54th Venice Biennale_Exhibition of Mehmet Günyeli and Bejan Matur; “Sea of Fate”

Everyone knowsMehmet Günyeli as a businessman. But his love of photography goes back to his school years in Saint Joseph. In those years, Günyeli follows the sun excitedly for sunrises and sunsets, just like every fotographer. Although he studied Political Sciences, the photography has always been in his life. And now, the photography replaces the businessman and becomes a way of self-expression for Mehmet Günyeli. You can’t catch up with the number of his exhibitions! He opened exhibitions in Berlin and Sarajevo last month, and his new exhibition will be opened in Venice on May 31. Within the Venice Biennale events, Mehmet Günyeli_”Sea of Destiny” series will meet with art lovers in the exhibition venue of Nuova Icona, Oratorio di San Ludoviro.

So today, I felt like to talk about the yesterday and today of Mehmet Günyeli’s photography. His journey in photography first hit the road with the colors of the universe, then reached the purity, simplicity, power and surrealism of black and white; after all, he came back to colors with“Sea of Destiny” and preferred a minimal, abstract photography style.

Composition in photography is important. It is so not only in mounted photography, but also same in documental photography. If taking a photograph were just pushing the shutter button, everybody could become a good photographer. Everybody can look at the same view, but only a particular person looks differently and sees it. The difference between looking and seeing… In this sense, Mehmet Günyeli’s documental photographs have extra beauties and differences. I also believe that the photographer’s looking, smiling and even spreading energy to the person whose photo is taken is so significant. Interaction between artist and model determines the effect of the exposure. Even if there is no figure, that the artist tries to find the perfect angle and composition makes a photo machine just a tool. When we look at Günyeli’s photos, we see that he catches objects perfectly and shares with us. Mehmet Günyeli goes to many countries which can protect their own culture against globalization and captures the colors of those lands.

‘Viva Cuba Libre’(2005) in Yurt Dünya Sanat Galerisi in Moda and‘Hindistan’(2006) in Darphane-i Amire are among unforgettable exhibitions in my mind.

Cuba, the country of honorable and proud people, and palm trees, old cars, colorful houses, women with cigars, old men and children… You can go to Cuba, feel the breeze and the smell of cigars thanks to Günyeli’s photos.


India, the country of light, colors and mysticism… Günyeli puts people in his photographs as if he shares his whole life with them. Artist’s sincerity and energy reflects on people’s faces and the way they look. Revealing a part of the face of a woman in yellows shows the abstract seeking of that age. Smiles, sadness, mystery, every theme of all the East exist in his photographs.

Mysticism Of The East, 2005

With‘Doğu’nun Gizemi/ Mysticism Of The East’(2005), he indicates his transition to mysticism. Then he goes through with the series of‘Angels/ Dreams’(2005). Now, he satisfied us and also himself with his colorful heaven..

Günyeli seeks for different interests as a result of his impressions and observations. That makes him want to tell his own dreams. During the publishing of his book about Egypt, he goes through a breakpoint. He stops publishing the book and says:“This is not me anymore, I should do some other works”. He gives up taking photos on streets. He wants experience a new expansion. He thinks on how to transmit his dreams on paper and begins to work on“Angels”.

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Melekler/Düşler, 2005

The series consists of photos that are constructed with minimalistic style. The period of colors was over; the period of black and white was begun. Flowing lights, flying angels and the amazing feeling of black and white. It tells about the person meeting with angels, known as God’s envoys, while seeking inner peace. He uses a surrealistic and fantastic language.

Dervişler, 2006-2007

In years of 2006-2007,“Dervishes/ Dance Of Faith” series comes out. It was made in 2 years. Günyeli, then, goes back to capturing the moment; in black and white, without building fiction. He attends many Mevlevi rituals and Semas. He takes very special frames by joining them in their normal rituals. Even before being exhibited in Turkey, it was first shown in Art Miami. In the exhibition, 6 Dervish photos gets great attention and“Dervişler/Dervishes” becomes a much liked series all around the world and has been exhibited in museums and exhibitions.


We encounter a composition of unusual Mevlevi images in this series. Dervishes, who got rid of their ego, are expressed with unusual frames. There is realized an effective geometry. The figures were isolated from surroundings. With the power of black and white, dramatic expressions dominates them.

Ab-ı Hayat, 2008

Word of Love, 2008

The series,“Sevgi Sözcükleri/ Words of Love, 2008” has minimal and abstract photography language within. It’s the series which Mehmet Günyeli expresses the mystical world in a more abstract way after the Dervishes. In Sufism, reaching God includes difficulties. Dervishes tell and symbolize this by doing Sema -by spinning around, namely. The form of the stairs in”Words of Love” is the abstract and lyrical expression of climbing on this difficult stair of God, step by step with patience. Just like the whirling of Dervishes, the stairs also have the same fiction.

Kader Denizi, 2010

Recently, the artist has focused on contemporary and conceptual themes in his photography. His last work,“Kader Denizi/Sea of Faith” has a minimal approach and presents a different point of view towards human trafficking. He wants to handle the problems of refugees he met in Aegean coasts as an artist. What happened to them was a huge drama. The artist acts responsibly; he preferred using more abstract style instead of using portrait fotographs. He added videos and poems to the details of the ships and boats that brought them there. Günyeli shared, the sample photos which were in an envelope, with the author Bejan Matur. These photos that had powerful expressions within attracted Matur so much that he wrote the first rhymes just in that moment on that envelope.

This marvelous exhibition whose curator is Beral Madra will be in Venice next week!

Mehmet Günyeli is also a collector. I feel honored to tell that my paintings could find a place in his collection as well. Just like that, I am excited to have one of his photos from Cuba on the wall of my house. That photo always reminds me my desire to go to this beautiful country…

Well, I know I wrote a little bit long today… But I still would like write more about Sufism and the poems, but I should leave them for you. I strongly recommend you to get his books. Who knows, maybe the turn is of“Tanrılar (Gods)”, after“Melekler (Angels)”,“Dervişler (Dervishes)”… If that happens to be real in the future, we’ll see each other in that exhibition. But for now, our hearths beat in Venice…

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