You have more than a month – until 17 July – to catch George Georgiou’s impressive body of work Fault Lines: Turkey/ East / West now on show in the north of England. For those who are interested, the next issue of HotShoe International, June/July, features an interview I did with Georgiou while he was on the road overseeing the production of his debut book of the same title. In the interview, Georgiou talks about the development of the project and his working process.
In the post below, Newcastle University student Katie Lin reviews the show in words and pictures:
Far from the European country which has inspired his latest collection of photographs, George Georgiou’s Fault Lines: Turkey / East / West has found its way to England’s North-East and set up show at Newcastle’s Side Gallery for eight weeks.
The upper gallery houses a selection of the 42 photos comprising the Fault Lines exhibition. Through this collection of work, Georgiou “seeks to address and question the concept of East and West and the process of modernization, urbanization, and national identity that is happening against a rising tide of nationalism and religion.”
After spending almost five years living in the former imperial empire that was Turkey and observing its search for a modern identity, he chose to document changes occuring within the country by “focusing on the quiet everyday life that most people in Turkey experience.”
With unfaltering style and powerful effect, Georgiou juxtaposes pockets of high colour saturation and that “quiet everyday life” of Turkish people he intended to capture through these photographs: the first connotes life, the latter generates a feeling of emptiness. His candid subjects show little emotion in stills that seem to be extra still, yet the photographs are strangely emotive, leaving you with a feeling for the country’s struggle.
For me, this feeling was encompassed and reflected in one particular photo; at its centre walks a man whose identity is hidden under the shadow of his umbrella as he walks his way through a wet day. Yet behind him, bright yellow words slapped on a dome in the background inject the otherwise gloomy scene with a spot of life, as if to remind us that these faceless people represent real lives in motion.
The main floor of the gallery displays three sets of stunning polyptych-type works (sans hinges) from previous exhibitions, two of which Georgiou has interestingly titled Taksim. Initially, I understood this to be a location in Turkey – which it is, but a conversation with a Turkish friend also revealed that “taksim” is the antiquated word for “division”. Keeping in mind the meaningful place that “division” takes as a theme and defining thread in the exhibition, this perfectly formed double entendre was suitably subtle and a nice touch on the part of the artist.
The set which perhaps had the most aesthetic impact on me was Taksim – the dark version, also known as Turks 2. This photographic polyptych reads like a filmstrip and mimics one in its dimensions. The majority of the subjects appear to gaze in unison, all to the bottom-righthand corner of the frame as they walk, presumably concentrating on the pavement ahead of them. The subjects are spot-lit against a dark background and are brought together from their separate journeys into the same frame in such a way that their movement is sensed, but the stillness of the photographic medium forces the viewer to follow their gaze from one panel to the next. Georgiou’s combination of street perspective, combined with the use of depth-of-field andphotographic quality, makes for an impressive display.
Another favourite was labelled Şanlıurfa(after the location where it was shot) which included six of the original twelve photographs that make up Georgiou’s Turks 3 exhibition. This was slightly disappointing but the photographs were not. Unlike Turks 2, I felt that the people were not the subjects here. While their brightly-coloured clothing quickly attracts the viewer’s attention, it was the life of the space and place that was being documented, rather than the life and actions of the people passing through it. Whether or not this was Georgiou’s intention, it is an interesting concept; an otherwise unassuming space can have a life of its own that people will move through, and one which itself moves through time.
Coming away from George Georgiou’s Fault Lines exhibition, I found that his collection of photographs had evoked a sadness in me, not one of sympathy, but instead, one provoked by the desolation and emptiness that features in so many of his shots. In some cases, this desolation was exaggerated simply by the disproportional space awarded to the sky; in others, it was visible in the faces of passersby who just happened to get caught in the frame.
Thought-provoking and beautiful in content, composition and colour, George Georgiou’s latest exhibition is a fantastic display of the everyday life experience of Turkish people (and, as mentioned, three great works from previous exhibitions are also featured). In a country divided at a pivotal time, this is an aspect that could easily be overlooked, but Georgiou’s fine focus on Turkey brings it into perspective.
Fault Lines: Turkey / East / West will be showcased at Newcastle’s Side Gallery until July 17.
Review and exhibition photos by Katie Lin.