Coming from a family with a long history of engagement with various forms of art, Güleryüz started to paint and act on stage at a very early age. “Although my father is a lawyer, he comes from a family of Ottoman calligraphy artists going back for generations. When my father’s grandfather did calligraphy, his teacher found it very cheerful and titled it ‘ru-shen,’ which means nice and peaceful in Arabic,” he explains in an interview with Today’s Zaman, noting that his family began to be called by this name and that they translated it into “Güleryüz” due to the language reform in the early republican period.
The new retrospective show includes the artist’s paintings and sculptures from various collections and museums together with his own personal collection. “I chose which ones to include myself and I did it with the idea of a retrospective, a way of looking at the past,” he says, pointing out that they could not reach some of his paintings since they do not know who purchased them last. “Due to the limits of the gallery, we had to do some reduction. Normally, I could have easily filled a gallery five or six times bigger than this for a retrospective,” he explains. Featuring more than a hundred pieces, the exhibition also includes works from his early periods and even paintings he did while he was still a student.
The new retrospective, on view until Feb. 28 at the İş-Sanat Kibele Art Gallery, includes the artist’s paintings and sculptures from various collections and museums together with his own personal collection. Featuring over 100 pieces, the exhibit even includes paintings Güleryüz did while he was still a student
An artist always feels a lack and the things he does are because of that feeling of lacking something, Güleryüz says while reflecting on his career. “I still want to do more. This means I still have something to say. The ideas that I have had so far will continue through my art,” he notes, adding that he is also questioning where he stands today as a painter with this retrospective.
Needless to say, Güleryüz is one of the most renowned painters in Turkey. When asked if he feels lucky to be such a well-known artist, he rejects the word “lucky.” He stresses that he built his career despite numerous difficulties. “I did not really earn money until my 50s. It began after my first retrospective. My paintings used to be known very well, but they were as not selling. Why? Because my paintings are not just elements of decoration; they were always a statement. They always suggest something, underlined something and challenge something,” he says, emphasizing that his character also has these qualities. When he is asked what happened later that enabled his paintings to be sold for large amounts in auctions, he says: “This is, of course, due to the power of the painting. And, of course, the ideas and understanding of things, such as evaluating, reading and understanding a painting has also changed in Turkey.”
Asked about the process through which he creates his art, the artist explains that his work is derived either from necessity or a decision. “I have never worried about proceeding according to a specific style, color or subject matter. Even if at times I had covered a huge distance, if there was a point that did not satisfy me completely, I always went back and started all over again,” he says, underlining once again that painting is only about his needs and that he does whatever he wants.
Inspiration is another word that the artist dislikes. “As a consequence of working hard, you catch inspirational moments. It won’t come until you are working on the table. You have to paint all the time,” he says. He adds that his paintings are mostly improvisational. “But, of course, you have your own collected ideas in mind while painting something. A painting is done in the process when it is not actually being painted. For this to happen there must be a trust for your collected ideas together with a perspective toward life. Painting regularly is not enough, the order of your lifestyle and principles are also very important,” he explains, adding that one should be aware of what to challenge and what to accept.
Since 1975 he has given painting lessons in his studio and at public and private universities. “The student who is going to work with me should be aware of the fact that I expect a lot of work. Not just painting several hours a day, but doing a lot of research and a willingness to start from the very beginning, no matter what level they are at,” he explains says of his teaching methods.
Being both an actor and painter is very important for Güleryüz. He used to appear as a guest actor at state theaters until 2002. A book was published containing 120 hours of discussion between him and Ayşegül Sönmezay, titled “Güldüğüme Bakma,” covering many issues related to painting and acting.
Güleryüz’s new retrospective exhibit will run through Feb. 28, and a catalog of the pieces included in it, with a preface by Wendy M.K. Shaw, has been published by İş-Sanat.