A mark of modernity: the role of Turkish Cypriot women artists in the evolution of modern art.
Cagdasligin Gostergesi: Kibris Cagdas Sanatinda Turk Kadin Sanatcilarin Rolu
Bati anlayisindaki sanat Turk toplumu icin oldukca yeni bir olgudur. Ozellikle dini egitimden laik egitim sistemine ancak 1925 yillarinda gecilmis oldugu gercegi de goz onune alindiginda, sanat etkinlikleri arasinda plastik sanatlarin sadece seksen yil gibi kisa bir zaman dilimi icinde gelisme olasiligi buldugu gorulur.
Cagdas yasama ayak uydurmasi ve bir kac yuz yillik kultur ve egitim farkinin acigini kapatabilmesi Kibris Turk toplumu icin cok kolay bir surec olmamakla beraber, 20. yuzyilin ilk yarisi icinde tum ekonomik sikintilara ragmen buyuk bir hamle ile bir cok guclugun ustesinden gelmeyi basarir ve 20. yuzyilin son ceyreginde her yonuyle bir toplum ortaya cikar. Plastik sanatlar alaninda sayilari erkek sanatcilarla esit duruma gelen Kadin sanatcilar da 21. yuzyilin bu ilk yillarinda Kibris Turk toplumunun cagdaslasma surecinde gosterdigi asamalarin en onemli simgelerinden biri olur.
Kibrisli Turk Kadin sanatcilarin toplum yasamina katkilari cok fazla olup, meslek yasamlarina hemen hemen ilk once egitimci olarak baslayip, sanat etkinlikleri de bunun paralelinde devam eder. Uluslararasi etkinlikler yaninda Kibris probleminin cozumune katki amaciyla duzenlenen iki toplumu yaklastirici kulturel etkinliklerde yer almalari yonleriyle de girisimci kisikleri ile taninirlar. Yine Kibris'ta sanat etkinliklerinin tarihcesi de bu konulara isik tutmasi acisindan yazida ele alinacaktir.
Sanat ve kulturun gelismesinde devletin ve ozel kisilerin himayesi gerekli bir olgu ise de ekonomik nedenlerle bu destek kisitli olur. Buna karsin bu yuzyilin icinde cok sayida Kadin hem sanat egitimi hem de sanatci olarak etkin olur ve yurt ici oldugu kadar yurt disinda da isimlerini duyururlar. Yirminci yuzyilin ilk yarisinda sanat egitiminde Kadin ogretmenlerin onemli katkilarina karsin, sanatci sifatiyla Kadinlarin tek baslarina eserlerini sergilemeleri mumkun olmamis, ancak 1960'lardan sonra bu tur etkinlikleri gerceklestirebilmistir. Bu makalede Kibris Kadininin sanatla olan iliskilerinin baslangici ve sanat etkinliklerinin tarihi sureci irdelenip, gunumuzdeki cagdas toplum imaji icindeki katkilari gosterilmeye calisildi. Ayrica sanat egitimi ve sanat ortamina katkilari ile taninan sanat alaninda calisan kadin sanatcilardan onde gelenler yaninda cagdas sanatta gelisim cizgisini tamamlayip, yeni cagdas akimlar cercevesinde kendi ozgun usluplarini yaratma denemeleri ile de daha ilk gunlerden itibaren isimlerini uluslararasi sanat etkinliklerinde duyurmaya calisan bazi genc sanatcilar yaninda heykel sanatindaki basarilari ile isimlerini duyurmus kadins sanatcilar ele alindi.
Anahtar Kelimeler: Kibrisli kadinlar, Kibrisli sanatcilar, Kibris Turk Sanati, kadin sanatcilar, sergiler, resim sanati, seramik sanati, heykel sanati.
Art in the sense of a Western style is a rather new concept for the Turkish society. This idea is not more than 8 decades old considering that the beginning of art education dates back to the 1920s. Although women played an important part in art education alongside the male teachers, women artists managed to exhibit their works only after 1960s. Turkish Cypriot women artists adapted themselves to the Western style and managed to catch up with the new trends in the modern art. This was only achieved after gaining the right to attend university by means of upgrading of the level of the girls" secondary schools to lycee in 1952.
This article will introduce the early art event that women artists were involved in and also some brief biographical information about the leading protagonists at the moment among Turkish Cypriot artists. Although painting was the main concern of the women artists, recently, some women achieved success in sculpture and ceramic arts. These artists also played important roles in the art education of the country for many years. It is pleasing to see that although political problems had always affected the life of every individual of the society with the embargoes applied on North Cyprus, artists took a rather active part in international exhibitions and in the activities of conflict resolution groups for the benefit of the whole island while conveying the message of peace, friendship and solidarity in the context of joint exhibitions or exhibiting individually in Cyprus or abroad. They are the symbols of modernity of the society.
Key Words: Art, artists, exhibitions, Cypriot women, Cypriot artists, Turkish Cypriot art, women artists.
Women had always played an important role in the evolution of art throughout the history although they usually remained anonymous in their efforts. Although it is believed that women have contributed greatly in the creation of art objects, mainly in the ancient ages (Morris, 1985, p.16; Ehrenberg, 1989, p. 10), this talent was lost with the invention of the turning wheel for ceramic production and other technical equipment. However, they continued to contribute to their environment with handcrafts such as embroideries, laceworks, weaving, or basket-making as the products of their silent, patient characters. Their creativity only changed in parallel to the rise of the level of education. Currently there is no difference between artistic creativity of women and men in general.
The part of Turkish Cypriot woman's success in art and literature has increased during the last two decades and it is believed that the stages it had passed through is now worth to be recording at the beginning of this new millennium. To understand this development and also the role of women in this case, it is necessary to research the outputs of a century, particularly the conditions and events that initiated the first impulses for the evolution of the contemporary art in the Turkish Cypriot society.
The struggle of Turkish Cypriot woman to achieve an equal position with man started in the 20 century during the British Colonial period. Although at first glance, it could be considered as the result of Western Civilization introduced to the island through British Rule, it was in fact the result of a close follow-up of cultural improvements implemented in Turkey with the establishment of the Turkish Republic in 1923, as well as, the rights gained in modern Western countries.
As a result of the reforms in education and certain aspects of culture, Turkish Cypriot women, like their Turkish and Western counterparts, are celebrating achievements gained in a revolution nearly eight decades old. They almost have an equal share in the cultural life of the society as both creators or spectators. Therefore, the subject of this paper focuses upon the role of women in the evolution of art and culture in the Turkish Cypriot society and their contribution to the formation of a modern society. This was achieved by overcoming gender differences, particularly in education and the cultural environment, whereby women developed art and other cultural activities due to the efforts in art education. Although art occasions remained within the limits of school exhibitions, during the earliest period, of the cultural and social reforms that took place during the years 1900 to 1975, this was in fact a preparatory stage. It became apparent that although the achievements of this era seemed to be rather slow, in reality it diffused to a rather successful era in the last quarter of the 20th century.
It is clear that in order to be able to write the history of Turkish women artists, it is necessary to understand the level of education of the whole society without accounting for gender differences. However, a previous published paper (Yildiz, 2003) already deals with the achievements in art education. Therefore, this paper discusses the evolution of the modern art and the role of women artists in comparison with the case of the male artists, as a continuation of the study on the history of modern culture in Turkish Cypriot society. Therefore, the part of women artists in the survey of enlightenment of the Tukrish Cypriot culture with their indefatigable struggles to achieve universal creativity and production is presented in the study.
Sources for the Study of Modern Turkish Cypriot Art
Although the 20th century is the most documented era of Cyprus history for the study of women themes, documents are scanty as it is the common fate of many societies. It is also well known that, entire documents about well-known women or their achievements had been written by men (Ehrenber, 1989, p. 10). For this reason, it is not possible to find the biography of any woman recorded in the history books or other documents of those years. History of art books also deal with monuments or art created by men, while art created by women such as pottery making, embroideries or textiles usually remained anonymous. Although the situation is improving due to new attempts towards writing a history of women in Cyprus civilizations (See Pyrgos, 1993; Yildiz, 2002, pp.79-116), it could be said that there is presently little material published about contemporary women artists (See Olgun (ed.) 1988; Yildiz, 2000. pp. 79-116; Yildiz, 2001. pp. 1-42). However, this is similar for male artists.
Publications on the social history of Turkish Cypriots to date are mainly about political matters. There are only a few publications about its cultural history particularly dealing with contemporary art, and these are printed after the 1980s. The recent technical multi-media facilities mainly web-pages contain again insufficient information on the topic. A recent source is the web-page entitled as Cyprus History and Culture including contemporary art and reference to the names of contemporary Turkish Cypriot artists with some illustrations, though within the limit of the subject it also lacks enough information. (1)
The information for this paper was collected mainly from newspapers, sociopolitical texts emphasizing the Cyprus problem, memoirs and documents provided by some women artists as well as exhibition catalogues.
Publication of memoirs was not very common in Turkish society particularly of women. However, recent publications of biographies and memoirs are increasing in number and shed more light on the happenings and social life of the first half of the 20th century. The biographies, autobiographies and memoirs about political leaders are rather disappointing for our study since they usually represent political problems or biographies with no discussion of art or cultural heritage. Although almost all of the past political personages were honoured with the opportunity of delivering a speech at the inauguration of art exhibitions, there is no reference of these occasions in their memoirs. (2)
With the memoirs of intellectuals such as journalists or authors, the hope of collecting information about women artists in their writings ended with disappointment since the concept of "art" was limited to the literature and the performing arts such as theatre or music. Virtually no biography or autobiography about women artists has been published so far except our previous detailed study about Ozden Selenge (Yildiz, 2001, pp. 1-42), the well-known artist and author.
Publications by some of the artists are literary works such as poetry, short stories or novels, which they usually consider only to be merely fictional products. Newspaper or journal articles about art occasions and artists are not adequate sources for this type of study since they are simply interviews or news about the inauguration of the exhibitions with no intellectual perspective of any art critic of an academic background. Hitherto, they are important sources to understand the evolution of the cultural background of the society.
The first book about Turkish Cypriot art (Olgun (ed.) 1988) was published with the coordination of Ergun Olgun, an art connoisseur entitled Section of Turkish Cypriot Painting. The book did not include much information about the artists. The presentation of the brief biographies and illustrations showing a couple of their works were arranged like any ordinary exhibition catalogue. However the "Foreword" by Ergun Olgun and three short articles by Ahmet Ustat, Emin Cizenel and Mene are important sources as comprehensive information about the development of Turkish Cypriot art from the 1940s to the 1980s. Women artists from the early generations who were involved in painting are presented in the book.
Catalogues of collections and exhibition are also important sources for the study of contemporary art. Two recent publications by the Ministry of Culture and Education and the National Assembly of TRNC contain illustrations of the oeuvres of mainly the well known Turkish artists in the collections of these two institutions. The first one of these catalogues published by The National Assembly of TRNC in 2000 is the first catalogue of an art collection in North Cyprus. The book was intended to present the art collection of the House of National Assembly and thus it merely illustrated a series of paintings and a few sculptures with simple captions. Unfortunately in the written text in Turkish, English and French the history of the Turkish Assembly is narrated, and there is nothing written about the art or artists of Turkish Republic of North Cyprus (TRNC). Also, there is neither a logical order for the arrangement of the paintings, nor any list of the artists or art works illustrated in the book. Therefore, as the title suggests, it cannot be considered as a complete catalogue of a collection but merely a selection of art pieces. The second catalogue (3) published recently is depicting the collection of the Ministry of Education. This collection seems to be formed through the purchases of the ministry mainly from the Annual State Art Exhibitions. However, the catalogue includes works from earlier years starting from 1934 to 2000. The pictures are selected from the works of earlier years in the first part, and the others are the works that were awarded with prize. The table included at the back of the book is summarising the awards given for the occasions of The Annual State Exhibitions and the name of the works purchased from each exhibition. Also, short biographies of the artists who were awarded with prizes or joined to the State Art Exhibitions are given briefly in the catalogue.
However contemporary artists whose careers began in the 1950s or the 1960s are in fact the best source of information to learn about improvements in art education and the formation of real art activities in Turkish Cypriot society.
Western Art in Cyprus and its Effects in the Evolution of Turkish Art
A research of the past cultural history of Cyprus showed the initiation of interest in Western art in the 20th century. Western style of art was a rather new concept for Cypriots at the beginning of the British colonial rule although there was a rich cultural heritage on the island from classical antiquity. Western art was rather strange to the Turkish community as compared to the Greeks who had at least practiced icon or fresco paintings to decorate their churches. Although the political happenings of the island revealed serious problems, particularly in the 19th century, from time to time, there were many artists who paid visits to the island. Among these Don Domingo Badia-y-Lelyblic Jose Moreno,4 William Martin Leake, Henry Light, Karl Ritter, E. Duthoit, Otto von Richter, Francis Arundale, Antonio Schranz, Antoine-Alphone Monfort, E.T. Daniel, Henry Backhouse, John Gardner Wilkinson, William Bartlett, Benjamin Mary, Hercules Brabazon Brabazon and Hermann Solomon Corrodi were professional artists who painted topics on the spot in Cyprus during the Ottoman period in 19th century. Tristram Ellis and Albert Yelverton Bingham in company with Lady Annie Brassy were two other professional artists who also stayed in Cyprus for a while during the late 19th century. Their paintings and drawings were either printed as engravings in books or albums while some of their watercolour or oil paintings are usually in private collections. (5)
There were a few women artists who lived on the island either temporarily or permanently in the 19th and the first half of the 20th century. Lady Jane Digby Ellenborough in 1859 made at least a watercolour painting of Lania village in Troodos Mountains (Severis, 2000, p. 107). Gladys Pero (born 1890) studied at the London School of Art and lived in Cyprus for a short while in 1927, was interested in the local scenes as well as British colonial life in art deco style. Marjorie Congreve, who followed her son to find employment in Cyprus, lived in Famagusta for a while. Although her son left after a year, she preferred to stay and after the arrival of her husband they settled down in Kyrenia. She attempted to be closer to the local people either Turks or Greeks, in a lifestyle which was not welcome by British colonials, and usually travelled all round the island to paint portraits or local scenes (Severis, 2000, pp. 216-222). Fay Pearce was an artist who also made a charming painting of Victoria Street in Nicosia (Severis, 2000, p. 226 fig. 288), which recalls her involvement with the Turks. Olga Rauf is another artist who settled to Cyprus and later through her marriage she lived in the Turkish society until the end of her life.
However, nothing is known about the extent of influence of the Western artists who travelled and worked on the island for short or long periods. Elektra Megaw, an Albanian who worked in Victoria Girls' School, can be considered as the most important of these to contribute to the Turkish education. She usually made botanical watercolour paintings (Severis, 2000, pp. 241,243, 246: Fig. 319) which were published in a book entitled "Wild Flowers of Cyprus" in 1974. Elektra Megaw is the wife of Peter Megaw, the archaeological officer of the Department of Antiquities in the 1930s and 1940s. Although according to Mevhibe Sefik, Mrs. Megaw left the island during the First World War, she took part in the Pancyprian Art Exhibition in 1947 (Severis, 2000, p. 241) (6) Also there several references to her and her husband's names by the American Consul General and his wife in the late 1950s (Martin & Wallace (ed.) (2000).
Cultural Activities in Turkish Society and Contribution of Women
Cultural activities in the Turkish Cypriot society were mainly sponsored by the Turkish Republic through the Turkish Consulate by the second quarter of the 20th century. Some associations established for political reasons also offered cultural activities to foster patriotic feelings against the oppressions of the British rule. These were limited to stage performances mainly. In the 1930s, theatre groups including women actresses used to come from Turkey a few times each year and gave performances to the Turkish community. Local associations also organized plays. It is interesting to learn the name of a theatre building belonging to a woman, Mukerrem Harem in Nicosia (Ismail & Birinci, 1989, p. 175). Kardes Ocagi was another place for such occasions. The schools' annual entertainments were also important contributions to the social life in those days. These entertainments included sport activities, exhibition and stage performances. The exhibitions of Victoria Girls' School were one of the main occasions of exhibits for female students for many years. An article published in Soz newspaper in June 1946 was the most detailed one ever published about an exhibition so far. The journalist described the exhibits arranged in three halls according to the class levels. He made comments on most of the works in detail citing the name of the artists (students) and bringing critical ideas. The article ended with acknowledgement to Mevhibe Sefik, the teacher for her successful work (Yildiz, 2002, pp. 9-10, 29). As Cagdas had written, although her efforts cannot be denied, there were no selectivity as there were several paintings always exhibited, all arranged one on the top of another one and the topics were beyond the limits of children paintings, with little knowledge of correct usage of painting materials mainly in oil paintings (Cagdas, 1986, p. 8). Besides the exhibitions, the theatre plays staged particularly by Victoria Girls' Schools could be considered rather important events offered to public as entertainments. These theatre plays always included a stage decoration that had a large landscape painting on the screen prepared by Mevhibe Sefik and her pupils. These were the first large scale landscapes ever painted to give people a taste and an appreciation of art in those days. Inci Kansu and Goral Ozkan, well-known artists were the most enthusiastic pupils to take part in the preparation of these stage decorations. However, the stage setting designs and the school exhibitions remained as the only art performances for the female part of the Turkish society until 1950s. The stage decoration of the "Spring" dances painted for the play performed in 1947 by Mevhibe Sefik and her pupils was much appreciated by a journalist as he described this as the result of a fine aesthetic taste.
Michael Kouflos, originally a Greek from the island Calymnos was the first artist to exhibit his works in 1897 at the bar of Zenon Skyrianides in Limassol (Severis, 2000, p. 195). The Cyprus Gazette printed news about the artists from time to time. One of these was an exhibition of Keith Henderson opened in the Cyprus Museum in December 1928 and it was recorded that these paintings, which in fact had been incomplete, were also intended to be exhibited in a near future in London. The entrance to the exhibition was free (The Cyprus Gazette 1928, pp. 825, 831). Unfortunately there is no information for the contribution of women taking part in plastic arts, except the ones held annually at the Victoria Girls' School. The newspapers, which are the source of information for these exhibitions did not provide details of the exhibition occasions. The word 'exhibition' did not necessarily describe the plastic art occasions. They could define any kind of display. It was the same for the non-Turkish society. An advertisement appeared in Soz newspaper in 1930 was an invitation for an annual exhibition by young Christian women to be held in American Girls' Academy in Nicosia (Soz, 1930, p. 1). Another similar event was the annual exhibition of Victoria Girls' School organised on 24th May 1931. An article appeared in Soz on 28th May 1931 referred to the inauguration ceremony attended by Lady Storrs, the wife of the Governor. It is not exactly known whether there were any paintings displayed. It was merely referred to as an exhibition of handcrafts and domestic science. Lady Storrs, the wife of the governor, and other foreign guests who were present at the inauguration, expressed their admiration for the perfect displays and signed the book of exhibition (Soz, 1931 May, p. 4). A similar exhibition was organised in Larnaca at the end of May, which was honoured by the wife of the Turkish consul (Soz, 1931 June, p. 4). It is interesting to see a decision taken by the Turkish Board of Education to warn the visitors not to bring children under 10 years to the exhibition in Victoria Girls' School (Behcet, 1969, p. 130).
A group exhibition was first organised by Sir Ronald Storrs, the Governor, in 1931 in Cyprus Conservatory in which 144 paintings were exhibited including the works of British, Greek, Turkish and Armenian artists (Severis, 2000, pp. 206-207). This exhibition was repeated during later years, the second one being in June 1932 again organised by Sir Ronald Storrs, the governor. The Turkish newspapers, as usual, did not give any details about the exhibition and the names of the artists. It was first announced on 31st March 1932 for an exhibition to be organised on 2nd June that lasted for ten days. Accordingly, this exhibition was intended to display fine art and handcraft objects from Cyprus. The aim of the exhibition was to present an important opportunity to the talented artists and artisans to display their oeuvres or industrial products. A programme for the exhibition was already published and circulated which urged the artist and artisans to send their works to the exhibition according to the specified conditions (Soz, 1932 March 31, p. 2; June 9, p.1). At the closing session of the exhibition on 9th June, 32 participants were given prizes. Unfortunately, there is no detail about the prizes except the phrase indicating that six of these are from Paphos district (Soz, 1932, June 18, p. 543). Although the information published in the Turkish newspapers lacks details about this exhibition, the news that appeared on the 9'h June 1932 is enough to show that the Pancyprian exhibition was based on the model of International Art and Industry Exhibitions, the first of which was organised in London in 1851.
Mehmet Necati is the first Turkish artist to join these annual exhibitions in the early 1930s. There is no Turkish woman known so far to take part in these exhibitions. Though these exhibitions were repeated annually, interests of the local artists failed in the late 1940s and 1950s (Severis, 2000, pp. 206-207). The news of the 1947 exhibition included works by British and Greek Cypriot artists while no Turkish Cypriots participated. The long list of artists included Olga Rauf (1893-1987), a German immigrant originally from Moscow and married to a Turkish Cypriot doctor. The Cyprus Review commented on the local reception as being disappointing as usual. The Kipriaka Grammata (Cyprus Letters), a monthly publication commented upon this and described the indifference of the public being the usual situation with an ironic question on who could be blamed for this case. There were only five exhibits sold out at rather low prices during the exhibition (Severis, 2000, p. 243). One of the reasons for the decreasing of interest of the local people in the Pancyprian exhibitions was the contradiction that most possibly existed between the naive style of the local artists and the new trends introduced by British artists. It is clear that Western art is a very new concept for the local people while it was the heyday of the new styles in art like Surrealism, Futurism, De Still in the Western world. A criticism about the modern art trends appeared in an article written by Nazif Suleyman Ebeoglu in Soz dated 11th June 1946 clearly reflects the difficulty of understanding the new trends in art, literature or music even by some intellectual people. Accordingly there was craziness in Modern art trends that had gone beyond the limit after the Second World War (Ebeoglu, 1946 June, p. 1).
Reviews about the Turkish exhibitions also appeared in the local English newspapers. Severis (2000, p. 243) referred to an article in Cyprus Review about the exhibition of Turkish Cypriot students opened in June 1951. However, we could not trace about it whether it was a group or just a female or male students' exhibition held annually. Considering the date of the exhibition this was either the exhibition of Turkish Lycee or Victoria Girls' School.
Although Pancyprian exhibitions were organised by the British Governors to bring the artists living in the island together, it did not achieve its aim. Durrell (1967, p. 110) mentioned about an occasion of meeting G. Pol Georgiou, described as "the only painter of his generation who is of European significance." In fact, Severis, Greek researcher mentioned about Mehmet Necat and Cevdet Cagdas as the only Turkish artists for this period. The case was the same at the beginning of the Republic period and each society preferred to organise their own occasions separately. A web page prepared for the publicity of an exhibition entitled '19601974 Young Cypriot Artists at the down of the Republic' briefly mentioned about the Turkish Cypriot artists not to be familiar except the names of Hakeri Yilmaz and Hassan Amir (http://www.pio.gov.cy/cyprus_today/may_aug2002.htm, p.12).
Ismet Vehit Ggney was one of the first Turkish Cypriot artists to open a Solo exhibition in 1947 in the British Institute (now British Council) where he was working as an art teacher. (7) After his first exhibition he had a proposal from the Turkish authorities in the Education Office to start as an art teacher in Turkish Lycee. His second solo exhibition, in the exhibition-hall of Victoria Secondary School in 1949 was a good contribution to the cultural life of the Turkish society, particularly to the female students although they were embarrassed to enjoy them as he said: "Although Turks used to come to my exhibitions they could not help themselves to turn their head with embarrassment in front of a nude painting." His third exhibition was held at Ledra Palace Hotel. Memoirs of Guney revealed an important fact about women's attitude towards painting as he says: "My mother always rejected to my oil paintings as it caused mess at home" (Nesim, 1987, pp. 390-392). As also commented by Guney, it was not easy for the Turkish society to adopt the art of painting. Although Severis commented upon the first Turkish Cypriot artists, such as Cevdet Cagdas (b. 1926) and Mehmet Necati to have been affected by the British art in relation to the subject matter as well as the style (Severis, 2000, p. 257), the influence of the Turkish painters such as Ibrahim Calli cannot be denied in the works of the Turkish Cypriot artist. However, Ismet Vehit Ggney always talks about his close relation to Ibrahim Calli almost in every interview.
The first exhibition ever held by a female artist took place in 1954 in the hall of Cetinkaya Football Club. This was an illustrated poetry exhibition by Ayse Halluma of the poems of Taner Fikret Baybars and Ozker Yasin (Yasin, 1997, p. 748). The exhibition was the first of its kind in Cyprus and many people bought the items during the exhibition. Ayse Halluma is a woman artist from Izmir who settled in Cyprus through her marriage to a Cypriot. We could not get much information about her art education although she is described as a pretty young woman with a lively conversation, and gifted with the talent of art. Although this was a great favour to both poets, Ozker Yasin referred to her in a letter written to Nevzat Karagil as an ambitious character who is seeking for opportunities to make publicity as an artist in her environment (Yasin, 1997, p. 748). Taner Baybars suggests the opposite as he described her to be a rather humble person. He also recalls their efforts to persuade her to open such an exhibition upon her hesitation with worries about the attitude of the society towards a woman artist in such a poetry exhibition. Taner Baybars described Ayse's paintings as free-flowing and dreamlike figures and her illustrations for the poems were rather successful. This is an important occasion to let people get used to exhibitions as well as giving them opportunity to buy paintings. The memoirs recorded in the diary of Baybars for 1954 described the majority of the spectators at the inauguration of the exhibition consisting of young girls and women. Although the exhibition was of great success Ayse was not happy since her husband created an unreasonable discussion at the inauguration of the exhibition because of his jealousy. She complained about her difficult situation to keep up a marriage with a man who did not encourage and approve her art career (Baybars, 1954). An attempt to search the fate of Ayse Halluma ended hopelessly since she did not live in Cyprus for a long time and as she is divorced, it is rather difficult to trace her.
One of the first group exhibitions of Turkish artists was opened in Limassol in 1954 by the artists living in Limassol. The news appeared in Halkin Sesi on August 27 1954 (Halkin Sesi, August 1954, p. 4) remarked about the exhibition as the product of patient, hardworking people and with several oeuvres that are of great art value. Handcrafts were also included in the exhibition besides paintings. However the names of the artists were omitted in the article that was intended for publicity of the exhibition. Another exhibition entitled as "First Turkish Cypriot Art Exhibition" organised by the Cyprus Turkish Organizations Federation was opened first in Nicosia and then repeated in Paphos, Famagusta, Limassol and Larnaca that lasted on 17th November 1959 (Feridun, c. 2000, p. 199). However, currently there is not much information about these exhibitions. Another important attempt in art was the foundation of the Art and Culture Association on 31st May 1959. This association aimed to promote literature, performance arts, plastic arts and music. The association included women members who took part in music or theatre performances. Although they were successful with the theatre and music performances, in the field of plastic arts only three exhibitions were organised by the association. These were the watercolour paintings of Cevdet Cagdas opened in the office of Ayer Kasif, an architect, Ismet Guney's oil paintings in Kitap Sarayi (book shop) and the paintings of Rahmi Pehlivanli from Turkey in Ataturk Girls' Institute (Adanir, 1997, p. 59).
Nevertheless, it is clear from the above mentioned occasions that there was no proper place for the organisation of exhibitions. Social factors were another problem preventing women artists to exhibit their works. Two articles in Hursoz newspaper bitterly criticised women who were active in the society and referred to them as naughty and of low moral standing, even citing the names of some women poets. The author also added that even Rauf Denktas, a student in England, had written a letter criticising the poetry of some women (Soz, 1945 July, p. 1). One of them signed as Nazif Suleyman Ebeoglu in HiJrs6z dated 24 September 1946 mocked some women for having their hair curled and cut short looking like lambs as if that would make them look more intelligent (Ebeoglu, 1946, September, p.1). Under these conditions it was not easy for any woman to take a chance for the opening of an exhibition. And in fact the similar explanations were given by some artists in the case of Mevhibe Sefik, the first Turkish art teacher who had never exhibited any of her paintings.
The foundation of the Cyprus Republic in 1960 after the Zurich and London agreements brought the expectations to the Cypriots on the island for opening new gates to the world. However, the cultural activities remained usually within each society. The First Turkish Cypriot Artists Exhibition was opened in Nicosia Museum on 3rd May 1961. Inci YiImaz (Kansu), Sema Zihni and Makbule Necdet were the three women artists who took part in this exhibition alongside the male artists, Cevdet Cagda , Fikri Direkoglu, Ismet Vehit Guney, Ibrahim Hikmet, Kemal Karaderi, Nedim Kazim, Mehmet Necat, Ergun Soforoglu, Suleyman Mustafa (1st Cypriot Artist Exhibition Catalogue; Feridun, c. 2000, p. 438). Cadas claims that this exhibition was one of the first important attempt for the to encouragement of the Turkish Cypriot artists in their profession as well improving a taste for the appreciation of art (Cagdas, 1987, p. 16). The Second Exhibition of the Cypriot.Artists was opened in Mevlevi Tekke Hall on 12th April 1962. Necla Cakildag, In-Kan (Inci Kansu), Olga Rauf, Sema Zihni were the women artists who took part in the exhibition. The third exhibition was organised in Saray Hotel, Nicosia in 1964. The fourth exhibition was opened in 1965 and GuIten Kemal (Can), Yalkin Muhtaroglu, Germaine Ramadan and Olga Rauf were the female artists who took part in it. The Sixth Turkish Cypriot Artists Exhibition was opened on 15th July 1967 again in the hall of Saray Hotel and for the first time Aylin Orek, a woman artist took part in the organising committee. Gonen Atakol, still a student in Pennsylvania State University, Goral Hasan (Ozkan), Inci Kansu, GuIsen Kazim (Erin), GuIten Kemal (Can), Yalkin Muhtaroglu, Aylin Orek took part in the exhibition. A ceramic exhibition was also opened for the first time by Lerzan Oke, a woman artist from Turkey in 1961.
Saray Hotel, the only luxury hotel owned by the Turkish Vakif Administration in the Turkish part of Nicosia and the halls of the schools hosted almost all of the exhibitions and after 1984 the modern exhibition hall of Ataturk Cultural Centre enabled the artists with better exhibition conditions. Turkish Cypriot culture suffered much until 1974 with the lack of financial support started in 1963. These were the years that a complete isolation lived by the whole society with financial difficulty as the Turkish Cypriot community was impelled to live as ghettos and forced to close its communication almost with the whole world for 2 decades. However, it was during these years that the families realized the value of education and sent their daughters for higher education mainly to Turkey.
The years after 1974 were the opening of the gates to the whole world and giving opportunities for better employment of the young people with better economical conditions, which is so essential for the development of an art career.
Ozden Selenge is one of the female artists to take part in the Exhibition of Cypriot Artists opened in Antalya Film Festival together with three male colleagues in 1976. One of the largest organizations abroad was the Exhibition of Turkish Cypriot Artists organised in Ankara State Fine Arts Gallery, on 17 November 1977. Sixteen artists joined to the exhibition. The women artists who took part in this exhibition were Aylin Orek, Gonen Atakol, Goral Hasan Ozkan, Hatice A. Orek, Ozden Selenge. Another exhibition organised abroad was the Exhibition of Turkish Cypriot Artists in Brussels in 1990. Again 16 artists took part in this exhibition. The women artists forming the majority of the group were Gunay Guzelgun, Hatice Salih, Cemaliye Salih, Ozden Serak, Nilgun Kozal, Emel Samioglu, Aylin Orek, Inci Kansu, Ismet Tatar. Anita Nardon, the art critique of AICA (Association International des Critiques) described the painting style of the women artists with these words:
I noticed the gouaches from Gunay Guzelgun because they were about popular and feminine world, something full of solar colours.... I also appreciate Hatice Salih and Ozden Serak as well as Ismet Tatar ... I am very sensible to things that happen outside our European context and I discovered Aylin Orek's painting in 1985. I like her way of viewing the sense of celebration in popular life and the slow work of the old crafts. She depicted them in the form of colour patch-works (Northern Cyprus Monthly, 1990 May).
The years 1988-1990 were active times for all the artists. This may be considered as the opening of the gates to international platforms by organising exhibitions both in Cyprus as well as abroad. Appreciation of art only by the people with an art education left its place to a more intellectual group of people who even acted as patrons of art. The Foundation of Culture and Art established by Asil Nadir, a well known businessman, created one of the most active periods in Cyprus during 19881992 for the case of musical activities, while Ergun Olgun, another business man and an art connoisseur offered exhibition opportunities to the artists on the top floor of the modern building of his furniture show room, in addition to the hall in Ataturk Cultural Centre. Therefore a group of artists established the Fluxus Gallery with an action manifesto. This was the first of a series of galleries, then to be followed by HP (Haydar Pasa) Gallery in 1991 and Vision Gallery in 1994. All the galleries accepted exhibition proposals through the decision of the board members consisting of art consultants. Artists also attempted to have studios where they could have a permanent exhibition of their works. A woman architect, Rezan Nevzat made a daring attempt to open HP Gallery, not depending on any other business and support. Her efforts to organize rather high quality exhibitions in the 1990s together with her attempt to restore Haydarpasa Mosque (St. Catherine Church), a badly neglected important historical monument in Nicosia, are worth appreciating.
One of the most important exhibitions ever held in North Cyprus was opened in Ataturk Cultural Centre in Nicosia with the encouragement of Fluxus Gallery and sponsorship of Poly Peck Company of Asil Nadir on 13-22 April 1990. This was The First International Erotic Art Exhibition (Fig : 1), which caused such a sensation and publicity in those days. Although many people criticised the inauguration, which started with erotic performance art at the time of 'iftar' during the Holy Ramadan, (8) they did not hesitate to watch this art performance with great curiosity. (9) This performance designed by an Italian artist was of course something rather unusual even for the local artists. However it was the unorthodox style of Yves Klein, one of the eminent Neo-Dadaist artists, in the 1950s. It was a kind of paintings produced by the action of elements in a ceremonial manner (Lucie Smith, 1969/ 1995, p. 124). Four Turkish Cypriot women artists, Filiz Ankac:, Gonen Atakol, Inci Kansu, Ozden Selenge did not hesitate to take part in this exhibition of erotic art? (10) The Erotic Art Exhibition was a further step taken in the field of art as compared even with the ones in Turkey. It was in the memories of many people that some politician leaders ordered for the removal of many paintings in museums or art galleries in the 1980s since they were considered to be provocative and of low moral value.
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Several Turkish Cypriot women artists such as Inci Kansu, Emel Samioglu, Nilgun Guney, Ozden Selenge, Gonen Atakol also took part in the exhibitions of 1st and 2nd International Asian-European Art Biennales in Ankara. This was one of the great experiences for many artists and they managed to establish many contacts through this exhibition.
The bi-communal art exhibitions called Brushstrokes across Cultures organised by the Embassy of United States of America in Nicosia were attempts to bring the artists of the two communities as well as American artists together. Women artists took part in this exhibition although the number of male artists invited was usually higher. The first three exhibitions held both in Greek and Turkish parts of Nicosia, in 1992, 1993 and 1997 while the last two in 1999 and 2003 were organised in the Residence of the Ambassador. Filiz Ankac was the only Turkish woman artist in the 1992 exhibition while in the 1993 exhibition, Nilgun Kozal, Emel Samioglu, Ozden Serak represented the Turkish Cypriot women artists. In the 1997 exhibition Inci Kansu, Gunay Guzelgun, Lebibe Sonuc exhibited their works while only Inci Kansu was invited to the one held in 1999. Somehow no Turkish neither Greek Cypriot women artists took part in the 2003 exhibition. (11)
Women artists' exhibitions usually open on the 8th March, World Woman's Week. EMU-CWS organised three exhibitions previously, the most successful one being in 2002. This was the first time to include ceramic and sculpture artists besides the paintings, and more than 80 works were exhibited. (Fig. 2).
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Women Artists in Turkish Cypriot Society
Although there was no art education in the Western sense in the island during the first half of the 20th century, it is known that there were some scholars who were talented in decorative arts, mainly calligraphic art. Nazife Hanim is one of the talented women who is said to have a skill in the art of calligraphy as she practiced in sulus style. Examples of some beautiful embroideries of floral decorative character as well as stylistic figurative or calligraphic ones exhibited in the museums, mosque walls or private collections give the hint of the existence of few talented women in this field.
It was Olga Rauf who first appeared as a woman artist in the Turkish society as far as we could know from the existing documents. In fact, Olga was a German woman born in Moscow. She was among the Germans who were prisoned in Russia in 1914 during the Frist World War and settled to Bavyera after the prisoners were exchagened. She studied art in the fine art academy for 5 years and after her graduation she decided to settle to Cyprus where she had some friends (Cizenel, 1987, p. 6). After she got married to Dr. Mehmet Rauf, a doctor from a wellknown family in 1928, she then became one of the residents of Cyprus. She usually painted landscapes, historical sites or folk themes. Although she had had an academic education in art during the years of the devolopment of new abstract styles like symbolist, cubism and futurist, her style always remained in impressionist style. Emin Cizenel, who has written a brief article about her, described her as an impressionist artist whose neatness is reflected in the detailed descriptions while her careful observations is turned into the topics in nature. Her lanscapes are always full of bright light source that is characteristic of the Cypriot nature. Although some sources mention about her Solo Exbibitions (Olgun. ed. 1986), Cizenel mentioned her neglect of opening Solo exhibitions and referred to the retrospective exhibition organised by the Association of Plastic Arts. And similar to the feelings of any artists living in Cyprus, Madame Olga also complained for not being understood or appreciated as an artist and for this reason, she always preferred to continue painting silently without any expectations (Cizenel, 1987, p. 2).
As it has been argued in a previous paper about the role of women in art eduction, The Girls' Secondary School seemed to give more emphasis on the art courses than the male school since 1925 and the first Turkish Cypriot art teacher was a woman. However, unlike the women artists in Turkey or elsewhere who usually come from well off families with a cultural background, Cypriot women artists are mostly from families who were involved with education or middle class craftsmen. Private education for the daughters of the rich families as practiced in Istanbul or the rich metropolitans of the Ottoman Empire prior to 1900 is not known.
Sema Zihni (1932-1967) was an artist born in Lefke but due to her short life she is not much remembered. She was the daughter of Zihni Bey (teacher) and Rasiha Harem (worked as a teacher in Kyrenia Girls' School) (An, 2002, p. 499)living in a rather picturesque Turkish house in Karsiyaka quarter in Lefke. Due to her father's teaching career, she had her primary school years in Limassol, Gemikonagi and Lefke. She had her secondary school education in Victoria Girls' School. She was awarded with a scholarship by the Board of Turkish Education and studied in Ismet Papa Girls' Technical School during the first half of the 1950s and came back to Cyprus. According to Goral Ozkan, Sema Zihni was a rather successful and talented young lady whose painting was accepted to the State Art Exhibition in Turkey while she was still a student. Sema Zihni joined to the Second Turkish Cypriot Artists Exhibition but due to the difficult economic and social conditions began in Cyprus after 1963, she left for Turkey where she got married in Mugla but died in 1965 during childbirth in Sweden. Since she intended to open her solo exhibition she took all of her paintings to Mugla. Unfortunately, we could trace only three of her watercolour paintings in the collection of Sevim Tumer, her sister living in Ankara, while the fate of rest of the collection kept by her husband is not known at the moment. (Fig. 3). In considering these water-colours as well as the picture of her work from the 2nd Turkish Cypriot Artists' exhibitions, it could be said that her paintings are mainly in the impressionist or cubic style.
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Inci Kansu (born in 1937) had an art education in Gazi Education Institute in Ankara with the inspiration and encouragements she got from Mevhibe Sefik, her art teacher in Victoria Girls' Lycee. She is from the early generation of artists to take part in the Exhibitions of Turkish Cypriot Artists started in 1959. She believes in the idea that in order to achieve perfection for gaining the status of 'master' in the profession, a continuous effort of learning and experimenting with new things and techniques is essential. Therefore with this belief, Kansu started a new journey into a new realm through a scholarship she gained from Fulbright in 1989 during the last years of her teaching career when she worked as an education inspector in the ministry. She attended to two workshops on plastic arts training and paper art and a course in hand-made paper, which changed her art in a new dimension. Inci Kansu is one of these artists who try new techniques of painting on handmade paper produced in her own atelier from different material. As she described her art, the elements of her early paintings were more functional while later they became more individual, isolated and simple. She is the only woman artist from TRNC who is attending the conferences of IAPMA (International Association of Paper Making Artists). Inci Kansu opened her first solo exhibition of her handmade paper paintings in 1994 at HP Gallery. Many art critics such as Prof. Dr. Mumtaz Isingor (Sculptor--Turkey), Svetlana Hotic (Macedonia), Winald Stoper, Husamettin Kocan, Prof. Dr. Ismail Tunali, Prof. Dr. Tayfun Erdogmus, Remzi Koklu, Doc. Dr. Mumtaz Saglam published critics about her art. She took part in many international art exhibitions abroad while her recent three solo exhibitions were held in Felez Art Gallery, Antalya (1998), Karaca Art Gallery, Ankara (2002) and Halicarnassos Gallery, Bodrum, (October-November 2003). Besides her exhibitions, Inci Kansu dedicated herself to teach the techniques of papermaking and she is continuously organizing workshops and giving conferences about this art, which she defines as the art of the 20th century. Her interest in the copper ore of Cyprus led her to her thematic works entitled 'Cuprum'. The rusted barrel and shield composition as a part of her Cuprum series were the most attractive oeuvres in the State Exhibition in 2001 where she joined as the honour artist of the year (Fig. 4). This was also exhibited in Karaca Gallery Exhibition in 2002 and Halicarnassos Gallery, Bodrum in October 2003. She was awarded as the successful artist in March 2003 by Centre for Woman Studies--Eastern Mediterranean University (EMU-CWS).
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Goral Ozkan (born in 1938) was the third Turkish Cypriot woman art teacher who started her teaching career in 1959. She had her first art education from Mevhibe Sefik during her secondary education years. Through her encouragements she studied in Ankara Girls High School for Technical Training. She had her several years teaching experience as well as administration mission at the Ministry of National Education and Culture. She used to teach art and art history lessons at the secondary school and also she was actively involved with painting during these years. She painted portraits for her living due to extremely low wages given to civil servants in order to contribute to the family budget. She had commissions usually from the diplomatic circles and painted several portraits of the wives or children. It is interesting to read in her biography that she was never involved with male models except family members. The reason for this was her dedicated family life. Goral Ozkan however continued her children themes and portraits as well as women figures in expressionist or surrealist manner. Her recent works performed in the 1990s are all in abstract expressionist style and blue is the dominant colour in her paintings. Goral Ozkan took part in many group exhibitions. She was the honour artist for the 14th State Art Exhibition and also took part in the Exhibition of Women Artists organized by EMU-CWS in 1999 and 2001. She had opened two solo exhibitions, the first one in Vision Art Gallery in 1994 and the second was in Ataturk Culture Centre in 1996 (Fig. 5). Prof. Dr. Erdal Aksugur, the owner of Vision Gallery then, remarked upon her works to have a rather balanced composition in view of the colour, line and arrangement of three-dimensional figures in the space, reflection of the time context as well as her passionate and warm personality.
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Aylin Orek (born in 1941) is the first Turkish artist to perform an academic education. She studied at Fine Arts Academy (currently Mimar Sinan University) and graduated from Nurullah Berk Studio in 1966. She also spent some time in the studios of Adnan Coker and Ali Celebi. Ayhn Orek is the first Turkish Cypriot woman artist to open a solo exhibition in 1966 in Saray Hotel. She also started her career as a teacher in the same year (Olgun (ed.), 1987, pp.30-31; Cagdas, 1987, p. 15). She had further education in Paris and Marseille with the scholarship awarded by France. Although Aylin Orek is not actively painting and exhibiting at the present, she was responsible for organising an important exhibition for Salon Officiel-Expositon International de l'Union Feminine Artistique et Culturelle Salon Internationaux (UFACSI) in Ataturk Culture Centre in Nicosia and Dolmabahce Palace Gallery in Istanbul in 1992. She was the only Turkish Cypriot artist to take part in it. She is the delegate for the Near Eastern countries of UFACSI. One of her paintings is in the collection of Istanbul Fine Arts Museum. She was awarded with a prize in the first exhibition of TRNC State Art Exhibition in 1986 and took part as the honorary artist in the exhibition in 1998. Her paintings exhibited during the first women artists exhibition organised by EMU-CWS in 1991 caused much sensation as they reflected her perfect composition and an unusual theme depicting the African women.
Gonen Atakol (born in 1945) is a graduate from USA. She was a brilliant student during her education in Pennsylvania University where she graduated with high honour and won the Evan Pugh Junior Award, Evan Pugh Senior Award and Edwin W. Zoller Scholarships. She took part in many group exhibitions at home and abroad including the Erotic Art Exhibition in Nicosia and the Exhibition of the Women Artists from Islamic countries.
Emel Samioglu (born in 1946) is one of the leading artists in TRNC. She graduated from the painting department of Ankara Girls' High School for Technical Training in 1967. She worked as an art and art history teacher in Nicosia Turkish Girls' Lycee (currently called 20 Temmuz Lycee) between the years 1967-89. She had her first solo exhibition in Saray Hotel in 1969. She continued her art career more actively after her retirement from teaching. She took part in many group exhibitions some of which are in Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir, Ordu, Fethiye in Turkey, Erotic Art Exhibition, Brushstrokes across Cultures Exhibition in Nicosia, and others in Brussels, Nuremberg and Schonecken in Germany. She organised a workshop and exhibition on ceramic painting in Design 74 Ceramic Studio in 1993. Her recent solo exhibitions were opened in Bank Art Gallery in Erenk/Sy, Istanbul (1997), Soyut Gallery, Ankara (1998), New Approaches (Yaklasimlar) exhibition in Yasar Art Gallery, Izmir (2000). Emel Samioglu is currently painting history themes which recalls the style of Inci Eviner (born in 1951) and Aysegol Izer Drahsan (born in 1959), the contemporary women artists in Turkey (See Atagok, 1993, pp. 77, 81). Her images are impressions from the primitive art of Cyprus and she reached a climax in abstracting her images into new forms and into a new topic simply called as 'texture and feelings'. Her aim is to lead her spectators into a new realm by comparing the past with the present. She also tried to bring a new sense of excitement to her paintings in each new period that reflect the explosions of her feelings resulting from her search for new impulses with the worries of aesthetic revealed in her esquisses and selective colours from her palette as well as by her brush-strokes and colour transitions. As she also suggests, her oeuvres are reflections of her overflowing excitement and her choice of colour. With this selectivity, she is producing a new texture which aims to create the impression of a great desire of touching and feeling. She usually paints on canvas or handmade paper. (Fig. 6)
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Ozden Selenge (born in 1947) is an artist who started her career as an art teacher as well as an artist in 1967. Her first solo exhibition was a poetry exhibition opened in Izmir. Then she held her second solo exhibition in 1974 June in Nicosia. Cevdet Cagdas cited her name as one of the most outstanding Turkish artists besides S. Oral, G. Pir, A. Atakan who are actively opening new exhibitons almost every year (Cagdas, 1986 (2), p. 13). She is a rather talented artist who is mainly famous for her traditional subjects in naive miniature style. Her subjects always run in parallel with her life-story. Children themes were important in her paintings during her early teaching years and later she continued with love themes. Loneliness, nature and woman themes are taking a more important part in her current paintings. As she is more concentrated in writing stories and novels since the 1990s, she usually paints parallel topics to her writing. She is one of the most successful Cypriot authors in story and novel literature. Currently she is holding a solo exhibition at the signing of her each new book. (13) Her recent works were again in naive miniature style reflecting the traditional themes based on her recent novel. However, the new series did not bring new dimensions in this style as her earlier miniature style paintings. They almost reflect a traditional manner of women giving more attention to social religious activities in their old age years. Her oeuvres are in many collections all round the world today.
Ismet Tatar (born in 1947) starting her career as a teacher for elder women students in Practical Arts and Crafts Institute improved her art studies after her retirement and she opened several thematic exhibitions, which are mainly on woman theme. Her exhibitions entitled "Themes on the Women Lives" were reflections of the tragedy in her life as well as the experience of many other Turkish Cypriot women who lost their husbands at war (Fig. 7). Her other exhibitions are also the reflections of the sensitivity of a woman towards the neglect of nature. The painting series entitled as "My Name is the Olive Tree" and "The Garden of the Sun" were perfect representation of nature as well as women either in dramatic, humoresque attitudes or in an idiomatic manner. (14) Tatar's recent painting series entitled "The Reflections of the Mediterranean Beams" were more abstract with bright colour, but still depicted nature, mainly the details from trees. In these works, she aimed to experiment new dimensions in painting techniques and aesthetics by abstracting nature, mainly the tree trunks. Ismet Tatar is also rather talented with her watercolour paintings. She exhibited her series of watercolours consisting of Cyprus landscape scenes in Turkish House located at UN Piazza in New York on 15th November 1998. Although her early paintings were more representational since she was inspired by the tragedy of the political happenings in her early life, her recent works are more idiomatic emphasising on the traditional or nature themes.
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Nilgun Guney (born in 1952) is the daughter of Ismet Guney, one of the first Turkish Cypriot artists. She had her first art education from her father. She graduated from the Graphic Art Department of Fine Arts Academy (Mimar Sinan University) with masters' degree. Nilgun Guney started her career as an art teacher in 1977 and exhibited both in the island as well as in several foreign countries. She opened her first and second solo exhibitions in Nicosia in 1983 and 1986 respectively. She had then opened her third Solo exhibition in Munich in 1988 at the Geesing City Library. She participated in several group exhibitions in Cyprus, Belgium, London and Turkey including the 1st and 2nd International Asian European Art Biennales in Ankara and UFACSI exhibitions in France (1993) and Spain (1994). Although her paintings are usually women figures, she is one of the women artists who did not hesitate to practice nude male figures. She had the intention to improve her art in new trends for her portrait and anatomical studies. This is after her retirement as well as the termination of her married life. Her anatomy studies of male figures can be considered as a feminist manifesto against the idea of presentation of woman figures and especially nudity as an erotic symbol. Guney suggested that both sexes have a natural affinity in the human body. So, as she suggests, beauty and attractiveness of body is not particularly restricted to woman. Her abilities in poetry and graphic art reflected with the inscriptions added in her paintings. The colour application in her painting technique also recalls the experimentation of Henry Matisse (Fig. 8).
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Ruzen Atakan (born in 1966) is a graduate of Painting and Handcraft Department of Education Faculty, Gazi University in Ankara. She took part in many group exhibitions at home and abroad. Asik Mene refers to her success with the unusual manner of dealing with her subjects. Mene's appreciation of her art is expressed with the following words in the leaflet prepared for her solo exhibition opened in Fluxes Art Gallery on 23rd February 1991: "She is transferring the everyday happenings of her life into her canvas. Her manner of approaching to all data is done with a great sensitivity. It can be observed that her figures are suffering in the flames of a fire or shaking with horror or moaning with agony in their dreams. According to Mene, Atakan's figures are taking place in a dramatic, horror, upsetting atmosphere, transition of colour and esquisse." Her recent exhibition entitled as April were consisting of genre scenes, mainly sexual erotical images. She experienced her brush in representing rather daringly sexual actions of different people, young or old couples or even transsexuals (Fig. 9). As usual, her colour selection in lively colours increases mysticism or dramatic stories on her easles
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Feryal Sukan (born in 1963) is one of the exceptional artists who started to be involved with art while she was working as an English teacher in the secondary school. She gained her first art training from Asik Mene. Her great talent and patient, incessant practices enabled to bring her art to perfection. She was awarded with prizes in several group exhibitions. She had several solo exhibitions at home and one in Palette Gallery, Istanbul. Though her figurative paintings are usually the reflections of her feelings and self-experiences, like many women artists, as she is maturing her style, abstraction is increasing in her works (Fig. 10).
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New generation artists like Lebibe Sonuc, Zehra Sonya and Simge Uygur are experimenting new art trends and seeking for opportunities to exhibit at international art occasions and to attend to international competitions. As it is the universal attitude, younger artists working with psychologically loaded subject-matter and making free use of metaphor (Lucie-Smith, p. 201) young Turkish Cypriot women artists are trying to bring new dimesions to art.
Lebibe Sonuc (born in 1972) studied art in Marmara University and currently she is a PhD candidate in Mimar Sinan University. She achieved her success by joining an art competition for exhibiting at Osaka Picture Triennial and her statue entitled "The Widow of East Mediterranean" was selected among 3895 candidates as one of the 74 works worth to be exhibited. Her Solo exhibition opened in Istanbul and later in Nicosia was in an unusual manner although they could be considered in naive style. These were paintings and ceramic sulptures of fantastic grotesque figures depicting mainly a fantasy universe or a naive fantasy of a story world.
Simge Uygur (born in 1977) is a graduate from the Painting Department of Marmara University and currently working as an art teacher. She is a rather daring young artist who attracted attention from art critics during the education years in 1996 and graduation exhibition in 1998 in Turkey. Simge Uygur made her first debut in Istanbul with an exhibition called New Proposals/New Proposes at Borusan Art Gallery. She was one of the three students selected from the Faculty of Fine Arts, Marmara University by the committee consisting of members of Faculty Administration and members of Borusan Art Gallery to join this exhibition. The exhibition aimed to encourage young talented artists by introducing new and fresh ideas for the art arena. Her works all designed in installation technique were quite unusual in the treatment of forms, colour and subject. The shapes in her oeuvres split into separate units as the forms and organics and then all these are complementing one another and joining into a single body. Above all they were the reflections of a feminist attitude bringing criticism to the concept of eroticism for identifying the women's personality merely through her sexuality. (15) Uygur's solo exhibition attracted much attention because of their unusual humour value as well as variety of unusual materials. Together with her painted canvases, there were several three dimensional works made of paper, sand, wood, coffee, resin, textile or plastic. Uygur's works recalls Picasso whose two dimensional forms are physically displaced from the surface of the canvas and participate in actual as well as in imagined space (Hamilton, 1967/1993,p. 460), as she works in several mediums and techniques like a draughtman, graphic artist and sculptor. She had groups of works classified according to topics, the unusual ones being the torso sculptures designed to emphasise the buttocks (Fig. 11). These buttocks were made of paperwork and covered with different materials such as first aid plasters, rusted nails, foil paper, glittering textiles and plastic flowers or insects. Ironical and metaphorical meanings are sought in her works. Tongues of different sizes and positions come out of the hole of a black box or seashells and crusts. All these reflect the humour of of the artist and to express the actions to scream in terror and fear, teasing or laughing, or recalling erotic desires. Umit Inatci, an art critic and artist defined these oeuvres as 'bio-morphic' sculptures in the exhibition leaflet.
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Sculpture and ceramic arts usually classified under the crafts in earlier periods have also exhibited rapid advancements recently. Semral Oztan, Ayhatun Atesin, Bahire Korol, Zehra Sonya, Hayal Dimililer, Ozge Refik, Pembe Gaziler, Sinem Saydam and several others can be cited here for their contribution. The recent Exhibition of the Center for Woman Studies (March 2002) was an attempt to give the taste of plastic arts in different fields including ceramic arts. Hayal Dimililer's large wall panel (Fig. 12), currently exhibited in the Faculty of Architecture--Eastern Mediterranean University as a generous donation of the artist, was one of the original works with mystical representation of the cosmos and human relations
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One of the recent exhibitions opened by Zehra Sonya (born in 1972) is the first sculpture exhibition opened by a Turkish Cypriot woman artist which really presented a daring act of exhibiting sculptures of iron, stone and paper with an aim of creating an installation art regarding the arrangement of the objects to play with the light, space and sound.(Fig. 13) Through her work and displaying techniques she created a complete sensous experience, which appealed to the spectators' touch and sense of smell, as well as to the sense of sight and hearing. Sonya based her art on mysticism to create interesting forms all based on a certain philosophy in relation to reality, space and time. She described the mission of artist to reflect the reality by pushing themselves into chaos within the limits of time during which the works with materials are created. Therefore the artist must usually think and act beyond time and space to create the authentic self-expression, which in fact are the reflections of the artist's personality and creativity (Sonya, 2001, p. iii, 32, 96).
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The increasing number of ceramic artists with academic education started a new era in Cyprus ceramic art, which was almost forgotten since the medieval ages. Semral Oztan (born in 1956), a graduate from Fine Arts Academy (Mimar Sinan University) was the first Turkish Cypriot woman to have ceramic education. Unluckily she could not find a proper job to develop her career for several years. She is currently working in Ataturk Training and Profession Institute and teaching ceramics. She is also performing her art activities in her own ceramic studio and exhibits her works in solo as well as group exhibitions. She is one of the members to found the Association of Ceramic Artists. Semral Oztan usually gets her impressions from ancient Cyprus art or the aesthetic curving lines of Art Nouveau style. Although Semral Oztan's recent exhibition was rather successful with her ceramics in woman theme, she was bitterly criticised by Zehra Sonya, the woman sculptor, because of the publicity made by a journalist in the local newspaper, Kibris. This interview was in fact based on a short conversation which took place during the inauguration by a journalist of no art background. The interview emphasised on one of her installation works arranged as a group of women figures on a mirror base, which was the attraction point of the exhibition. These nude women figures were standing in different positions and were almost indifferent from each other. All figures were marked with a small symbol of piece over their shoulders. The journalist transferred the remark of the artist as "One may conceive whatever he wants to visualize in an art object" upon the question whether there was any message given through her group ceramics. Although Sonya begins her criticism on this remark, her critical issues are rather complicated as she attempted to criticise both the journalist who gave inadequate and wrong information in the news about the exhibition or the newspaper for publishing such inefficient interview besides her main criticism about the exhibition. Some of her paragraphs were not in fact matching with her main critical essay and gave the impression of meaningless quotation from another source. Furthermore, she also criticised Oztan's response about the question enquiring the main idea aimed in the installation group piece and the reason of entitling this as "The Leader and the Society". In fact, the whole idea was to draw to mind the recent discussions among the political parties about the acceptance of newly proposed Annan Plan in North Cyprus. Sonya was right in some of her questions whether the nude women symbolised the Turkish Cypriot society or the exhibits to represent the Cypriot culture. Her attempt to bring a sensitivity for the probing of the attempts to relate art with the current political issues and also bringing an implicit criticism from a feminist point of view was one of the first one ever made although her writing was not well organised to clarify her ideas.
Ayhatun Atesin (born in 1961) has a special place in the ceramic art of North Cyprus. She is one of the rare persons to develop a career by following short private courses without getting an academic education. She was the first Turkish Cypriot woman ceramic artist to open a solo exhibition in 1992. This was a thematic exhibition called "The Art of Fire". Her second exhibition was entitled as "The Dance of the Clay and Fire". She exhibited her works either in group or solo exhibitions. She used polychrome glazing for her ceramics usually in turquoise, red and orange colours. Her solo exhibitions always caused a sensation because of her exciting and unexpected displays. Her charismatic personality together with her creative talent in art resulted with ceramics in new forms and colours. The inauguration of her exhibition entitled as "The Journey of Water" (Fig. 14). was one of the exceptional occasions ever made in North Cyprus. Spectators passed through a tunnel of artificial rain, thunderbolt and fire to reach the gallery. Together with her ceramics, she created a wish pond and an artificial stream named 'Ayhatun Water' in the hall, with candles and other authentic objects (Kibris, 2000 May). She repeated the same exhibition in Hoby Art Gallery, Istanbul, 2001 May. (Kibrisim, 2001, pp. 44-45). This kind of inaugurations could be considered as part of her interest in theatre. Ayhatun Atesin is the member of the International Ceramic Artists Association and International Women artists (UFACSI). She took part in UFACSI exhibition organised in Lille, France (1999) with two ceramics and one of these entitled as "Sansur" (Censorship) was selected to the exhibition which was opened in several art centres worldwide (Kibrisli, 1999 Mayis, p.63)
[FIGURE 14 OMITTED]
Art activities began after the reformation of the Turkish education system in the 20th century. Although attempts to raise its cultural level to western standards started earlier in the nineteenth century, the evolution of the Turkish Cypriot culture close to the level of universal standards achieved in the second half of the 20th century. Today the level of art in view of the achievements of the women artists in the Turkish Cypriot society is rather high as compared with many Mediterranean countries. They are taking almost equal position, and even leading position in every field of the fine arts.
Today, there are several artists in Northern Cyprus who are working in the modern art trends at international level. Most Cypriot women artists have an academic education. They all start their careers as art and art history teachers since they wanted to acquire an income and social security benefits from the government for the rest of their lives. Therefore, they always play important roles in the art education of the country. Some of them preferred to be teachers while others are energetically involved with art in their leisure times at schools or in their private studios. The art teachers take part in group-exhibitions organised by the Ministry of Education, The Teachers' Union or other institutions, and exhibit their works in a more competitive mood, which brings new dimensions to these events.
These artists usually explore new art trends although mainly we could say that in their early art experimentations, surrealist or cubist styles were followed while mainly they continued to work in abstract expressionism or abstract cubist styles.
In considering the question about the difference between male artists and female artists, it could be said that the nature of themes established the difference. Women's art themes were usually about their own life and their sensitivity for love. Mainly love or surrow for their beloved ones, loneliness and love for nature are the dominant subjects of the women artists. With the rapid spread of feminism throughout the world since the 1970s, it is only natural that the woman artist should have chosen herself as subject (Atagok, 1993, p. 20). There is more sensitivity for human factors and feelings in the works of the women artists while wild eroticism, aggressiveness, political and historical themes are more dominant in the works of the male artists. Although the early generation artists usually depicted their life stories with a woman's sensitivity, the new generation prefer philosophical and psychological topics in feminist manner designed in abstract forms. The first debut of women artists to less conservative manner in their creative activity was the International Erotic Art Exhibition that was organised in North Cyprus in 1990. A recent movement is to experiment with new material and new forms. More philosophical subjects are dealt with in the works of particularly the new generation and a feminist theme can be seen clearly in the recent exhibitions. The analysis of the artists' lifestories and their works could show the rapid evolution of the level of culture and social life in North Cyprus.
It is pleasing to see that although political problems have always affected the life of every individual of the society, artists take a rather active part in the activities of the conflict resolution groups for the benefit of bringing peace to the whole island. They took part in group exhibitions in Cyprus or abroad usually conveying the message of peace, friendship and solidarity.
However, the lack of a modern art museum in North Cyprus is an obstacle to publicising the artists living on this part of the island. The absence of sponsorship or patronizing institutes is another handicap for the encouragement of the artists. Another issue is the population, which prevents large numbers of publications on scholarly matters. But the most serious problem is the lack of an art market in North Cyprus. The low income of art connoisseurs or high intellectual people such as teachers, government officers does not permit people to purchase art works. The lack of an art market does not foster art as an investment. This factor affects the sale of art objects. Lack of art critics and art galleries or publications about the local artists are other factors, which are needed for the publicity of artists.
Art competitions, except for the annual State Exhibition awards, are rarely held in North Cyprus. However, a glance at the catalogue published by the Ministry of Education which summarises the State Art Exhibitions that organised between the years 1986-1999, there are only eleven awards gained by women artists out of 36 awards given. The most successful artists and authors who contributed to the cultural events of each year are awarded with prizes by Turkish Bank. Bayrak Radio and Television Enterprise and Deniz Bank organise competitions for children, usually for the occasion of 23rd April, Children's Day. But sometimes the criteria for the awards given by the state and other institutions do not show objective evaluations based on art principles, since the members of the juries usually consist of artists, architects, authors or journalists. Usually, there is no art historian with modern art expertise to take part in these juries. And most seriously, as members of a small society, friendship relations are the factors to prevent objective evaluation of the works in the competitions.
Consequently, it could be said that the level of art and culture of a country is an important mark of the modernity and in the case of North Cyprus this modernity is nearly achieved in particular with the case of women artists. This fact brings to mind the necessity for recording and illustrating the history of modern art in Turkish Cypriot society virtually. Therefore, it is urgent to open a modern art museum and even a children's art museum as well as representation of the artists in more modern media such as, well designed web-pages, documentary films or publications. All of these require patrons such as the state or other enterprises. The aim of this study is to be the beginning of scholarly research about the evolution of modern art in the Turkish Cypriot society in view of the first art occasions and in particular emphasize the role of women artists in this movement.
(1) See Web-page Yildiz (2001). History and Culture of Cyprus at http:// emuonline.emu.edu.tr, EMU--Online Institute.
(2) For instance the records in the diary of Fuat Sami (Dedecay (ed.) (2002)) such as: 1970 June 5 Friday: 5 p.m.: English School Exhibition; 1971 May 31 Wednesday: 4 pm. Ataturk Girls' Institute Exhibition; 1971 June 14, 10.00 a.m.: Ataturk Elementary School Exposition; 1971 July 7, Wednesday: Exhibition painting, Ledra Palace" are merely brief notes with no comment about the occasions. Dedecay (ed.)(2002). Vol. IV, pp. 68, 146, 173, 180.
(3) See Milli Egitim ve Kultur Bakanligi (c. 2001). Resim, Heykel, Seramik ve Ozgun Baski Koleksiyonu 1934-2000. (Author, publication date and place not indicated).
(4) A Spanish artist who introduced himself as Ali Bey el Abbasi, son of Osman Bey of Aleppo, prince of the Abbasids. He made several drawings, which were published in his travel book in 1816. Cobham (ed.) (1908/1986), p. 391.
(5) For a detailed study on the subject see Severis (2000). Also see YiIdiz (1999). pp. 639-662.
(6) Severis might have a mistake with the name of Elektra's husband. This could be Peter Megaw, the archaeological officer mentioned by Durrell (1957/1973). p. 109 or as mentioned in the Diaries of Taylor and Edith Belcher (Martin & Wallace (eds.), 2000). pp 6, 36, 76, etc.
(7) British Institute was in Nicosia. There might be a mistake with this information by Ali Nesim quoted from the memoirs based on an interview with Ismet Vehit Guney.
(8) The time when people breaks fasting during the holy Ramadan just after the setting of the sun.
(9) See the news in Kibris, 14 April 1990.
(10) See the catalogue: Sanatta Erotizm 1. Uluslararasi Sergisi, 1. International Erotic Art Exhibition 13- 22 Nisan 1990/13-22 April 1990, pp. 35, 36, 38, 41.
(11) A glance at the exhibition catalogue reflects a curious selection as it included a painting of Andy Unger painted c. 1978, and another one signed Boruch painted in 1971, with no biographical information but merely giving information about them as being in the personal collection of the Ambassador. This is an unusual way of selection in view of the main aim of the exhibition. See Brushstrokes across Cultures V, Nicosia 2003 (last two pages).
(12) I would like to acknowledge G6ral Ozkan, Inci Kansu, Oguz Feridun and Ali Tanrikul for their kind helps to trace the address of her sister Sevim Tumer who contributed to this study with a brief but invaluable information about Sema Zihni as well as photocopies of her three watercolour paintings.
(13) A profile consisting of three detailed articles by Netice Yildiz, Hulya Argunsah, Yonca Hurol about Ozden Selenge was published in Kadin/Woman 2000 on the occasion to celebrate the award given to her by EMU-CWS. See the articles in Kadin/Woman 2000, (2001 June). II (1), pp. 1-91.
(14) For details about this exhibition see YiIdiz (1999a). Ismet Tatar and Olive Trees. In Benim Adim Zeytin Agaci, Ismet Tatar Exhibition Catalogue, April 1999, pp. 1-2; YiIdiz (1999b). Zeytin Agaclari ve Ismet Tatar, Kibrisli Dergisi, Nisan 1999, pp. 22-23, Yildiz, (2001). pp. 1-42.
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Netice Yildiz, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Netice Yildiz, Art Historian, Faculty of Architecture, Eastern Mediterranean University. e-mail: email@example.com
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