Cengiz Çekil, key figure of Contemporary Art in Turkey, dies at 70

on Tuesday, 10 November 2015. Posted in ---2015--- , November

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At the age of 70, Cengiz Cekil passed away. The artist will be remembered for his valuable contributions to the contemporary art. We extend our sincere condolences to his family and the whole art scene.

After receiving his BFA from the Gazi Institute in Ankara, Cengiz Cekil (b. 1945, Bor) continued his studies in Paris. He returned to Turkey in 1976 and got his MFA in Sculpture from Ege University in Izmir. Searching for new visual and formal definitions that could correspond to the dramatic social transformations of the 1970s and 1980s, Cekil became one of the key figures of contemporary art in Turkey. He distanced himself from the aesthetic conventions of academic conservatism of that time and instead made use of cheap everyday materials, such as stationery, hardware items, construction materials, trash and newspapers. His early artistic production mostly reflects the political tensions and dramatic social transformations preceding the coup d’état in 1980. In 1978, Çekil moved from İstanbul to work at the newly founded Faculty of Fine Arts at Ege University in İzmir. The photographic series Visual Tracks (1979) documents the artist's daily journey to work.

His first solo exhibition at Rampa was held in 2010. Curated by Vasıf Kortun, the project comprised works produced between 1974 and 2010.

Selected group exhibitions of the artist include 4th Istanbul Biennial, 1995; Manifesta 5, San Sebastian, Spain, 2004; 11th International İstanbul Biennial, İstanbul, Turkey, 2009; I’m Still Alive: Politics and Everyday Life in Contemporary Drawing MoMA, 2011; NEWTOPIA: The State of Human Rights, Mechelen, Belgium, 2012; Istanbul Eindhoven-SALTVanAbbe: 68-89, SALT, Istanbul, 2012 and Signs Taken in Wonder: Searching for Contemporary Istanbul, MAK Vienna, 2013.

Cengiz Cekil, Rampa Gallery Istanbul
Cengiz Cekil, Courtesy Rampa Gallery Istanbul

Cengiz Cekil, Towards Childhood, Since Childhood, 1974
Cengiz Cekil, Towards Childhood, Since Childhood, 1974 Coca-cola bottles, triple battery (4,5 V), string, tree branch, bulb, cable, electric tape, 34 x 10 x 10 cm. Courtesy Rampa Gallery Istanbul

Cengiz Cekil, Diary 1976
Cengiz Cekil, Diary, 1976, Seal print on diary, and box 14 × 20.5 cm. Courtesy Rampa Gallery Istanbul

Simply titled 'Günce', or 'Diary', Çekil’s work, which was acquired by MoMA in 2011, is a notebook in which Çekil stamped “Bugün de yaşıyorum” (I am still alive today), along with the date, for two months in 1976. The work, a response to the increasing political tension in Turkey between rightists and leftists during the time it was created, also stands as a reference to artists who were feeling trapped in a period when terrorism almost became part of daily life.

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