What makes these portraits unforgettable for the audience is their striking simplicity. Just as Bach examined all the possibilities of the art of fugue, Nuri İyem studied all the possibilities of pictorial fiction and expression as he painted his series of Anatolian women in single and trio forms. Women’s faces seem to be following their destiny in his paintings. Just like in Âşık Veysel’s poems, these paintings evoke the land, which is at times fertile and at others infertile. The texture of the Anatolian landscape is carefully handled in each centimetre square of his paintings. All these portraits that bring icons to mind seem to have set sail for an endless journey of facial expressions.
Ontologically, Nuri İyem was under the deep influence of his elder sister’s gaze, which could not be erased from his memory as he put it. His paintings were marked by such strong inner dynamics. The eyes that got bigger and bigger like the Moon in a dark sky were happy, serene, restless, compassionate, terrorized and asking for affection, but they were never sneaky or ill-minded. To painters, eyes are what words mean for poets. Eyes serve beauty and express a pure and noble reality. Such a representation overlaps with the reality of Anatolian women who verbally and directly express the pain they suffer as though they are enacting a requiem in public. In this sociological nexus, Anatolian women speak with their gazes, so their eyes naturally gain a privilege, peering from their faces wrapped up by their headscarves.”
Özcan Türkmen cited in ‘Nuri İyem on His 100th Anniversary of Birth with His Portraits’, Exh. Cat., İstanbul, Evin Sanat Galerisi, Nuri İyem 1915-2015, Portrait, 16 September – 31 October 2015, pp. 98-99
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