A spring afternoon at an observation terrace

Sometimes one might need to pass through the dark and deserted areas of his/her memory in order to take an old memory by the hand and bring it forth. Sometimes this task is effortlessly accomplished by even the slightest note of a scent caught by your nose.
Nevertheless, it is difficult to define the deep relation our memories have with smells, which are capable of taking us by the hand and leaving us at the edge of a moment we otherwise can hardly remember. But one of the two exhibitions currently on view at the Outlet art gallery in İstanbul brings the scent-memory pair to a concrete, visible form. 

In Melis Ağazat’s exhibition “Bir Yaz Günü Öğleden Sonra” (One Summer Afternoon), whose title hints at its context, a pleasant mixture of fig, grass and soil welcomes the visitor. Following the smell, you’re led to the other exhibition on view at the two-storey exhibition space, but this time to a sight, rather than a smell: “seyir terası” -- or an “observation terrace.” The collection, bringing together the most recent works of İzmir-based artist Tufan Baltalar, offers a diverse collection of artwork ranging from paintings to ceramic objects and paper. 

Jean Paul Sartre, in his 1938 novel “Nausea,” talks about a historian who is afraid of establishing links with the inanimate because he is convinced that inanimate objects and situations encroach on his ability to define himself, on his intellectual and spiritual freedom. But the two exhibitions on view at Outlet suggest quite the opposite. The objects on display touch the onlooker and draw him/her to themselves. The scent that surrounds you and the sculptures placed in the four corners of the gallery combine to form the pieces of a whole. 

Baltalar’s pieces on view, ranging from tiny pieces to larger works, remind viewers of pieces from a collection. There are traces of incompleteness and being tattered to pieces in the road the artist built just like a stonemason. The road leads the viewer to a forest and on to a terrace -- right there the story is gradually completed like the pieces of a puzzle. The plot builds itself up; the chairs, the creek bed, the trees all combine to form a dreamscape. Baltalar, rather than focusing on the consequences, is keen on highlighting the signs on the way leading to that destination. The track, starting off with tiny sketches, leads the viewers through to the terrace and all along using everyday material and also employing his own face and body in his artwork. 

A sort of scent exhibition 

Ağazat, on the other hand, takes the viewers to a summer afternoon years ago at the Princes Islands when she was a young girl through her installation, which is made up of a video, porcelain pieces and a pleasant mixture of scents. While employing the gallery as a location for reliving that day on the island, the scent of the grass, fig trees and the soil surrounds the visitor like a cloud. However, it is difficult to guess what sort of memory the mixture of these three scents will evoke in each visitor. The scent, emanating from the dark ground floor of the gallery, rises up and strokes the ceramic inscription “Unutamıyorum” (I Cannot Forget) hanging there. 

Ağazat says she has tried to form a somewhat personal aesthetic setup in this installation without indulging too much in nostalgia. “By making everyone [who visits the exhibition] encounter that smell, I call on them to [go on] a journey in their own memories,” says Ağazat. Both exhibitions can be seen until Saturday at Outlet art gallery in Tophane. And while you’re there, don’t forget to take a stroll among other art galleries lining Kadiriler Street as the Tophane area has recently become home to many art spaces. (212) 245 5505

Published in Today's Zaman.