Füsun Onur was the very first artist who fostered the initial ideas on contemporary discourse and theory to introduce the 'avant-garde' to the Istanbul art scene in the early 1970's. Her oeuvre is so rich and diversified that it ranges from painting to installation, from the political to the poetic.
With 'lived' materials like old fabrics, embroidery, lace, tulle, golden braids, beads and furniture as well as insignificant, simple everyday-life objects like plastic glasses, balls, toys, what is available in her house and neighbourhood, Füsun Onur creates minimalist sculptures, installations and objects full of memories, fantasies and games. Although she mostly facilitates manufactured, readymade things, she interferes with them until they metamorphose into other things. Delicately orchestrating the objects in terms of their shapes, colours and textures, and arranging the distance and relation between them according to a specific rhythm, she permeates with abstract forms of Minimalism loading them with narratives. Thus, she opens the abstract forms into a process of signification.
Having been born and still living in a waterfront house on the Asian coast of the Bosphorus, directly or subliminally, Onur’s work reflects, relates to and embodies the mysterious, ever-changing nature of Istanbul, especially, the Bosphorus. Her contribution to the Call me ISTANBUL ist mein Name exhibition includes her works, which elaborate the city from her very personal standpoint and simultaneously refer to a specific cultural, social and historical texture of Istanbul, which has been already lost.
She participates in Call me ISTANBUL ist mein Name with three works. In addition to her two previous works; Istanbul (1993) and Istanbul Obsession (1994); she created a new project for the exhibition, whose title is the same with that of the exhibition. Respectively, her three works refer to an object, an outfit and a promenade of İstanbul.
Istanbul consists of a beautiful box, which reminds the delicate jewellery boxes, with black velvet cover and pink satin inside where the imprint of the word ‘Istanbul’ is hollowed out. As in the jewellery boxes in which an empty mould of the jewel is inscribed to protect the precious object, Onur facilitates an empty mould of the letters 'İstanbul' to visualize the presence through the absence. Onur refers to the nostalgic presence of 'İstanbul' that was once glowing like precious stones and has disappeared forever; even the traces still persist, though painfully, in our memories.
Likewise, in İstanbul Obsession, Füsun Onur relates once again to the nostalgic presence of İstanbul, more specifically, history and architecture. The installation comprises six dresses, which are made out of glistening tulle, antic golden braids and embroidery, and hanged from the ceiling freely or in front of windows to interact with the architecture spatially. While the shape of the dresses alludes to an Ottoman traditional architectural form, the arch, the materials she used refer to those ostentatious times. Geometrically shaped motives embroidered with golden braids on the transparent fabric whimsically become visible and invisible with the effect of light and in accordance with the viewpoints. Furthermore, the transparency and shinny texture of the fabric as well as their free hanging style contributes not only to the playful perception of the installation but also the space that it takes place.
Her last work Call Me İstanbul (2004), a site-specific installation created specifically for this exhibition, embodies the rhythm of walking with the contrasting currents and routes of İstanbul. In this work, Onur articulates the act of walking as our direct, bodily involvement with the city, while taking the challenge of solidifying the sound spatially and temporarily. The work consists of two different types of footprints: male in gold, female in blue colours orienting towards opposite directions. The footprints, which are applied directly on to the floor, allow the audience to step over while proposing a promenade that comes to an end in a spiral form, an abyssal hole. This form together with the rhythmical placement of footprints indicates an infinite movement inward and outward repeating the complexity of İstanbul.
Text by: Fulya Erdemci