Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam
Melike Kara creates her painterly work along with writing poetry, and most recently with making sculpture, video and other mediums. In her works on canvas, especially, she has developed a pictorial range of characters communicating with each other through what appears to be body language and whispers. These figures can often be characterized as ungendered, and of a nondescript time and place. Their dress, if at all, blends with their skin, which appears to be made of armor. Her primary medium for her works on canvas has been, for years, thick oil pastels. She regularly chooses one color and its hue variations to paint these figures, more recently, the palette of each of her paintings includes two to three more colors, but no more.
For her exhibition at Witte de With, Kara has created a new body of work, including a series of large works on canvas, as well as an installation of wooden sculptures intervened upon with paint and other materials. The group of paintings are indicative of the changes she has made in her recent body of work, for example, they barely present her more rigid humanoid figures that had previously populated her canvases, and introduce more organically shaped figures, including animals, after what is an evidently more free-flowing use of paint. The goat is a recurring figure in her new canvases, and it is connected to a longer investigation the artist has carried out regarding her Kurdish roots. This too, is more evidently explored in the artist’s new sculptures for the exhibition.
Melike Kara was born and raised in Cologne, Germany, where she currently lives. For years, she developed a conversation with her grandmother, who emigrated from Turkey to Germany. She kept a strong liaison with the Kurdish community residing in the native village of her grandmother. And their relationship inspired Kara’s work, addressing, in one way or other, her family history. This artistic exploration of her Kurdistan cultural background begins, ultimately, with an understanding that knowledge is produced through rituals and oral histories, and that these processes lend new meanings to objects and encounters. In her work, references to images like the goat, or the likening of the wooden sculptures to traveling cradles, are drawn from the nomadic and land-working culture of Kurdish communities.
Melike Kara, new work is the first exhibition of the artist in The Netherlands, and the most important commission she has had to date in Europe.