Özlem Şimşek appropriates, deconstructs and consequently re-enacts representations of women in historical Turkish paintings. Executed by male painters, these paintings represent “the ideal Turkish woman” based on the visions, desires and political views of the ruling elite of the time. As Turkish society has undergone major transformations and art history has adopted many voices and different perspectives, Şimşek attempts to strip these works of their male ideology and to pose questions on the identity of the modern Turkish woman and the nature of representation.
Staging herself after these women, Şimşek becomes both the author and subject of these photographs. There is a strong performative element in the works. Talking about her working process, the artist has claimed: “We determine the viewpoint of the painter and try to find the pose. When I find the right pose, the emotion associated with the painting comes over me but there is always a gap. It seems that the closer we get to the painting, the further we move away from it. At that time, something from our photoshoot needs to become a part of the frame. That’s when our fantasy and the fantasy in the painting intersect.”