The exhibition Lovers by Nilbar Güreş is the largest presentation in Germany to date featuring works produced between 2006 and the present. Güreş consistently interrogates conventional gender roles and relationships, as well as alluding to opportunities for empowering feminine and queer identities. Her artistic praxis is based on subtle moments of resistance, quietly radical in their enactment along the margins of everyday life. At the same time, she relies upon a characteristic humor, a playful irony, and poetry that – at least initially – offers the possibility of immediate accessibility. Only a second look reveals a consistent critique of sociopolitical conventions.
Güreş works in diverse formats, including painting, photography, film, performance, collage, and drawing. Her work establishes a panorama consisting in large part of women, displaying solidarity and who inscribe their lived worlds into the existing systems. In the large-format photo series TrabZONE (2010) and Çırçır (2010), women from various generations populate real locations from the artist’s family history, territory traditionally defined by patriarchy. Nilbar Güreş devises seemingly everyday landscapes and geographies interwoven with minimal displacements making them enigmatic, almost surreal, pushing every rationalization toward sheer absurdity. For the photo series Headstanding Totem, Wildness, Flower Face, and Non-Sex-Belt (2014), produced as Güreş’ contribution to the Bienal de São Paulo, she selects locales that are generally regarded as particularly ‘exotic’ in order to portray people who represent multiple identities – a way of life practiced formerly in the indigenous cultures of South America.
Textiles and fabric form an essential resource for this artist, and she uses it to create photos, collages, and sculptures, in order to reflect on the bodily and its structures of ownership. Her richly detailed handling of patterns and fabrics is a productive resource of subversive appropriation. In the new works Shut (2019) and Blank Space (2019), created by Nilbar Güreş especially for this exhibition, fabric plays a central role and is transferred from the traditional repertoire of craftsmanship into the (trans*)gender-political narratives of the sculptures. The fabrics that are incorporated into the collage La Paz (2016) symbolize the specific landscape and culture of the Aymara, an indigenous and matriarchal structured society in Bolivia that displays clear parallels with the Kurdish Alevi culture of the artist's own family.
The work of Güreş is performative to the highest degree, as implemented in her photographic and sculptural works, as well as in her collages and drawings. Here an anarchic mixture of various stage-style arrangements establishes a precise and compelling vocabulary. This close connection of material aesthetics and performance is revealed in a singular way in the early collage Self-Defloration (2006) —a key work in this exhibition. Legible in these works, despite their more disruptive character, are motifs related to identity, queerness, sexuality, and complicity among women. Güreş herself explains her work as follows: “I depict the ways in which women determine their own identity, their sexuality, and in the process strategically transform and modify their surroundings and the spaces associated with it, as well as their own desires and situations.
Curated by Anja Casser