A Turkish Painter Wonders if We’re All Deluded

Alpin Arda Bağcık paints between the lines of fiction and reality, questioning the notion of representational truth. In a new exhibition at Galeri Zilberman in Istanbul, he presents his newest series of works titled “Ambivalence,” locating that dispassionate mental state which coexists between two alternatives.

“Ambivalence” begins with a series of Richter-esque oil paintings, copied in black and white from photographs of decisive moments throughout history. In each, Bağcık captures an instant in time that has in some way affected the course of history. Zuklopentixol (2015) pictures what appears to be an empty house, but is in fact an image of a simulated suburban environment. “In 1956, when they tested atom bombs in the Great Basin Desert in the U.S., they built an artificial town with crash test dummies inside the houses. This photo was taken in a field where they examined the effects of the atomic bomb,” Bağcık has explained. “The reason the surface looks like [the] lunar surface is that it was taken at the moment the bomb exploded and it was likened to the sun being brought to Earth.” The lunar-like surface is echoed in Flupentixol (2015), which shows man’s first steps on the moon.


In Rexapin (2014) and the “Trifluperazin” series (2015), he creates a conceptual links between Tiananmen Square and the Gezi Park protests and the resistance that ensued in each. Bağcık deftly pinpoints moments that have been widely discussed and manipulated by the media, often leaving the public with a delusional understanding of what really happened.

He titles his paintings after the names of drugs given for schizophrenia and other mental illnesses in an effort to call the viewers’ attention to the psychological split that occurs between what we see and understand and what is the truth. This prompts a sensation to panic and doubt, in regard to the forms of representation that we consume—be it news media, photography, or even fine art. By forcing viewers to question what they are seeing and thus consuming, Bağcık attempts to shock the viewer into self-reflection about his or her own “ambivalence” toward the constructed reality they live in. “The common thread to all the works is the fact that we cannot reach the absolute truth about their subject matter,” he said. “I examine the feeling of ambiguity here. The millisecond you realise you’ve been mistaken about something is a fantastic moment and it feels very valuable to me.”

“Ambivalence” ends with seven drawings in charcoal, completed over seven days. Each of these works from the series, titled “Seroquel,” is a distorted copy of a mugshot of a man who was declared mentally ill because he refused to open his eyes when the photograph was taken. Described by the artist as being simultaneously objective renderings and self-portraits, the subject rejects the question thrown at conspiracy theorists worldwide: why not just accept that seeing is believing?

—K. Sundberg


Ambivalence” is on view at Galeri Zilberman, Istanbul, May 15–Jun. 27, 2015.


Follow Galeri Zilberman on Artsy.

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