Given the explosion of talent from Turkey in recent years, it is surprising that until now a reviewer has not sought to label them predictably as the YTAs (Young Turkish Artists) or the TICs (Trickster Istanbulli Conceptualists), maybe even the TOGs (Trendy Ottoman Groovers) Ebru Özseçen might escape such categorising, being based in Munich, but her ability is undeniable. Here, in the Berlin outpost of contemporary Turkish art, is a selection of her work over the last 14 years. Writing in The New York Times in 2001, Roberta Smith concluded that Özseçen's work "leaves one looking forward to future developments", and her newer honeyed confections enchant. There is a paradisiacal air full of Eastern promise that toys with the cloying, rose-tinted, Turkish delight clichés of phoney Orientalism.
Sweet Dreams (2010) sets the tone - an exquisite crystal lamp and wire construction that reflects kaleidoscopic light and recalls the earlier work Sugar Chandelier (1998), or the endless rows of baroque light fitting shops in Beyoglu. Serbet (2010) is a 16mm film about said fruit beverage, the celluloid looping on the floor like a string of liquorice. Rose-coloured serbet made from the syrup of quince, apple, pears, peaches and apricots are generally served in glass cups (kullehs) on a round tray covered by a piece of embroidered silk. Özseçen references this with Presentation (1996), a printof four dark drinks on a silver salver served by two disembodied arms - an image of proffered hospitality from a lover or an enemy?
The ghosts Eva Hesse and Louise Bourgeois stalk the room via its profusion of sexy tactile curves. There's a palpable love for artisanal tradition given the variety of materials among the conceptual riffing, and Özseçen plays, too, with the facade of the masculine - witness her détourned ice-cream advert, Magnum 4 (2007), where a harem of naked beefcake lounges around slurping said ithyphallic lollies. Elsewhere, men get kicked in the knackers. On a rotatable pedestal sits Kismet (2010), an ebony ball upon a conical torso made of bull-testicle leather. Some sort of customised dildo, a Turkish steely dan? The work, apparently, is based on a chance find in an Amsterdam antique shop of an ivory globe that contained a bag of beans inscribed with initials: a love toy owned by a French countess who randomly selected her lover for that evening by drawing a bean from the bag. Oo - er. missus.
This is easily the most penile-fixated show you'll see in some time. The Dish Washing Dreams (1996) has wire twisted into Freudian phallic forms resting on tiles. As for videos, Bitter Chocolate Love (1998) finds a confectioner in slo - mo moulding balanic globules of chocolate using a silk stocking: in Baby Lakritz (2008), marrow shapes of yellow-and-black-striped liquorice are pampered and prepared by gloved hands; and in Jawbreaker (2008), a woman obsessively fellates a giant gobstopper. If the erotic link between food and sex is an ancient trope that is regularly reinvented - recall the Japanese film Tampopo (1985) - here perhaps is the Turkish sculptural and video art update. Finally, in The Turn-On (1998), what looks like raspberry juice is folded through viscous cream. Coming from a society dealing head-on with proscriptive Islamic fundamentalism, Özseçen's work is challengingly erotic and yummy. Just remember to pack your insulin.
published by ArtReview, London, October issue, page:153, 2010
Ebru Özseçen's solo show "KISMET" at TANAS, Berlin 12 June - 7 August