with Memişoğlu’s fascination with art history, the myth of Prometheus is also an important source of inspiration. This Titan from Greek mythology descended into a darkened world to bring fire to humanity. Prometheus taught man to make steel, thus making it possible for civilization to be born. However, fire also brought the possibility of destruction. The resulting civilization that was created from this was also immediately endangered. Where there is light there is darkness too.
The works in The Eye’s Ray hark back to these great stories, but at the same time create a new visual language. In a variety of disciplines, including video, drawing and sculpture, light returns as a leading theme. The objects appear as expressive and mysterious fragments from an unknown story. It is up to the visitor to let the light shine.
The oeuvre of Sefer Memişoğlu (1977, Istanbul) moves between photography, sound, film and drawing. The artist always works in one discipline at a time. Starting from concept or theory, he gives shape to an object through his body. The physical act of drawing, filming or photographing is of great importance. Body, medium and concept reveal a reality that would otherwise remain invisible. This conceptual approach makes the work less direct, but no less involved.
Sanneke Huisman studied art history and works as a critic and curator. She has been working with Sefer Memişoğlu for some time now. The layered method and the (art) historical consciousness in his work speak to her: “Sefer gives myths, customs and stories current value. Mysterious symbolism, conceptual art and love for material come together in his work as an art-historical synthesis.”