Aslı Bolayır’s latest exhibition Connexion charts a nomadic state of being, moving through space, time, states of mind and ways of being. Bolayır is a cartographer of the heart, her maps, lithographs and collages make us consider where we have been, where we might be going, what is lost in leaving and most precious of all, that which is discovered through chance and coincidence. Bolayır is a Cypriot artist who trained in Marseilles and now lives in, and between, Barcelona and Lefkoşa.
Connet-xion maps the soul: the flow of sensation, the tides of emotion. Through the intimate complicity of her art, the viewer is invited to navigate both the artist’s internal world and the flux of the external world around them. The exhibition exceeds and extends the confines of the gallery and we are invited to walk the tangled streets of Lefkoşa, between her joyful whale fresco at Samanbahce, and the maps, lithographs and artist’s books on display in the ArtSpace gallery.
The works in this exhibition can be seen as intensely personal, a diary of moving between places, identities and emotions, but that singularity is connected to a collective cosmology as well as a symbolic world of her own. Bolayır does much more than chart her own journey - she invites us to consider how we might navigate and chart our own journey.
The exhibition can be seen as a manifesto, though unlike traditional manifestoes it does not tell us what to do and where to go but rather provides a methodology and dares us to sail off the edge of the map, to walk streets that have no names. Pegasus, the flying horse, might take us to unimagined places.
Drawing on a symbolic system of recurrent motifs developed since 2011 the exhibition centres around the whale, a magnificent creature that provides a fertile and mysterious symbol for us to consider. The whale has accrued many meanings across the centuries and cultures from the terrifying Leviathan, that mighty monster of Jewish mythology, and the great white whale Ahab seeks to avenge himself against in Herman Melville’s Moby Dick to the more benign and friendly, a vessel of salvation, as in the Biblical story of Jonah and whale. Bolayır’s whales are moving spaces, they carry us with them, and whilst they emanate love they also speak of danger, and of the monstrous too. They are repositories of subterreanean technology and ancient wisdoms, a heritage and gift we are in the process of annihilating.
Bolayır plays with dualities. So much of her imagery is around flux and flow – washes of colour, the sea, the sea. Often her works have a contingent, unfinished air so that only the reverie of the viewer can render them complete. Her methodology is central in creating and conveying both the duality and flux at play. Bolayır is a master of lithography, one who breaks the mould. Lithography, developed by Alois Senefelder in Bavaria in 1796, is a process whereby a smooth slab of limestone, becomes a printing press using oil based paints, water and gum arabica. Within fifty years it had become the dominant way of producing commerical maps across Europe. Bolayır favours lithography not only because of its connections to cartography but also because of its tactile sensuality, its sensitivity to touch, where even the slightest caress of your fingers will leave a trace. Playfulness, the ability to celebrate chance and coincidence is also important, nothing is certain regarding the outcome. Bolayır doesn’t deploy the method in order to produce identical multiples but a singular epreuve d’artist, thus producing multiple different images from a single plate rather than identical copies. Her images are created using a form of ‘writing with stone’ but like Keats’ poetry they are written on water. Nothing is certain, everything changes and it takes immense courage to invite that flux rather than insist on fixity. Bolayır not only has that courage, she has the talent to inspire it her viewer.