Opening Reception: Thursday, September 5th (6 - 9pm)

Exhibition Dates: September 1 – September 30, 2019

Townley Gallery
7 Franklin Place
New York, NY 10013

August 20, 2019

For Immediate Release:

Townley Gallery is pleased to present JINNS AMONG US, a solo exhibition of new oil paintings by the Turkish-American artist Levent Tuncer. Works comprising the show are drawn from the artist’s most recent series “Jinndom.” The series is based on an anonymous fifteenth-century drawing executed during a period when Persia was loosely ruled by successive waves of Turko-Mongol dynasties. Timurid, Qara Quyunlu, and Aq Quyunlu rulers were all great patrons of the arts, including architecture, metalwork, and perhaps most notably the arts of the book. In each painting, Tuncer explores the mythical trickster spirits known as jinns. Jinns were a common feature in mythological belief systems across the Middle East and Asia, frequently appearing in miniature paintings and illuminated manuscripts. According to legend, the protean creatures had the ability to appear in both human and animal form, influencing society for better or for worse.

The multidisciplinary artist has translated the original style these figures were rendered in to produce airy and detailed works with botanical and insect imagery. While some forms are clearly delineated and identifiable, others are more suggestive and amorphous. Through Tuncer’s evocative translation of jinn imagery, the exhibition will touch upon themes of deceit, fantasy, appearance, memory, and cross-cultural exchange. Much like the shape-shifting nature of jinns, Tuncer’s paintings are quite ambiguous, providing room for visual and semantic transformation based on what the viewer brings to each work in terms of his or her own visual memory and referents.

Levent Tuncer, #9, 2012. Oil on canvas, 120 x 89 inches.

The artist’s most recent body of work is in keeping with his longstanding interest in exploring cultural duality and métissage while highlighting commonalities that exist across cultural, historical, and geographical barriers. Historically, Tuncer has been invested in manipulating and combining artistic elements from disparate cultural traditions in order to create polysemous works of art that have the ability to signify different meanings to viewers based on one’s visual literacy of Western and non-Western forms. He plays with the phenomenological effect known as pareidolia, a process whereby images coalesce in the minds of spectators based on accrued visual stimuli. In this exhibition, Tuncer’s paintings call attention to how the original drawings of jinns are an exceptional example of cultural hybridity—a consequence of the turbulent geo-political conflicts that characterized Persia in the fifteenth century.

The exhibition will open to the public on Thursday, September 5th with a reception from 6:00 to 9:00pm. An exhibition catalogue with an original essay by Enid Shomer will accompany the show, which will remain on view until Monday, September 30th. Visitors may see works during regular gallery hours: Monday through Sunday, 12:00 to 5:00pm. For more information, please call (917) 472-9015 or email info@townleygallery.com.

About the Artist
Tuncer’s paintings often draw heavily from and reinterpret stylizations within the history of art. However, he looks beyond the formal rules of drawing and design to his inner psyche, often conjuring his painting out of what he calls a “Proustian space” — that state between sleep and wakefulness where memories fluoresce and shift. The parameters of this state of consciousness are malleable and porous, like memory itself. Taken as whole, Tuncer’s body of work establishes a dialogue about cultural dualities using imagery derived from art, architecture, tiling, and textile designs. These elements become emblematic of his cross-cultural themes.

Levent Tuncer pictured with works from his “Jinndom” series in his studio in Brooklyn.

For example, in his extensive “History/Fiction” series, Tuncer works with a single sixteenth-century Iznik tile design, repeating and altering it, superimposing various geometric systems on it, thus creating a complex visual equivalent of cultural disjuncture. In painterly language, he subverts the pattern’s repetitive rigidity and forces it to evolve from its original historical context. Using similar techniques, he also explores dualities inherent in all cultures: order and disorder, past and present, repetition and change. His paintings are intuitive and psychological, the figurations accomplished and compelling.

Levent Tuncer lives and works in New York and Tampa, Florida, holding studio spaces in both locations. He was born in Edirne, Turkey and at the age of eighteen he moved to London to earn an arts education at St. Martins School of Art. Graduating from the Hornsey School of Art, Tuncer subsequently received a full scholarship to the University of Hartford, Connecticut to pursue his MFA in painting. Over four decades of artistic production, his work has been recognized by way of receiving several grants from the Pollock-Krasner Foundation and Artists’ Space (NYC). What’s more, he has twice been named a fellow at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. The artist has exhibited nationally and internationally, including venues in the Netherlands, Ireland, Kuwait, Dubai, Colombia, and the United States. In 2007, he created twenty-two paintings measuring 142 linear feet for the University Church in Dublin, Ireland—a joint commission from the church and the Irish government. Some of his recent exhibitions include: Come Together: Surviving Sandy (2013); Talisman (Painting Center, 2015); and In the Shadows: Contemporary Artists and Obsessive Memory (2015, Western Michigan University).