Installation view of NURI KUZUCAN’s “The Blissful Defect” with the work Blacks and Whites (2016), at Edouard Malingue Gallery, Hong Kong, 2016. Courtesy Edouard Malingue Gallery. 

The Blissful Defect

Nuri Kuzucan

Edouard Malingue Gallery
Hong Kong Turkey

NURI KUZUCANThe Impression, 2016, acrylic on canvas, 200 × 190 cm. Courtesy Edouard Malingue Gallery, Hong Kong. 

Returning to Edouard Malingue Gallery in Hong Kong for his second solo show in the city, Nuri Kuzucan exhibited a small number of his distinct pieces, made throughout this year. Large-scale and carefully structured, on display were both his trademark heavy-handed layers evoking structural elements of the urban environment, as well as minimalist monochromes in which an exact image was less easily construed. It is the contrast between these two styles that informs us of Kuzucan’s interest in the ways we visualize and attach meaning to our inanimate, man-made urban environments. Though “The Blissful Defect” is a series of eleven paintings, only six were on display, alongside an extension of Blacks and Whites (2016) beyond the canvas and onto a gallery wall—actualizing his interest in how we interpret our surroundings.

Placed beside the gallery’s entrance, The Impression (2016) stood apart from the rest of the show. Beneath an allover whitewash, white paint is thickly concentrated in a frame formation and ordered rectangular shapes. A fluorescent pink hue shines through in short bars, muted, vaguely reminiscent of the color of construction jackets. The Agnes Martin-esque sense of contemplation is heightened, in the positioning of Impression beside works rooted in a darker, more apocalyptic feel. Kuzucan’s monochromatic palette, with occasional hints of icy blue or pastel pink, reminds us of a distorted video game, a dream or a black-and-white film. In “The Blissful Defect,” that order is unique; the remainder of his works strongly alludes to an artificial reality.

NURI KUZUCANDissolving, 2016, acrylic on canvas, 190 × 180 cm. Courtesy Edouard Malingue Gallery, Hong Kong. 

Situated on a middle wall of the L-shaped room, Dissolving (2016) shows various outlined rhomboids intersecting and interlocking. Against a neat fit, Kuzucan cleverly deploys tonal contrasts to toy with our perception of space and depth, and create an eerie sense of movement—slipping, sliding and the inevitable falling. This instability triggers comparisons to Christopher Nolan’s apocalyptic film Inception (2010), in which a dangerous limbo lies between dream states and reality, culminating in the terrifying possibility of eternal wakefulness.  

In Surfaces (2016), skyscrapers peter out in the distance. Torn tape and roughly hewed edges, along with a gray palette of whitewashed blacks and whites, gives the sense of failed construction, dilapidation and decay. However, in works such as The Loading & Reading of Density (2016), Kuzucan shows us a modern building, bold and clear with blue glass and clean lines. This is a symbol of the Nylonkong—a portmanteau of New York, London and Hong Kong. Kuzucan’s loose depiction of skyscrapers at the height and end of their lives conjures consideration of how quickly we build up, and just as suddenly tear down, something once considered an incredible human feat.

A strong pang of desperation to see just one figure within The Loading and Reading of Density speaks to Kuzucan’s goal. In an interview in 2013, the artist discussed his belief that the city does not host emotion, and said, “It’s us who creates stories so that we will feel closer to or more attached to the city.” Indeed, these attachments are prevalent in Hong Kong; facing wealthy developers supported by a government hungry to capitalize on the housing shortage, local groups actively seek to protect heritage buildings. 

Kuzucan seeks to utilize painting as a vehicle for individual reflection, stating that “painting should be more emotionless and people should be able to attach their own feelings.” Blacks and Whites (2016) may be considered his departure from urban landscapes as the artist returns to an ever-evolving interest in human perception. On the large white canvas, thick and thin black lines appear; their equal spacing forms nine windows, contemporary and unfinished, each unique.

The spacious hang, clean lines, and minimal curation of the exhibition echoes the repetitive process undertaken by Kuzucan, in which he uses paper tape and acrylic paint to create anywhere between 6 and 60 layers within his work. His creations speak of a potentially apocalyptic future, yet his process is painterly, the skillful foregrounding and spatial plays nudging us to think of the painstaking geometric plans developed by Renaissance painter Piero della Francesca.

NURI KUZUCANSurfaces, 2016, acrylic on canvas, 180 × 175 cm. Courtesy Edouard Malingue Gallery, Hong Kong. 

In the early 20th century, Thea von Harbou’s novel Metropolis (1925) captured the anxieties resulting from rapid developments in urbanization. Humanity has long been fascinated by our own inhabitation of urban spaces, and we find those traces even in relics centuries old, like the jiehua (“boundary painting”) architectural painting of China’s Yuan Dynasty (1341–68).

With an estimated 54 percent of the world’s population living in urban environments, and the expectation of that share to rise to 66 percent by 2050, the sustainability of megacities is under scrutiny. Kuzucan makes art that triggers our visual senses, encouraging the viewer to question their feelings related to changes happening around us, whilst engaging in the contemporaneous questions of how material attachments develop in urban living. 

Nuri Kuzucan “The Blissful Defect” is on view at Edouard Malingue Gallery, Hong Kong, until December 2, 2016. 

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