Painter Leyla Pekmen (b. 1977 Izmir, Turkey, based in Istanbul) is known for her paintings with vivid color and jubilant narratives inspired by the work of Ottoman miniatures. Full of curiosity, her playful figures move through dreamlike topography based on the natural terrains of Turkey.
Pekmen utilizes color blocking and pointillism to create framing and texture of nostalgia. Whether rolling in the waves, or sailing across the lake, we are all invited into the landscapes, dropped into her fantastical narratives. Pekmen often embeds supernatural elements that blend fantasy motifs with childhood innocence. There is a tale in every corner and nook, a fresh storyline with each viewing. Her protective and magical lands take on a humanist quality in terms of how our memories and influence impact how we view the physical environments we occupy. Reminiscent of postcards, her paintings’ scenic style capture memory, like a mise-en-scene of joy and adventure.
This exhibition, Brilliant Waters, is the first show of the gallery’s online summer program, and includes paintings made with acrylic on canvas which revolve around storytelling. It will be online June 1 – August 20, 2023 while Johansson Projects’ brick and mortar gallery undergoes a seismic retrofit. The gallery will reopen in the fall of 2023.
Leyla Pekmen is a contemporary artist living and working in Istanbul, Turkey. Born and raised in Turkey, Pekmen found her passion for painting at a young age, spending a majority of her time immersed within her neighbor’s art studio. She grew up fascinated by the different forms and shapes that take up art making, and explores the unique view offered by painting in her current practice.
Leyla Pekmen’s paintings are bold and bright, often utilizing color blocking and pointillism to create framing and texture. Her sculptures are vastly surreal and conceptual, embracing the mutable qualities offered by ceramics to create fluid and eccentric pieces. Most of Pekmen’s art centers around the concept of combining the simple pleasures of life with that of whimsy and storytelling. Themes around nature, landscapes, and travel are dropped into a fantastical narrative, often exploring the ideas of memory and comfort. Pekmen had her first solo show in Istanbul in 2021, and also participated in group shows, with her paintings being bought by international art collectors from around the globe.
She finds inspiration in Ottoman miniatures, often utilizing such styles in her paintings to create an enriching narrative. Her paintings and sculptures both revolve around creating this narrative scene, reflecting her identity as a storyteller. Whether that be through her snapshots of figures lolling on rolling ocean waves or her surrealist sculptures of indiscernible limbs intertwined together, each piece of art invites the viewer in as part of the story. There is detail in every corner and nook, and you can always find something new every time you come back to it.
Her fascination with using fantasy and whimsy in visual storytelling can be seen clearly in her ceramic sculptures. Through her dreamlike totem poles that trigger the imagination, she creates a story out of a single object. Each piece takes on a new meaning with each viewing, as each viewer projects their own connotations and interpretations onto the artworks. Meanwhile, her paintings are also reminiscent of postcards, both in their scenic style and in the capturing of a memory. They act as physical memorabilia for a state of mind, for something that we want to keep with us. Her work thus creates not only a scene, but invites viewers into a space that is almost intimate in nature. Her collection of work invites us to revisit our inner child, to let go and enter into a realm of fun. Through her eccentric collection of paintings and sculptures, Pekmen has created a mise-en-scene of joy and adventure.