Geometry and Fragility: The work of Asli Erel – Artist of The Month

Posted by admin on 1st November 2013  /   Posted in Blog


Making marks that eventually come to represent something is part of the human experience. Signs and symbols become loaded with meaning. Already there is expectation, epistemologies and a dominant hegemony imbued in the symbols we use everyday. The chosen alphabet identifies a position, a culture. It is more than just a way to communicate. We may feel it’s easy to put a mark on a page but each letter is a story in itself and the artist Asli Erel is acutely aware of this fact.

When studying any history of the Arabic alphabet it is clear the Abjad has been amended since it first surfaced as a form of communication. The Arabic alphabet may well be a derivative of the Nabataean variation of the Aramaic alphabet. In turn this comes from the Phoenician alphabet. The links do not stop there. As among others it contributed to the development of the Hebrew and  Greek alphabet and by association therefore the Cyrillic and Roman alphabets too. Each great civilization dictates and amends, literally leaving its mark. This is a fascinating area to explore and ripe for an artist to deconstruct.

Earlier in 2013 Erel exhibited at the Lahd Gallery in Hampstead in a show entitled Letters and Art of War. The origin of letters and the alphabet was explored. It covered the ancient territories of Egypt right through to the historical transition of Islam. Interestingly Erel uses these revelations to show that war is a constant; it has always been part of the human psyche and is sadly likely to exist always.

Ironically she explores the concept that although in the Middle East ideas of existence, civilization, hope and divinity were born, the flip side to these significant developments is the fact life ceases and is snuffed out by frequent wars.

As humans, what we choose to communicate in written form differs from colloquial speech. As far back as the 2nd century BC the very first written records using the Nabataean alphabet were set down but the Aramaic language. This is actually a language predominantly centred around trade and communication thus demonstrating the dominance of trade at that time. Erel is interested in these differences and offers an opportunity to look carefully at the hand of the artist by placing hand painted letters on stylized geometric backgrounds (see H102).

The pigment is intensely coloured as if to underscore the societal, philosophic and religious grids upon which we communicate. The symbols lack the weight of the intensely coloured blocks and therefore suggests a fragility, a transience that our efforts at setting down thoughts are all that is ever left of us (see H104).

H119 imposes a rigidity, a process and underscores the calligrapher’s imprisonment within each square. The light touch, the uneven application of pigment is strangely provocative. The alphabet is set but each human hand registers an element of imperfection.

Geometric shapes underpins the desire for order but the letters themselves demonstrate just how risky it is to teach an alphabet to individuals who will interpret it differently, will breathe life into a set of symbols so their meaning can potentially be transformed into sedition, anarchic prose and revolution. All the while the writing itself appears tentative.

Asli Erel’s work demonstrates her love of screen-printing or serigraphy, which she has been doing since her high school days. In 1998 she began at the workshop of Architect-Muralist Semih Irtes who was also her master. Having attended courses in Decorative Arts at Topkapi Palace she then went on to study at Yildiz Technical University. Having graduated in 2003 she then followed up her studies with more at ArtRumi where she explored traditional Turkish arts, often working with wood, classical mats and canvas.

This is Asli Erel’s artistic territory. She was born in Istanbul in 1980 and is currently pursuing her artistic interests in light of the progress of Islam and other celestial religions. What is evident in her work is how the spiritual repercussions impact on us. Her stylized perspective regarding traditional calligraphy and Islamic arts targets Sufistic philosophy (see H120 ). She is also a photographer but her work on show at the Lahd Gallery as November’s Artist of the Month is generally oil on canvas.

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