Füsun Onur, Variations (detail), 2012, paper clips and transparent adhesive on wall, dimensions variable.

Füsun Onur, Variations (detail), 2012, paper clips and transparent adhesive on wall, dimensions variable.

Füsun Onur

Maçka Sanat Galerisi

Füsun Onur, Variations (detail), 2012, paper clips and transparent adhesive on wall, dimensions variable.

Maçka Sanat Galerisi, a tiny gallery founded in 1976 by sisters Rabia Çapa and Varlık Yalman, has been very influential in the Turkish art scene. Its remarkable story deserves a longer article, but its importance should be at least briefly mentioned in any review of “Variations,” Füsun Onur’s recent exhibition there, for the gallery’s peculiar architecture has long influenced the work the artist has shown in the space. All its surfaces are covered with light-brown tiles; over three decades, Onur has sometimes treated this grid as a mathematical graph or as music paper, as in her quiet installations “Sign of the Sign” (1987), “Cadence” (1995), and “Prelude” (2001). “Variations” was also a treatment of the gallery space; here, the unfolding of its walls became the metaphor for a dialogue about art. In this case, Onur covered some of the gallery’s wall tiles with transparent plastic sheets, lifted in one corner by bright colored clips. Onur’s intervention is serious and flirtatious at the same time: The tiles are covered but still seen behind the transparent sheets, which in turn are raised a little. I imagine them saying Yes, I’m still here. But let’s not be so indiscreet!

Having become well known internationally, Onur has returned to Maçka
to reflect on the current art situation in Istanbul. “Works exhibited here have become very loud, so it’s time to close off a little,” she has said. With the art scene in the city getting noisier, her reaction is to turn down the volume. Likewise, in the monograph Documenta 13 published on her last year, she asks: “Why is everyone trying to get hold of me now? Why is everyone interested in my work all of a sudden? Is it because my end arrived?”

Curiosity has always been part of Onur’s method. Her 1967 master’s thesis for the Maryland Institute College of Art was aptly titled “The Art Object as a Possible Self in a Possible World, Publicly Put Forth on Its Own Account as Possibility of Being.” She likes to work with the auras of spaces and the essence of objects and to figure out how these might relate to communications between people as well as individual sensibilities. And Onur is open to practices considered feminine; she often embroiders and sews on canvas using found materials. “Variations” included six such new pieces—introspective, with imagery that feels very personal. One incorporates a gold-colored lace that stretches and escapes to the back of the frame, only to reappear from another corner as a single rope with a talisman on its edge; another combines two fragments of cloth that might have belonged to the garment of an Ottoman prince-in-waiting. Onur is a lace maker from a generation that discussed existentialism: “Variations” refers also to being and nothingness; we are here, then we are not. The wall piece in this show was dismantled at the end of the exhibition. Like some of the works she leaves on the waters of the Bosporus, this piece was about the transience of things. It was not made for sale but only to remind us that we need to heed the silences between the notes, as well as the notes themselves, to hear “the music of what happens,” as Seamus Heaney once put it.

Mine Haydaroğlu