Serseri Mayın: Gürel Yontan [Loose Cannon: Gürel Yontan]

Serseri Mayn Gurel Yontan Cover <i>Serseri Mayın: Gürel Yontan</i> (Salt, 2023) [ön kapak]
121 pages, 2023
Salt presents the e-publication Serseri Mayın: Gürel Yontan [Loose Cannon: Gürel Yontan], as part of its research on art history in Turkey from the 1950s to the present. Edited by Vasıf Kortun and Sezin Romi, the publication is available in Turkish in PDF and EPUB formats and includes texts by Defne Kırmızı and Erman Ata Uncu in addition to a comprehensive interview with the artist.

The publication was prepared in parallel to Salt's archival research on Gürel Yontan's work. The extensive interview with the artist offered insight into his practice since the late 1970s. While the artist's assistant Bilge Demirkazan was present in both meetings held in this process, the second meeting was joined by his friend, artist and illustrator Tan Oral, with whom Yontan participated in numerous projects.

Guided by the artist's portfolio, the interview comprises discussions around a series of exhibitions such as Yeni Eğilimler [New Trends in Art], Öncü Türk Sanatından Bir Kesit [A Cross Section of Avant-garde Turkish Art], Günümüz Sanatçıları İstanbul Sergileri [Contemporary Artists Istanbul Exhibitions], and Seretonin. The interview also recounts Yontan's 1983 solo exhibition at Dost Sanat Ortamı in Ankara and his 2004 intervention in a building in Ahırkapı (Istanbul). It also reflects on the intertwined relationships between artists and actors from various cultural fields, including literature, architecture, theater, and cinema, before 1980.

Defne Kırmızı's text situates Yontan's works within "conceptual" art, while Erman Ata Uncu closely reads the artist's incompatibility with the existing structures, attitudes, and tendencies in the local art scene.

Loose Cannon: Gürel Yontan borrows its name from Yontan's allusion to the efforts of his contemporaries to navigate their artistic work. He articulates the general attitude that he witnessed as a student at the State Academy of Fine Arts: "Everybody was a unique loose cannon; they didn't know what to hold on to." Focusing on Yontan's production, the publication aims to portray a cross-section of the art scene in Turkey.

About Gürel Yontan
Gürel Yontan was born in Istanbul in 1938. He graduated from the Department of Interior Architecture at the State Academy of Fine Arts in Istanbul. From 1963 to 1976, he worked as an interior designer, illustrator, set designer, and art director in Istanbul, Paris, London, and Brussels. In 1971-1972, he was the art director of Le Point Insolite magazine in Paris. He taught Basic Design courses at the Academy between 1976-1983, and continued to work as an interior designer, stage designer, and art director in Turkey, France, Russia, and Italy between 1983-1996. He founded Akademi İstanbul, where he served as the chair of the Department of Interior Design between 1998-2003.

Yontan launched his artistic practice with drawing and painting in the late 1970s, using various materials from mirrors to soil and found objects to produce installations and performative works. His first solo exhibitions were at the Forum Art Gallery in Istanbul (1982) and Dost Sanat Ortamı in Ankara (1983). He participated in numerous exhibitions of critical importance, including Yeni Eğilimler [New Trends in Art] (1979, 1981, 1983, 1985, and 1987), Günümüz Sanatçıları İstanbul Sergileri [Contemporary Artists Istanbul Exhibitions] (1982 and 1988), Öncü Türk Sanatından Bir Kesit [A Cross Section of Avant-garde Turkish Art] (1985), and Seretonin (1989).

Yontan received the first prize at the New York World Fair Turkish Pavilion in 1963 (alongside architects Ünal Demirarslan and Ruşen Dora), fourth place mention at the Conkbayırı Mehmetçik Park Monument competition in 1968, and first place in the Narratives on Housing Exploitation Competition in 1973. He also won the first prize and a mention with the Turkish Pavilion at the Osaka World Fair in 1970 and first prize in the graphic design category in 1975. He was awarded a merit prize in the second New Trends in Art exhibition (1979), and a gold medal in the fourth (1983). He has received art direction awards for Menekşe Koyu (1991) at the Ankara Film Festival and Bir Aşk Uğruna (1994) at the Adana Film Festival.

The artist has also published various books and currently works as the interior designer of the Armada Hotel.

About the Writers
Defne Kırmızı continues her doctorate studies in art history at Boston University. Her dissertation focuses on conceptual art practices that emerged through exhibitions held in Turkey between 1974-1994. She has been teaching modern and contemporary art and architecture at Boston University and Bilkent University since 2016, and works as a curator and art critic besides her academic projects.

Erman Ata Uncu is an art writer and researcher based in Istanbul. After graduating from Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University Department of Sociology, Uncu completed his master's degree in film studies at the University of Amsterdam and worked as a culture and art correspondent and editor for the Radikal newspaper for several years. His articles have been published in Argonotlar, Art Unlimited, Altyazı, Di'van, Duvar, Duvar English, and Istanbul Art News. Uncu continues to write on history of cinema and contemporary art in periodicals and work as a researcher and editor in exhibition projects.


Serseri Mayın: Gürel Yontan [Loose Cannon: Gürel Yontan]
Turkish, 121 pages ©2023 Salt/Garanti Kültür A.Ş. (Istanbul)
Editors: Vasıf Kortun, Sezin Romi
Copy Editor: Erman Ata Uncu
Texts: Defne Kırmızı, Erman Ata Uncu
Participants: Bilge Demirkazan, Tan Oral, Gürel Yontan
Interview Transcription: Feyza Kırkoğlu
Graphic Design and Application: Elif Tuna, Gamze Cebeci

Click here to view Gürel Yontan's archive comprising documents related to his production from the late 1970s to the present and a selection of his photographs.