GALLERY / EXHIBITIONS
GALLERY / EXHIBITIONS
06.05 – 17.06.2023
“Mystics of the World Unite”
May 6 – June 17 2023
Barry X Ball
Gert & Uwe Tobias
Where do ideas come from? Some believe that we have them, when we don’t, at least not from the start. Ideas don’t come from us, they come to us, but how? What happens initially is that something is seen or heard or sensed, something that at first is not understood but occupies the imagination, taking it elsewhere. Where do ideas come from and what forms do they take—if they take any at all? Ephemerality is an important part of what makes ideas engaging. They are in the air. They may be considered and let go. Or so we thought. Because they may not let go of us. They return, like the tide, to rise and fall, and like the tide we never know what they might wash ashore.
Twelve years ago, in a Paul Thek retrospective exhibition, one of his notebooks, dated 1975, placed in a glass case, was open to a page on which he wrote: Mystics of the world, unite. Above this sentence he drew a spiral seashell in blue ink, and another below in black. At the time he was living on the island of Ponza, in the Tyrrhenian Sea, west of Naples. He must have found shells on the beach. For many, to pick up and examine a shell inevitably brings us back to childhood experiences, to fascination in nature; we were told that when held to our ear we would hear the ocean. The shell itself resembles an ear. How is it that the sound of the ocean comes from inside? Simply for the fact that a shell is a listening device, an amplifier that gives volume to ambient sound, an intimate auditorium. Close to the ocean, when you hold a shell to your ear you will hear, seemingly from within, the sound of the waves.
Paul Thek’s notebook page has resonated with me for a long time, and I’m sure I’m not the only one for whom this is true. But why has it returned now, with this show in Istanbul? The simple answer: it had never gone away. Something about the city, visited before, long ago, almost in another life, a place which retains an undeniable aura, its mysteries, a certain pull, an undertow, amplified this phrase in all its overtones. In a place poised between the past, the present and the future, it may resonate with where we find ourselves today, with the current state of the world. Thek’s open invitation, though some may find it buoyantly naive, reminds us that art is, or can be, a call to assembly. Art, he knew, requires that it be experienced, that we be present to it and receptive; in this it echoes beyond itself. His invitation had not delivered an idea for a show. It offered a lens through which to view artworks, and not only his own. This is its generosity. Art and ideas are meant to be shared, as artists share with us the products of their mind and their mind’s eye. This is where all images and objects reside. They exist long before they are brought into the world. They are in a sense perpetually retrieved.
Artists are not necessarily mystics, but what they do has the potential to bring out the mystic in anyone, and this has the power to reverberate. Artworks come first, and with them a show can follow. Through contemplation, we may arrive at a better understanding of the world, of ourselves and one another. In a period of increasing acceleration and detachment, this is an idea whose time has come, once again.