‘Tio Ilar 7′ offers more than just a group exhibition

If group exhibitions are not among your most favorite art events, now there is a reason at least one must be. The exhibition “Tio Ilar 7” in Istanbul is giving art aficionados a rare chance to interact with the international art scene by offering them the joy of discovering the most promising young talents and viewing the works of established artists at the same time.

On display at the historic Greek Consulate General on İstiklal Street until May 4, the first 2014 show of the contemporary art exhibition series is drawing attention with its artist-oriented concept and non-commercial approach, allowing for dialogue among the participating artists as well. “Tio Ilar 7” presents a selection of never-before displayed works by a total of 15 artists from Turkey, Greece, Germany, Spain and Italy.

“We have respect for the works of the artists [we included in ‘Tio Ilar’]. All year long, we search for them and we do not tell them what to showcase in the show,” Panos Malamis, the curator of the exhibition told Sunday’s Zaman at Sismanoglio Megaro ahead of the show’s opening on April 10. A talent scout with an acute eye for art, Malamis said the only criteria they set up for the artists were the number of works they are allowed to exhibit in the show and the universal rules of ethics any work should meet.

The curator’s criterion for selecting the artists is “their reason to create.” “We look for pure creation. There are two types of artists. The first type takes messages from outside and produces works, while the second takes messages from inside and show the observers their soul,” Malamis said.

‘We do not care about selling’

“A viewer should be able to see [the] soul of an artist and a work should be able to tell a story,” he continued. Malamis discovers young artists in different places and, sometimes, even when they are newly graduated from high school. The curator added that the most challenging part of this process is gaining an artist’s trust so that he or she will show their hidden souls.

Malamis underlined that he is not afraid to work with the artists who have not gained acclaim in the art community. “We do not care about selling; if a thing needs to be shown, we show it,” he said.

Apart from providing an artist with a means to experience the freedom of displaying their work in the way they want, “Tio Ilar” also documents the artistic evolution of a talent. The curator prefers working with the same names for three to four years, unless the artists lose their passion for creativity. At the same time, the show expands its scope by including other artists.

Speaking about exhibiting works of established and young artists together, Malamis said: “A good artist wants to be with young artists. Thus, they will be connected with each other [and] get fresh ideas. And it is the same for the public,” he pointed out.

“If somebody comes here to see the show, they want to come more than once. They will see a piece, but will end up with multiple interpretations of it each time they visit the show. Then the interpretations become a part of you, thus you become a part of the work and the exhibition.”

The title of the show, “Tio Ilar,” which means “to offer a roof or protection” in Attic Greek, also fits in with the idea of maintaining a connection between artists and visitors as well. “The name shows our philosophy and approach to the artists. The exhibition is a roof where different things can exist and flourish together,” the curator said.

The “Tio Ilar” series has visited Turkey for the second time, and follows the launch of its sixth edition in Istanbul in March 2013. Last year’s show was also the first time the exhibition had opened in any city other than its hometown of Athens. In answering why they unveiled the show in Istanbul rather than another city, Malamis explained that Istanbul is traditionally important in terms of art as it has been in the past few years in particular.

‘Young artists of Istanbul are creative, optimistic’

“If you are looking for young artists, you are to look at Istanbul. You will be introduced with the dynamism of young artists. What we see in the young artists of the city are creativity, optimism and a warm approach,” he said. The curator also likes the straightforwardness of Istanbul’s artists in their works, saying that in other cities nearly one or two pages of explanation are needed to understand an artist’s work, but not in Istanbul. “There is no need for explanation [in Istanbul] and that is the most important thing.”

Another important thing for the curator is to see the pleasure of the artists, collectors and the visitors. Malamis does not gain any profit from the exhibition and describes his job as a passion that grew out of a hobby. “I have the responsibility to give and I think the more we give, the more we take. And a happy person is enough for me.”

Turkish artist Beyza Boynudelik, who is showcasing three pieces in “Tio Ilar 7,” said that Malamis really knows what will make an artist happy and “he trusts you.” The artist, 38, focuses on contemporary “individuals’ existences in the urban atmosphere and their relationship with the other.” Having taken part in the group exhibition “Dostluk” (Friendship) in Athens in 2013, the artist sees April’s opening of “Tio Ilar 7” as a return-visit and says the series forms an international dialogue between the artists.

Olga Alexopoulou, an Istanbul-based Greek artist who has been residing in the city for nearly eight years, made a similar comment on the uniting power of “Tio Ilar.” Her words echoed that of Boynudelik, and she said exhibiting works in the series “is something like being a part of a international conversation with artists from Italy, New York, [and so on].” “You are not physically speaking with them but your art speaks.” Describing her residence in Istanbul as a beneficial experience for her art, the artist likes to explore the secret power of nature in her works.

Show has a special focus, no theme

“Tio Ilar” does not have a theme, but an artist is given the chance to showcase a series at each show. And the Istanbul leg of the seventh year has one series as its special focus. Greek artist Alexis Avlamis, who has been participating in “Tio Ilar” for nearly three years is a 36-year-old artist displaying his newest series, “Rising Cities.” It consists of 12 paintings made of wax, ballpoint pens, encaustic, and colored and mechanical pencils. Describing his work as a “comment on how humans should respond to nature and connect with it,” the artist feels himself to be closer to the tradition of surrealism. He bills “Rising Cities” as a beginning of a new body of work.

The exhibition also includes examples of street art, including some works by the Pet 05 Project from Turkey. Pertev Emre Tastaban, the spokesperson of the project, or “group,” as he calls it, noted he had not participated in any group exhibition for nearly three years as a reaction against the commercial concerns of some organizers. The project is also presenting pieces on the universe and the perception of time in the contemporary world, according to Tastaban, who is also the general coordinator and curator of Street Art Festival Istanbul.

A big part of the revenue obtained from the exhibition will be donated to a social responsibility project. “Tio Ilar” is a win-win event for artists, collectors, the public and those who need financial support, as Malamis sums up.