gökçe erhan

gökçe erhan

Gökçe Erhan’s first solo exhibition at artSümer, “Pictorial World Atlas” opens on September 14th. The exhibition includes paintings from the Habitat series, plastic-bag collages as well as a video work depicting the events and the artist’s related performances. The works are intertwined with nature, presenting the viewers with a preview of what we could encounter upon return to our habitats.

The artist began the first work in the Habitat series upon her turn to her homeland, Trabzon, in 2014. In this 3x5 meter painting, she positions herself at the center, emanating to the environment from here in a spiral form where she records incidents surrounding her up until today. The artist always visualizes elements in nature: the human being, an animal, a plant, a family, a neighbor, a worker, a farmer, a forest, a flowing river, the crop after a harvest, bringing these seemingly disparate aspects together as parts of a machine. She thus evokes thinking and discussions on this illustrated habitat. Including herself as well as the viewer in this cyclicality, the artist looks at nature analytically, questioning the nature of painting through technical and plastic elements that deconstruct the very medium she works with.

The works in the exhibition depict the violent trash processing plants established in our living areas like tumors that chew on everything that is beautiful around them, set against the walls of the gallery, which have been painted blue. This multi-faceted look makes it appear as if we are about to embark on discovering an atlas. Erhan directs the viewers to look upon her world from a bird’s eye perspective, having the viewers grapple with the images from that position. This visual perception at times makes it difficult to digest the landscape that is being presented in a wide and oval vantage point. In some of the paintings, pieces of cubist and hieroglyphs are also included within this hard to describe perspective created by the merging of thousands of images that have been added on to each other as on a map. Images of nature included in the artist’s drawings make us confront the reality of nature’s destruction and our contribution in it: lack of action and silence towards the pollution of a river with chemical waste, the transformation of animal habitats into real estate under the rubric of urban transformation. As Albert Camus has said, we have changed our environment so much that we now have to change ourselves to adapt it. As we struggle with a deeply entrenched economic crisis, Erhan triggers us to reconsider our value judgments through her works using plastic trash bags, which deal with currency, the economy news page, and lottery ticket.

The lack of environmental consciousness and development and the absence of a strong environment movement in Turkey threaten the habitats that compose our shared reality. Turkey is a signatory of 29 environmental treaties, but the unsustainable environmental practices of those in power and “environment” never being a priority as part of the country’s agenda, strengthen the grounds for othering. The community takes ownership of their own areas of living, their nature and rights, but as they are weak against the system and as they are not always conscientious, the problems deepen and become even more serious. The artist’s thoughts and efforts to stop this progress create a new kind of ammunition. 


Gökçe Erhan was born in 1983 in Trabzon, Turkey. She graduated as valedictorian from the painting department of Mimar Sinan University and received the Sakıp Sabancı Art Award. Erhan lives and works in Trabzon. Among her solo shows are: “İçimde Evler Yıkılıyor”, TRAB-Rİ-KAB Garbage Disposal Plant, 2017 and “Ballad of Shame”, Pilot Gallery, Istanbul, 2013. She enacted several performances: in 2014 with Gülçin Aksoy “Group and Solo Songs” (DEPO, Istanbul); in 2011 with Atıl Kunst “Garip Bir Pandik-1” (MSGSU) and with Hazavuzu “Garip Bir Pandik-2” (Rumeli Han, Istanbul). Group exhibitions include “Encounters: Turkish Contemporary Art in Korea”, South Korea, 2012; “Consequences Are No Coincidence”, Pilot Gallery, Istanbul, 2012; Sabancı Art Awards, Sakıp Sabancı Museum, 2010; “When Ideas Become Crime”, DEPO, Istanbul 2010; “Overtime”, Adnan Saygun Culture Center, Izmir, 2010; “A Room of One’s Own”, Outlet, Istanbul, 2010; “The City and Art Project” exhibitions: Kadırga Culture Center, Istanbul, 2011, Munich, Germany, 2011,Tophane-i Amire Culture Center, Istanbul (2010), Bishops Square, London, England (2009).