Portfolio Series 5: Erdoğan Zümrütoğlu

16 May - 25 June 2017

Marcus Graf

Asistant Curator:
Melike Bayık

      Since 2013, Plato Sanat presents in the Portfolyo Series important positions within various disciplines of Turkey’s contemporary art scene by organizing solo shows, which give an insight in the work of exceptional artists in their mid-carriers. By combining the past and current production in a direct dialogue, the exhibition possesses a sort of retrospective character. After Şakir Gökçebağ, Seçkin Pirim, Orhan Cem Çetin and Irfan Önürmen, Plato Sanat continues the Portfolyo Series with Erdoğan Zümrütoğlu, one of the leading contemporary painters in Turkey.


      In the current exhibition, Plato Sanat presents works from the last ten years of Erdoğan Zümrütoğlu’s impressive oeuvre. His paintings always shift between spontaneous feeling and calculated rationality, while they formulate a socio-political criticism. Though, their subjects have little time to disclose themselves to the viewer, since after emerging from the brushwork they are often destroyed by sinking in a sea of dark tones. This dichotomy between construction and destruction means the main characteristic matter in his work. Particles of reality as well as fragmental figures lose themselves in broken landscapes, where they shortly appear behind pictorial gestures, fields and drippings of colors, only to disappear in the next moment in a wild chaos of colors and textures. Besides being powerful and impressive, the paintings show beauty and even fragility between heavy brushstrokes, and shades of bright color within thick layers of grey and black. It is not easy to create these pieces, because their production constantly shivers between consciousness and unconsciousness, spontaneity and observation, as well as rationality and emotion.

      Painterly, he belongs in the tradition of Eugene Schönebeck and the early Georg Baselitz. Even in the school of Neo-Expressionism, he feels well accommodated. In his pieces, Zümrütoğlu discusses existential issues regarding the ontological question of how to survive as a human in an inhuman society. Thereby Zümrütoğlu often chooses the role of the critical observer, who sketches with heavy gestures dark visions of a broken world.


      The artist’s works have a physical directness and extremity. During the painting process, his bodily movement is directly transferred onto the canvas, which is why the pieces manifest the existence of their author both intellectually and physically. In this sense, a connection to Artaud, whom he admires and to whom he has already devoted two exhibitions, can be drawn. Erdoğan Zümrütoğlu shares with him an interest in the production of an existential language of the human body. He also likes Thomas Bernhard, with whom he shares an attempt to expose mercilessly the human weaknesses. Moreover, he loves Stockhausen and Phillip Glass. With these composers, he as the interest in the regulatory chaos of the life in common. Zümrütoğlu’s particular strength is that despite his intellectualism and socio-political engagement, he never lets the paintings to be obtrusive, didactic or polemical. Due to their fragmental composition, the pieces must be completed by an active spectator, which has to abandon the usual role of a passive recipient.

      In the end, Erdoğan Zümrütoğlu succeeds in creating an oeuvre, which combines the accomplishments of late modernity in an aesthetically appealing and refreshing way, possess a socio-political commitment as well as contributes to the renewal and progress in the field of contemporary painting.