NURİ İYEM (1915 - 2005)
Nuri İyem studied at the ateliers of Nazmi Ziya, Hikmet Onat, İbrahim Çallı and Léopold Lévy at the Painting Department of the İstanbul State Academy of Fine Arts between the years 1933 and 1937 and graduated at the head of his class. After completing his military service in 1938, he returned to the Academy to continue his studies at the Department of Advanced Painting. İyem and his colleagues Kemal Sönmezer, Selim Turan and Avni Arbaş, who made careful observations of fishermen and longshoremen, depicted them in their paintings which they later decided to exhibit. This group was subsequently joined by Turgut Atalay Güneri, Haşmet Akal, Agop Arad, Fethi Karakaş, Ferruh Başağa and Mümtaz Yener. In 1941, these young painters, all students of Léopold Lévy, held at the exposition hall of the Beyoğlu Press Directorate, a joint exhibition titled “İstanbul, the Port City” where they displayed their works born in the dockyards of the city. The group which called themselves the “New Ones”, opened a second joint exhibition with the theme “Woman” at the same venue in 1942 and a third exposition at the Eminönü Public Center in 1943.
The “New Ones”, with their outlook that upheld social realism in art for the first time in the history of Turkish painting, was responsible for creating a major turning point in Turkish art. İyem graduated from the Department of Advanced Painting in 1944, when he also won first prize with his painting titled “The Farrier”.
In 1946 he opened his first personal exhibition at the third floor of a store on Beyoğlu Street. That year he also took part in the fourth exhibition of the “New Ones.” Again the same year, İyem sent “The Farrier” to a UNESCO exhibition. He took part in each of the bi-annual exhibitions held by the “New Ones” at the French Cultural Center from 1947 to 1951. The year 1948 witnessed in İyem, an inclination towards abstract painting. At this time, he produced abstractions of scenery and objects. The group “New Ones” dispersed in 1951 and İyem joined the Association of Turkish Artists, from then on participating in exhibitions organized by this group. His second personal exhibition comprising nudes and portraits was opened at the Maya Art Gallery in 1952. From that year onwards, he continued to hold one personal exhibition every year. İyem also took part in biennials in Venice in 1956 and in Sao Paulo in 1957
İyem continued to create abstract and non-figurative paintings until 1965. Although he has produced a number of mural paintings between 1959-1970, none of these have survived. During this period, Nuri İyem continued also to contribute to prestigious periodicals Yeditepe and Dost with his articles on art. In 1968 a retrospective exhibition of his works was held to honour the 50th year of his career in art at the Tüyap Trade Center and a book to commemorate the exhibition was published. He won the Art Award on the 50th anniversary of the proclamation of the Turkish Republic in 1973, the 1989 Sedat Simavi Visual Arts Prize and in 1997 the Honorary Award of the Tüyap Istanbul Art Fair.
The Evin Art Gallery in 2001, traced the collections which included İyem’s works and compiled a photographic archive of all of his paintings. To further the project, a retrospective exhibition displaying 1,504 of his paintings and titled “Nuri İyem, from Yesterday to Tomorrow” was held the same year. Two volumes comprising the photography of all of İyem’s works exhibited in this retrospective was published in 2002 and a compact disc with the same content was released the next year.
Works of Nuri İyem, this great painter whom we lost on June 18, 2005, are currently on display at the Evin Art Gallery which is also authorized to issue certificates of authenticity for his paintings.