Abstraction plays a central role, and so it is not easy to understand her works
The sculptures of Nilhan Sesalan can be imagined as mind maps, where usually the thoughts and memory points on a subject are connected with lines. However, the artist from Istanbul does not create a drawing where individual points are connected with many lines, but a three-dimensional work. The facts about a topic flow into it, as well as her thoughts.
For example, “Birds of the Life Wire“ shows two of those birds where one animal remains alone for the rest of his life, after the partner died, remembering the artist’s father and mother.
Or “Sssh my land“: the index finger above the lips calls for silence, and she means it as an allusion to political circumstances.
Her works are never easy to understand. It is all about thoughts, and they are, after all, initially only fleeting in the mind before they take shape in a work of art or in an action.
In “Cause Words are Embedded in Me,“ freedom of expression is the theme. It looks like an inflated balloon; for her, it is “a pioneering sculpture that is a combination of words, writing, ink, form, and ideas.“
She often uses color to emphasize the contours of a work. “Map of Space Turkey,“ asks questions about the universe, which is full of the unknown, she writes.
In such works, she pushes abstraction as far as it can go. She writes to us about this, “When I carve off the excess, only the essence remains… Such works look more like poetry than a novel.“
Nilhan Sesalan graduated in sculpture from Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University in Istanbul and has been working as an artist for more than 35 years. She undoubtedly has her own style, which can be found in numerous works in galleries or public places in many places. Very unusual is the use of red and blue paint on white stone or black on the corners of her sculptures.
The work “Kerem, Zehra, Oktay, Esat“ explains it as follows: “These are the names of 4 people in a family. I sculpted it in memory of my friend Esat’s father, Oktay Ekinci, a significant activist, who fought for environmental awareness in Istanbul. He contributed to the things that I love about the city where I was born and lived. I carved the Muğla stone, which is like sugar, painted it blue, then carved it again. It looked as if I had cut and opened a shape I had drawn on a folded paper; thus, created four attached forms. I was convinced that death was not a separation. I could console the feeling of eternity and clarity I felt with blue.“
“I sculpted the Wind Rose in 2008 with white stone. I cut straight three cm from the surface to the depth at an angle of ninety degrees to the center of the resistant ovoid form, allowing the surface to breathe. I painted the areas that I thought were the gills of the form with permanent red ink. The flag of the people from Turkey, who were blown by every wind back then, is also red and white.“
Photos: Nilhan Sesalan
(27.07.2023, USA: 07.27.2023)