Smith-Stewart is pleased to present THE OCCIDENTALIST, a solo exhibition of six new paintings and three Iznik china vases by Turkish-born artist ELIF URAS. The title of the exhibition refers to Occidentalism, a concept that is the inversion of Orientalism, reducing key principles the Western world defines itself by, such as liberalism, secularism and capitalism, to crude stereotypical depictions. Uras, herself is a product of a hybrid world, born in the “east” and educated in the “west.” Through her paintings and ceramics, she explores the “clash of civilizations” and its clichÃ©d and prejudiced depictions.
The paintings are presented in distinct monochrome – white, yellow, red, green, blue and black. Their subjects blend Western-painting genres – in particular, interiors, landscapes and figures – with an Eastern sensibility of ornamentation, vibrant color, narrative and the arabesque line. Turkish Bath, 2007 portrays a bath scene in a tradition celebrated by European Orientalist painters such as Ingres. While the Turkish bath has traditionally been a sexually segregated space, Uras depicts unabashed women in an “occidentalist” environment that could just as easily be a nightclub or a contemporary temple of pleasure. White on White, 2007, depicts a voyeuristic scene of two people in a muted and fractured space engaged in sexual intercourse. The entangled bodies allude to the domination of white and Western world and its pursuit of pleasure and hedonism.
In Stendhal Syndrome, 2007, an odalisque floats in a red landscape of exotic flora and fauna. Here, Uras merges divergent artistic traditions to hint at the trappings of excess and the exoticization of the Other. The three under-glaze painted vases on view were produced in Iznik, Turkey with the collaboration of artisans at the Iznik Foundation. Highly valued during the Ottoman period (15th-17th centuries), traditional Iznik design combined floral, abstract, and animal patterns with other design elements inspired by Chinese porcelain. The shape of the vases is inspired by the traditional Turkish glassware. In Uras’s vases, she transforms some of these traditional motifs and blends them with Western notions of luxury and leisure.