MELIS BUYRUK / Habitat at LEILA HELLER GALLERY / Dubai

LEILA HELLER GALLERY, Dubai

from 20 January to 12 March 2020

by Hania Afifi

With Climate Change taking centre stage across the global socio-political spheres, it is not surprising to see artists participate in the discourse du jour. Some take on an activist role such as members of the collective Dear Climate whoseartworks are judged by their ethical value and influence rather than aesthetic composition and creative merit, while others prefer gestural commentary. Melis Buyruk belongs to the latter. 

At first glance, one may mistakenly consider Buyruk’s work to be minimal due to the sterile monochrome hue of both the work and the walls on which it is displayed. Every artwork piece in the exhibition space is white. Every display wall on which the artworks hang is white as well. Although the artworks are protruding from the walls within large soft-lit framed boxes, the white on white reality challenges the viewer’s ability to discriminate between the artwork and the surrounding environment.

Habitat The Bearded Dragon, 2019 – Porcelain and 18k Gold 120 x 145 cm

Indeed, this is maybe one of the intended reactions Buyruk wishes to instigate in visitors of Habitat, her debut exhibition outside her native Turkey. Conceived to respond to Leila Heller’s Dubai gallery space with its characteristic white-cube setting, Buyruk urges the viewers to contemplate our fractured and disjointed relationship with the natural environment. Like the walls that support her artwork, nature supports our human habitats. Yet, unlike those displays, we fail to retreat gracefully into our support and become one with Nature.

Habitat The Bird, 2019 – Porcelain 120 x 145 cm
Habitat The Hawk, 2019 – Porcelain 120 x 120 cm

Each of the nine artworks on display, is a ceramic topography of intricate flora and fauna meticulously conceived to mimic real-life vegetation and animal habitats. The uncanny realisation of flower fields is offset by the singular white paint that covers every hook and nook within the artwork. They are a far-cry from minimal art. The porcelain has been worked thoroughly to become malleable enough for the creation of thousands of hyper-real flower petals, delicate leaves and the fine texture of animal fur, which have been densely packed together to create a lush square field that sometimes expands beyond 1 sqm.

Habitat The Pig, 2019 – Porcelain 50 x 50 cm
Habitat The Snake, 2019 – Porcelain and 18k Gold 125 x 125 cm
Habitat The Snake, 2019 – Porcelain and 18k Gold 125 x 125 cm

Three of the artworks displayed; The Snake 1The Snake 2 and The Bearded Dragon are accentuated with 18K gold beads and nuggets that add a further pleasing visual aesthetic dimension to the artwork. This addition reads like a celebratory nod to the traditionally feminised discipline. Along with the other six artworks, Buyruk’s Habitat pieces demonstrate the ability of the often less-regarded art of craftwork to engage in contemporary art practices and discourse. Although they feel undeniably feminine; possibly due to the poetic fragility of the porcelain and the intricate detailing mostly associated with domestic objects, the exhibition setup and the subject matter are more forceful. Indeed, this almost echoes the juxtaposing temperament of Mother Nature. They also stand as a true testament to Buyruk’s mastery of the pottery craft. 

Habitat The Tarantula, 2019 – Porcelain 120 x 145 cm