Devrim Erbil: I squeezed three lifetimes into one

Devrim Erbil, a master painter of contemporary Turkish art, will mark the 50th year of his career as a painter later this year. Ahead of a series of events to mark this anniversary, Erbil’s friends urged him to open a brief exhibition titled “Toward the 50th Anniversary” at the Artium Art House in İstanbul. This exhibition is made up of 36 canvases that are grouped under the artist’s trademark “İstanbul pictures,” “rhythmic construction,” “rhythmic vibration” and other unique themes the artist frequently employs in his work. In Erbil’s pictures depicting İstanbul, which is the overarching theme of the exhibition, the blue, purple, gray and black landscapes revolving around the Süleymaniye Mosque, the Yeni Mosque, the Golden Horn, the Bosporus Bridge and other landmarks of İstanbul and the phosphorus colors that have become favorites of the artist invite art lovers to dream in lines.

Noting that there are many surprises in store for the 50th year of his career, Erbil said: “I had a good team, and together we are undertaking good projects. I am said to make abundant productions. I complete projects in three or four months that would be completed by others in one year. In other words, I work hard. These days, I am particularly busy. There will be documentaries, books, exhibitions and many other events for the 50th year. This makes me considerably happy. In addition to my involvement in painting, I have also worked on carpets, stained glass, mosaics, ceramics and printing for many years. In sum, I have squeezed three lifetimes into my 50-year art career. I see no harm in boasting about this.” As he was posing for a photo, Erbil took a pomegranate from the table and said, “Let me pose with a pomegranate.” The pomegranate is traditionally regarded as a symbol of fertility. We will see whether Erbil’s pomegranate will bring added fertility and fruitfulness to him in coming days.

The 50th year of a career is the most beautiful and exceptional time for an artist. In his 70s, Erbil is now in a sweet hurry. At the opening ceremony of his current exhibition, he was surrounded by his fans, and he even had a hard time accepting congratulations. There is only one thing that can be said in response to the excitement and hurry of this artist, “May your 50th year be as fertile as a pomegranate.”

Erbil’s universe of art quickly engulfs you. While he likes to look at İstanbul from afar in his paintings, one can discern that this city is slowly edging into this artist’s universe. His lines can easily transform into a sound or an odor or a touch. The harmony in the landscape, which at first seems to be disordered, is a sign of a mysterious world. As you progress in the shadow of the triad of line, color and texture, you immediately find yourself swaying to the doorsteps of a story or a song or a dream. As the birds that are casting their shadows on the sea and the infiniteness of the bright sky point to Erbil, hiding behind colors and lines, his canvases reflect landscapes woven with diverse materials and techniques. Benefiting from the possibilities afforded by engraving, mosaics, serigraphs and ceramics, the master painter opens his world to art lovers with an abstract expression.

Clustered turquoise and blue birds look as if they would flutter away at a single whisper. The scenes reminding one of unbelievably thick crowds are like works produced by miniaturists. The panoramas of İstanbul made of lines, textures and vibrations are multiplied around historical buildings, and one hears the breaths of an artist peering at the city from high above.
When you read the biography of the artist, you understand how he has managed to squeeze three lifetimes into one with an unswerving desire to work. Erbil’s exhibition will be open at Artium Art House until Jan. 24. Tel.: (212) 291 0131

Musa İğrek, İstanbul
Today's Zaman