Selma Gürbüz: This Place We Call World


November 5, 2020 – August 1, 2021

"This Place We Call World", Istanbul Modern's exhibition, showcases the oeuvre of Selma Gürbüz over the past thirty five years through the framework of a number of themes.

Taking inspiration from the world we live in and merging it with her own fantasy world, Selma Gürbüz creates a mysterious and colorful world in which symbols and stories regarding humanity, nature and life come alive. Centering on works never before exhibited, "This Place We Call World" presents Selma Gürbüz’s elaborately crafted works woven with myths, legends and fairy tales. Ranging from paintings to installations, drawings, videos and sculptures, the exhibition includes more than a hundred works by the artist.

Selma Gürbüz's human-animal hybrid entities, her genderless figures defined by black shadows that she frequently uses in her works and that seem to belong to another world, and her depictions of plants and animals, which evoke the feeling of being taken from an ambiguous cross-section of nature, create a mischievous, playful and unique artistic style when combined with her rich imagination. The artist shares the dreams, fears, inner journeys, and themes of life and death found in our collective memory as she narrates different stories in her works; this way, she urges us to face these thoughts and overcome them.

In her art practice, Gürbüz incorporates elements that belong to both Eastern and Western culture and develops uncanny relationships between them by masterfully merging issues and techniques from these two diverse cultures. While building a connection with miniatures from Iran, India and Turkey; and art of the Far East, she also utilizes elements from Western painting, with which she is very familiar. The artist’s oil paintings on canvas; her application of ink on handmade paper since the 1980s; and her optical illusions and light and shadow plays, which she produces using a special color palette, give life to symbols, figures, patterns and motifs that open the gates to a world between dreams and reality. The artist produces her works with a breathing technique she has been practicing for many years and likens this creative process to a meditation session in which she dissolves into the painting and becomes a part of it.

Selma Gürbüz invites the audience into her world, where human and animal figures are depicted in an inseparable union. The works she painted after her trip to Africa visualize the intersecting lives of humans and animals in the generous, warm and sometimes menacing nature of this continent. The Oshun statue, which is named after a river in Nigeria and has the same characteristics as Cybele, the goddess of fertility in Anatolia, conveys feelings associated with nature such as fertility, purity, beauty, love and providing shelter. Dancing skeletons, timeless creatures, humanized depictions of nature appear in works about death, survival, sickness and healing—each a part of the life cycle—in which the subconscious manifestations of these themes are visualized.

“This Place We Call World” is more than an exhibition. It is a visual encyclopedia that takes shape through the distillation of Selma Gürbüz’s artistic production refined over the years. Although the works seem detached from the reality of our world, they depict life, the passage of time, and the state of people in this cycle. The viewer experiences an uncanny yet pleasant sense of departure once among the depictions of this visual encyclopedia and its delicious and surprising stories.

Born in 1960 in Istanbul, Selma Gürbüz began her fine art education at the Exeter College of Art and Design in the United Kingdom in 1980. She graduated from the Department of Painting of Marmara University's Faculty of Fine Art in 1984. Gürbüz has participated in numerous exhibitions in Paris, Rome, Buenos Aires, Barcelona and several cities in Japan. Her works can be found in the collections of the British Museum, Galerie Maeght, Istanbul Modern, and the Ankara Art and Sculpture Museum. 


Curator: Öykü Özsoy

Assistant Curator: Nilay Dursun


Take Care of Each Other (detail), 2020
198 x 115 cm
Inlaying on handmade paper
Istanbul Museum of Modern Art Collection / Acquired by the Women Artists Fund.


Members of the Women Artists Fund

Zeynep Akçakayalıoğlu, Berrak Barut, Revna Demirören, Suzan Sabancı Dinçer, Oya Eczacıbaşı, Selin Gülçelik, Beril Miskavi,
Meltem Demirören Oktay, Nesrin Sarıoğlu, Türkan Özilhan Tacir