Gulsah Mursaloglu is interested in transformation. Not only the transformative properties of time and space, but also the transformations of independent and interrelated objects and experience. I should mention before getting too much further that her work possesses a presence that is impossible to get a feel for from photographs, in that it emphasizes intimacy and sensory experience in order to comprehend it fully. One major component is the use of certain smells to suggest the transformation of each piece.
The first time the artist consciously included scent in a work was in Ministry of Afternoon Coffee and Other Delights, which included coffee in three stages of its production: beans, grounds, and brewed. She explains, “I was really interested in the things that grow from the ground like coffee, corn, potatoes and different states they go throughout their existences.”
Tied to the use of smell in many of the artist’s work is a study, essentially, of intimate viewing experiences with each artwork. The sense of smell is known to be deeply tied to memory, and Mursaloglu’s addition of scents, especially of various foods, draws a correlation between familiarity, memory, and change.
“For me each piece has a life of its own and I really wanted my pieces to have a slower sense of time and working with these materials was a way of embedding time into pieces. It is also very important for me to create intimate viewing environments for the viewer, and I think smell plays a big part in creating this intimacy.”
The intimacy is extended not only from the object to the viewer, but back to the artist as well. In Ministry of Afternoon Coffee and Other Delights, Mursaloglu refreshed the cup of brewed coffee daily, which established a caring relationship between maker and artwork. She is interested in the relationship between a person and a caretaker and the person, animal, or object that is being taken care of.
The constructions appear to be systems in which one can imagine movement from container to container through tubes and funnels, however they are nonfunctional. The works make an absurdist study of transformation, as unusual and humorous combinations of materials “produce” various changes. Buckets with fruits stuck on sticks are tapped for pigment, as if the color is being extracted from the dirt into cups. In another piece, a telephone cord connects a pulley to a bucket of water, and a small stack of potatoes appear as though they are hooked up to generate electricity. Each of these small assembly lines suggest the systems of production similar to a kitchen, or more accurately a farm, with a cycle of seeding, growing, and harvesting.
After completing a residency at the Chicago Academy of Art, Mursaloglu will have work included in a Visiting Artist and Faculty Exhibition in late November. Currently, she is working on a three-piece installation called Ubiquitous Notes for a Fellow Traveler which will be featured at the Carl in Chicago in January.
Gulsah Mursaloglu is originally from Istanbul and earned a MFA this year from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. More work can be viewed on the artist’s website at gulsahmursaloglu.com.