In 1977 Muharrem Özdemir was 19 and his friend just 18, both gifted Cypriot teenagers studying at the Academy of Fine Arts in Istanbul when they were forcibly abducted and held captive for a day before being shot by Turkish fascists. Before his death, Muharrem’s friend had begun a portrait of him. This unfinished portrait and Muharrem’s last photograph has inspired a new exhibition titled Unlived Days and are dedicated to his memory.
Emerging alive from this terrible tragedy is multi-disciplinary artist Sümer Erek. The murder of his friend and his own miraculous survival with severe injuries changed not only his life, but also his art.
“I think I survived for a reason, I had to bear witness – to tell the story. Three bullets did not kill me, but strengthened me more,” said Erek.
For nearly forty years, Erek found it too difficult and painful to revisit his friend’s half-painted portrait. But last year he became determined to complete the work:
“It is my way of coming to terms with what happened, not only of losing my friend but of somehow surviving. This painful event has strengthened my world view and given deeper meaning to my art, and a reason to fight for a better world.”
Last month Erek’s new solo exhibition Unlived Days opened at the Hôte Gallery in Brussels. In it, he delves back forty years to explore and create a new world, one that is worth living, interweaving the personal with the social, the local with the universal, and the imagined with reality.
“I survived for a reason, I had to bear witness – to tell the story. Three bullets did not kill me, but strengthened me”
Erek relies on his memory for the works he has created for the exhibition, but memory is subjective and fluid and is moulded by time and events, as much as emotions connected to the people and places we knew.
The contrast of past events and the revisited memories, the spaces left by absence, this area between light and shade is where Erek endeavours to build hope and create answers by focusing on Muharrem’s ‘life’, or rather, on his unlived days.
Like a ritual, he makes images of Muharrem over and over again, a portrait for every day from his death on 7 December 1977 to the present: a portrait for every one of the 14,600 unlived days.
On Friday evening, Erek will stage live performance at the gallery seeking to finish his friend’s portrait. Expect a powerful and emotionally charged event.
Title: Unlived Days by Sümer Erek
Venue: Hôte Gallery, 203 Rue Haute – Hoogstraat, 1000 Brussels, Belgium
Exhibition Dates: 23 February – 17 March 2018
Live Performance: Friday 9 March, from 6pm to 9pm
For more information: visit www.hotegallery.com, call +32 (0)486 454 401, or email email@example.com