The exhibition, “Sırça Fanus” (The Bell Jar), contains portraits and other paintings of women made by Martlı in 2009 and 2010. Martlı is sometimes likened to Frida Kahlo. “It does not matter whether they resemble other people’s work after they’re finished,” says Martlı, in an interview with Today’s Zaman. “I haven’t deliberately tried to imitate anyone. What is important for me is that all these works have my stories lying behind them.”
There are only women in the paintings, with the same face but with very different expressions, with each woman seeming to represent a different state of mind. “My paintings are the consequence of my own experiences and coincidences,” says 28-year-old Martlı. “Every painting has a different story. Every portrait is like a fiction. That’s why there’s a different state of mind in each of them. For instance, some of them have songs within them.” But, of course, these stories are not composed of only one character; no story is formed in that way. “These paintings all have a process lying behind them,” says Martlı. “There’s actually women affected by men and what men have done to them. There are men as an invisible presence,” notes Martlı. “Like love ... and what men have done to women with their love.”
Known for her self-portraits, Martlı has worked on women for this exhibition. “They are like a huge family for me,” notes Martlı. “There’s a great family forming around me, with different states of mind, affected by everything happening around me.”
The bell jar
Martlı expresses the influence of literature on her art frankly. She had done paintings of Sylvia Plath and Virginia Woolf in her previous exhibitions and as for this exhibition, she was inspired by the very well-known novel by Plath “The Bell Jar.”
“I lived in France for four years, and I frequently returned to Turkey,” explains Martlı. “There was a sentence that influenced me so much in that book that said wherever you may go, wherever you may be, you move with the bell jar that you have created around yourself.” Indicating her painting of a woman dragging her luggage, Martlı makes reference to her own journeys. “Wherever I may go, some things always remain the same for me,” she says. “I have an invisible bell jar, and I’m collecting everything, all my experiences, all my emotions, anything, in that bell jar. I am a person who lives the past unceasingly.”
However, even though the bell jar is usually made of glass, there are still some things hidden behind it. “The bell jar is transparent, yes, but there’s a loneliness within that bell jar,” says Martlı. “When I close my eyes and dream of my own bell jar, I always think of many symbols. And all these characters in my paintings are indeed symbols. They all form another world.”
A constructed world
Martlı has constructed a world, both around herself and for the audience. “This was a special exhibition because I aimed to create a miniature world,” says Martlı, who is generally known for her large paintings.
Moreover, this world of Martlı has attracted the attention of authorities in France, too. “In Turkey, they used to say that my paintings had a very French style,” says Martlı, who had three solo exhibitions and participated in some group exhibitions in France. “But in France, they used to know that I was not French. ‘We know it through your paintings,’ they used to say. And they thought that my works were too personal and that this was a sign of sincerity for them.”
“Literature and music have always strongly influenced me,” says Martlı in explaining her sources. “For example, when I read Virginia Woolf or Sylvia Plath, or any other author whom I like, I feel them deep inside me. And this process changes you, too, and it contributes to your work.”
The exhibition will run until March 25.