“Solution” proposals were brought abundantly to when to call sculpture art as “chipping” is given up, how the sculpture can be defined in most right way other than its cliché definition “three dimensional art product”, where the frontiers of material which can be used to make sculpture can lean and similar problems through smallest or biggest, most colorful, easiest, most protesting, most participatory, most amusing, most amazing sculpture trials realized since nearly last fifty years at West. It is discussable whether there is something “solved”, however new trials continue to be made; anyway art never gives up producing new problems.
We don’t mention about this time; new artistic trials applied at West in an opposing way to making rules aspect of Modernism, are appropriated by Postmodernism with its dominant character of interdisciplinary, pluralist aspects and this caused a certain breaking at art. Since the second half of years 1960s, artists’ courage of using every kind of color and form, fact, event, their individual passions, dreams without hesitation was revealed. To use art itself as a material; the formula of highlighting the concept, what is wanted to be related, by pushing at back plane other value worries, conducted artists to play upon concepts. The most characteristic property of this situation maybe is its carrying messages like objecting to the society, showing the way, cautioning the society, at a quality triggering the form. Within the framework of fast changing era, a new artist typology was born: this was an artist getting as basic principle the criticizing approach, who sees in himself the authorization of questioning almost everything, using fast technological changes or revolting to technology while trying not to be squeezed under it, trying to change dimensions of art by going beyond the frontiers of traditional one with this aim.
Aside with countless trials at West, if a milestone is searched at our country in this direction, year 1967 faces us. Because this year is the date when Altan Gürman came back from France after completing his education and Füsun Onur from USA to Turkey. Gürman preserves his exceptional identity at contemporary Turkish art history as an artist who took painting education at Academy, tried to bring proposals upon basic problems of painting art, signed important works combining conceptualism with form at his works taken at hand with a political attitude. Füsun Onur is an artist having a similar perspective with him and taking at hand sculpture this time at the mentioned early time section. A doorstep of a new era in Turkish art is arrived with the artist who took sculpture education, however who will perpetuate her searches in the direction of going beyond sculpture during all of her art life.
Onur was a student at Ali Hadi Bara Atelier at a period when experimental works, different searches were intensified. After her education at Academy, she goes to USA at 1962, Maryland College of Art and comes back to country at 1967 with Master of art diploma. The geometric, sometimes completely abstract sculptures of Onur seen at these early period works of her, makes feel the effect of the different education that she took. Generally her early period works are artworks explicating, questioning basic concepts of sculpture, forcing the frontiers of this art, at forms rendered minimal. Nilgün Özayten who realized one of the important researches in Turkey upon Conceptual Art summarizes the artist in this context as “...One of the important contributions of Onur to Turkish art medium is that she caused questions, discussions and new perspectives at perception of art in the beginning of 1970s.”(1)
The first personal exhibition of the artist who makes wooden works at white painted structural quality since 1968 until the beginning of years 1970 is composed of geometric “sculptures” at which architectural heaviness is felt, at Taksim Municipality Gallery in year 1970. The works question in the context of depth together with front-back relations built by forms with each other, and “go beyond” the space in some meaning. After 1970 the artist deals mainly with decomposing the sculpture into its elements and thus pushing the mass problem to second plane, making stick out site and space facts providing the perception of the mass, at her works that she will exhibit almost each year and where she aims to change usual, cliché art definitions at spectator. The artist aims the passage to third dimension by deriving two dimensions form single one and folding the site in itself; while explicating verticality/horizontality concepts; elements like trace, surface, the passages and relations between them; formal changes that the site gains at the result. Her second exhibition at year 1972 presents first examples of her works explicating site and space facts. At works associating motion separately or wholly, depth emerges with thin intermingled forms distributed from a single center. One of the sculptures taking place at the exhibition is additionally important by that it allocates place for ready material. The artwork is inside a rectangular frame, a red balloon is hung at the extremity of one of the branches of this abstracted tree form with three branches. It should be underlined that the year is yet 1972.
Since this period she uses more and more transparent, reflective, soft, ready materials like glass, plexiglass, styrofoam and invented objects in a way overcoming the general perception at level of thinking that “sculpture” is marble monument. The first work that the artist who says “I used ready material when it was necessary.”(2), realized completely from ready material is at year 1973 because of works of artists aiming to protest upon the removing of a sculpture of Gürdal Duyar by Erbakan government with the reason that it was obscene. At her artwork named “Pomegranate Girl” where she questions moral comprehension, Onur cuts a plastic doll at horizontal planes, forms optic effects with the help of mirror and glass pieces.
At years 1973, 1974 and 1975, Füsun Onur enters into trials such as forming “time” concept through dividing the site into intervals, deriving two dimensions from single one, folding the site in itself with replacement traces and planes defining it. “Framework, Stone, Earth, Flower” (1977) and “You Said Bread, Apple, It Came Into My Mind” (1978) taking place among works realized at these years are artworks where she attracts attention especially to scope and content problem of the art, thus frontiers of art definition.
Fifth personal exhibition of Onur “From Outside To Inside, From Inside To Outside” dated 1978, is an exceptional example for her era from the perspective of that installation quality dominates with her multi piece order and way of using the site. Onur aims that “the spectator looks at the artwork by getting rid of all stereotypes settled in his head.”(3) The work realized with orange boxes and different ready materials, using wall and ground of the site commonly pushes the watcher to incline, to look at in multi directions, at the same time forces him to perceive the artwork as a whole too.
“They Were 3 Persons, Mind-Love-Peace” where cartoon, raffia, glitter and gelatin are used, dated 1977 is important in that Onur uses “writing” which is among basic materials of Conceptual Art in a way integrating the artwork. This work of three pieces inside three boxes has a relating structure expressing mind, love and peace concepts in an allegoric way as it is understood from its name too.
10 years after her first personal exhibition at year 1980, the artist applies anymore completely an installation to her exhibition “Associations From Bright Circle On The Ground” in Taksim Art Gallery. Onur who creates an art style proper to herself, starts to be interested with site concept from a different perspective this time since years 1980s, along with carrying her works to site, starts to carry the site to her works. The artwork which can be counted as the “extremity” of this approach is her installation named “Third Dimension At Painting, Come Inside” which won silver medal at New Inclinations Exhibition in 1981. The work has a form allowing penetration with dimensions 200 x 183 x 140 cm. Onur says “Why the painting should stay on the wall, in the frame? When we mention about the sculpture, should it be absolutely figure form? Are frontiers always separated as painting, sculpture? What are the possibilities of painting, the ones of sculpture? How are space, time used at painting and sculpture?” and adds “As ‘Third Dimension At Painting - Come Inside’ occurred with momentary activities as such, I want it to be looked at with accompaniment of these questions.”(4) Again “Counterpoint With Flowers” exhibition is among most typical examples which can be given for the distortion of frontiers between sculpture and other arts and passing to a new phase in our country. This artwork resembling to a big tent from blue material, where real-artificial intervened plants are placed inside, points out to the situation of the artist to force the watcher to different perceptions, to push him to wander around, to enter inside the artwork or to look at it from outside; concretizes almost the site concept. Because it is itself of exhibition area, at the moment when the watcher thinks that he enters to exhibition site, anyhow he enters to the site of the artist, his life area.
“Life, Art, Design, Dream Of Left Goods” dated 1985 where she exhibits some old materials “remaining” to her from some ones else, her installation “Mark Of The Mark” having the same name with the exhibition dated 1987 or her work named “Visible-Invisible The Ones That We Know-Don’t Know” at 8 Artists 8 Works B Exhibition in year 1991 are her other works where she continues to discuss concepts which can be listed as image, symbol, object, definition of art, its meaning. Within time Onur made the site a part of her work by removing it from being merely a space where her work is. “Shadow Game” that she realized at a hall of Harbiye Military Museum, which aims to make a criticizing reference to political and social structure of the era, is such a work by that it uses the window and radiator of the hall.
At 1970s her works towards going beyond the sculpture and herself in some sense, with light-shadow theme, starting to take at hand the site as problem, evolve at 1980s into installation highlighting space and time, with various designs where ready objects take place, at 1990s as sticking out of fragile, elegant materials. “Kadans” dated to year 1995 and her last personal exhibition “Prelude” at year 2001 show too that Füsun Onur arrives to new dimensions while spending effort to exit outside of painting and sculpture, even reaches a conceptualism in the line of Beuys. She thinks almost upon not durability of the art that she selected, but its “disappearance”, wants to make think.(5) The standing of Onur against traditionalized art comprehension is not only through art object and idea occurring with form-content, but also contains its value of change.
Without doubt there is a “denying” behind producing of Onur sculptures from temporary materials and his using these at her installations. The artist denies the stability of sculpture development in Turkey, not being able to pass from modernist concepts to postmodernist ones, explicating representation problem, however beyond this the seriousness of traditional or modernist sculpture and its farness to human.(6) While standing against conventional “tangible” reality of sculpture with her fragile works, along with several newness that she brought she is the first contemporary artist inserting permanence-temporariness fact in Turkish art. It should be emphasized that her comprehension of “new” is not the invented new one itself, but always a search.
* The basic source used for the writing; Elif Dastarlı, “The Medium, Circumstances, Discussions Forming Conceptual Art In Turkey Between Years 1970 – 1990 And The Place And Importance Of Füsun Onur As An Conceptual Artist In This Process”, Unpublished Graduate Thesis, Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University Social Sciences Institute Art History Master Department, Western Art and Contemporary Art Program, İstanbul, 2006.
1 Nilgün Özayten, “Conceptual Art”, Eczacıbaşı Art Encyclopedia, volume 2, p. 971.
2 From the interview with Füsun Onur dated January 19’th 2006.
3 mentioned source.
4 Füsun Onur, “The Third Dimension At Painting, Come Inside”, Art Environment, Issue 37, p.14.
5 Beral Madra, “8 Artists 8 Works Exhibition: Art At Other Dimensions”, Hürriyet Gösteri, Issue 122, p.16.
6 Beral Madra, 10 Artists 10 Works: C exhibition catalogue.