By Heidi Trautmann
Today Izmir is, with its city on hills around the wide bay, the third biggest city in Turkey with 3.5 million inhabitants, who claim to be different from all other Turkish cities, different in many ways, more friendly and open-minded, and most committed to the fine arts and to music. This is confirmed not only by the many art galleries and museums, music halls and opera house, by the event announcements everywhere across the streets, but also by Seba Uğurtan, forever engaged in art activities and now the organizer and general director of the 1st International Art Biennale.
Ismet Tatar had invited me to come along with her to Izmir to attend this event. She and Ayhatun Ateşin were representing North Cyprus among 540 artists from all over the world.
Our day began with a stroll along the seaside promenade facing the stormy sea in those days of the fair, a beautiful promenade which goes all along the coast, before we turned back to enter the incredibly wide Izmir fair ground in the middle of downtown. The fair ground with 12 gates is surrounded by a charming park through which we walked all the way to the two halls hosting the international artists’ community from 34 different countries. What an undertaking I thought when I entered the halls and was introduced to Seba Uğurtan, the initiator and soul of it all. It was six years ago that she had the passionate idea to turn Izmir into an internationally renowned city of art and thus she set her will and effort to achieve this in cooperation with the friends and members of the jury and scientific committee. Today she has many institutions and organizations at her side to help her carry through this formidable project.
Seba believes in art, in the peace inducing and healing powers of art, and has worked in many fields to prove this. In 1999 she opened the Seba Art Gallery and founded the SU (Water)Art Group with artists working and exhibiting together, in 2007 at the Florence Art Biennale, for example. Visit her website to learn more about her work.
Seba is a doer, a strong woman, and the setting up of the art fair and conference held at the same time, is of professional standard. There were three other venues included in the event, some solo exhibitions of artists at the EGE University Atatürk Cultural Centre, the State Arts and Sculpture Museum and the Municipality Ahmed Adnan Saygun Art Centre, which impressed me greatly, including Seba Uğurtan’s art work.
For some days I literally waded knee deep through a wide spectre of art and continuously met with new approaches and styles and talked to artists of all nationalities; I was happy to see old techniques reappear again, such as miniature painting, calligraphy and also printing techniques such as lino and wood cutting. Ismet Tatar’s stand was visited by many artists, professors and art students to discuss and learn from her the unique art of paper making and using this technique to create art. Her presentation was outstanding, as I could hear was widely confirmed. Ayhatun Atesin had brought her beautiful set of fountains, harmonious installations of old wood and ceramic.
Seba Art Gallery has published a catalogue of 540 pages which represents an immense work and costs but also a most essential document of this event. The jury and scientific committee members had determined awards to 15 artists of different disciplines and the trophy was a big Izmir monument in pure silver. The Biennale ended with a gala dinner at the Izmir Hilton Hotel.
Seba extended her greetings to the artists in North Cyprus not only to participate in the next Izmir Art Biennale but also to join her art group WATER for some fruitful days of working together.