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Peyami Gürel Portrait

Peyami Gürel was born in 1959 in Istanbul. After his economics education, he did research on art and philosophy at different universities abroad. Since his adulthood, he has had an intense interest in art history, philosophy and social sciences.

The workshop and gallery adventure, which started in 1988, gained a comprehensive structure in 1993 and became a center that organizes educational programs, exhibitions and project organizations. The artist, who was the director of this center, was closely interested in different branches of our traditional arts as well as painting. In 1996-97, he prepared and presented a weekly TV program broadcast live in order to popularize the classical arts in the society. The artist, who also has his signature in outstanding productions in the field of multimedia and graphic design, has works in many collections at home and abroad. The artist, who has worked as an art consultant in private and public institutions, still continues his work in his workshop and carries out the management of the center he founded.

In addition to his painting works, Peyami Gürel is an artist who has produced products in these fields by making researches in our traditional arts such as marbling, calligraphy, miniature and illumination. He pays special attention to educating students in the fields he works on. Throughout his art career, he made it a principle to organize infrequent personal exhibitions and likewise participated in few group exhibitions.

Art expression is mostly related to ontological and existential dimensions. The artist’s painting language is based on the symbols from the first dimensions of existence, the coming of the universes from the infinite, the first formation of the supreme judgment and the creation in the layers of becoming. the artist’s artistic expression is abstract. The circular form, which is frequently repeated in the paintings, symbolizes the cyclical structure of existence and universes and the earthly sphere that represents the earth. The eternal return of eternal existence. On the other hand, abstract art proceeds with the formlessness of inner worlds and the being that is being formed, and forms beyond form.

The expression of the artist, who attaches great importance to nourishing from ancient traditions, is mostly related to ontological and existential dimensions.

He is still working in his workshop in Maltepe, Istanbul.

Personal Exhibitions of the Artist

  • 1994 Prizren, Yugoslavia
  • 1996 Taksim Art Gallery, Istanbul
  • 1997 State Fine Arts Gallery, Bursa
  • 2000 Cemal Resit Rey Exhibition Hall, Istanbul
  • 2003 Gallery Artist Exhibition Halls, Istanbul
  • 2008 Cemal Resit Rey Exhibition Hall, Istanbul
  • 2009 Florence Biennale (Italy)
  • 2010 Mackamodern, Istanbul
  • 2013 Turkish House Exhibition Hall, New York
  • 2015 Nishart Art Gallery, Istanbul

Selections From the Press

Paintings of Peyami Gürel / Hilmi Yavuz

Zaman Journal / 30 June 2000

Peyami Gürel Zaman

Claude Levi-Strauss, in one of his truly unforgettable conversations with Georges Charbonnier, founds the artistic work as an ‘intermediate state’ between language and nature. This foundation is, of course, intended for establishing the semiological grounds of art. Yet, this is in fact an orientation which can be extended out to the historical grounds. And, I guess, Peyami Gurel is doing exactly this: he grounds painting in a land of imagination where history of nature and history of culture over lap, not where they diverge.

Long time has past, I know, since Peyami Gurel opened an exhibition of his paintings at the foyer of the CRR Concert Hall. However, I could not help writing on what I think about his paintings, or rather on what his paintings made me think about. Perhaps, I must point out instantly: I believe that the construction of an ‘original’ painting tradition, just like in poetry, may be possible only when we set out from the very problem imposed on us by our intellectual history, which requires us to be Western and Eastern at the same time. It would not be a mistake, from my viewpoint, to say that so far only late Erol Akyavas, Peyami Gurel and to some extent Balkan Naci Islimyeli represent such an originality.

Grounding painting not in a land where history of nature and history of culture or civilization diverge, on the contrary in a land of imagination where they overlap! Perhaps, first, such an abstract statement needs some elucidation. The intellectual (look at ) history shows us that nature and culture have parted through technology ( using tools to produce tools) or, perhaps, through language ( not language of communication but language of imagination). It seems fhey diverged so as to never meet again, on the condition that biological presence of humankind in nature can be preserved. It is true the ways of culture and nature have parted. However, art is capable of removing this tangible split in the plane of imagination or conception. I think that what Peyami Gurel has been trying to do is such an act of removal: bringing together, in art, what have differed and parted in history. Joining nature with culture, and in fact transcending ( both ). We can also call this, if appropriate, a search for a primordial language, in which the real and imaginary have not yet differed…

I must also add: This does not exhibit aesthetics of the kind mentioned in ‘The End of Modernity’ by Giovanni Vattimo; but maybe it does! Vattimo points out to the central role given to aesthetics by Gianbattista Vico, who considers aesthetics to be “the source of civilization and culture”, and by the Romantics trailing him. Is Peyami Gurel’s view of painting such an aesthetization of culture and civilization? I do not suppose so. If asked, I would say his is more of transcendental: elevating nature’s own writing ( which I call ‘crude’ writing ) and the writing of culture ( and ‘refined’ writing ) high above, if befitting, into a ‘transcendental’ writing. Peyami Gurel is calling us to read this ‘transcendental’ writing.

What is this ‘transcendental’ writing? (What is ) moving the ‘crude’ and ‘refined’ writing? Peyami Gurel does not issue the references to read the ‘transcendental’ writing. He only implies the ‘transcendental’ writing by blurring the distinction between the ‘crude’ and the ‘refined’, and that is all! Howewer, we can discover what this possibility summons for us by looking at the very act of blurring or removal. Here, the use of word ‘discover’ is not coincidental! Since only through discovering what is implied in this intent blurring, it is possible to comprehend the essence of the ‘transcendental’ writing.

Yes, let us ask again: what is this ‘transcendental’ writing that Peyami Gurel exalts. Is it the writing of Levh-i Mahfuz? Is it the object of the primary and the praised command of ‘Read’ (Iqra)? Peyami Gurel calls us to discover the transcendental writing –if no ‘writing’ what there to ‘Read’?– that surpasses nature and culture, which Nietzche would call the writing “that takes us to the heart of the hidden, to the mother of existence”. ( He calls us ) to read and discover. In fact, are they not the same?

Peyami Gurel’s paintings render a scheme of allegorical elevation (surpassion, or should I say ‘ascension’ ) that show the precedence of writing to speech ; a basic scheme.

Artist / September 2003, issue 11

Ontologic Processes/ Gulseli Inal

Peyami Gürel Artist


The language of Peyami Gurel paintings, mean; It has images of the very first of existance, the eternal approaches of cosmos, the first formings of honorable jurisdiction and the description of the creation through genesis layers. At the same time these endless describing canvases are releated with the philosophy of the artist between his unique forming fingers. Artist’s touches and his esthetic fiction through the history of becoming a substance and structuring cosmoses carry the meaning that he is deploying his fantasies on date. How and what were (if there is a beginning of course – if we accept eternity we should think that there was no beginning) the glorious and boundless firmamental sequences at the very first beginning ! In fact, an existance platform is not a place but the aspect of existance. In the very first beginnings there is only condition of existance, “ We can only project his codes” says the artist.

Then this question shall be asked. What are the rules of an imagination ! Can there be a time likely or space likely direction in an imagination or does human mind carry himself some of the images from the genesis dimension as an information coming from his birth ! Yes mankind comes to world with carrying all the informations about existance and creation. With his capacity he uses these informations or not. This capacity takes place through his entire life activity regarding to his own usage. Sometimes a deep rememberance, a strange taste in mind about these informations makes a path to the projected sensations. On the other hand, one of the path that reaches an artwork is eleminating physical earthly elements by a lot of projected space variations of creative mind perception. In human conscious we can talk about the existance of cosmoses that are telescoped on top of each other. These all cover each other layer by layer and if they find a clue, they rise up to surface. By this sensation quantums, creational activity happens and turns into a declaration which forms artwork we see in outside world. These layers of individual and social subconscious; a sudden unexpected projection of passion for understanding historical visions about universe and layers of the creation at the same time. Human mind progressing in the uncertainity of causilities world open doors to other universes with original creator. This is an adventure, an involvement and the participation of the consciousness at the same time.


There were no substance nor beyond substance in the beginnings of the creation. The motions, indistinctness, metamorphosis and the increment of the describless Real Shape Giver were the core of this densly floating creation. And this core forms the movement point of Peyami Gurel’s canvases. The artist who can imagine the first motions of creation evangels us that he can describe these unrealities on his canvases. He comes up with fiction creativity of his dreams unamenably with shapes or without shapes. The impartible and the only that exists in inner kenesis of the artist, falls to his holy canvas in faint. He imagines the first realms, the first phase of transition to a being. That non-described big occurence. The happenings of that weird entity and the credits of it’s shape which is beyond all the shapes. The movement of great masses for becoming systems will happen long after that. The unnamed and undefined being has been processing the layers of existance, deciding the rules and creating them. The being that estimates it self in the material level will come long after that. The beyond genesis which will end with the flame and the movement in the togetherness of absolute and time will become in presence as the cosmos by gaining the material determinants. But in the first phase the blurry, the non-material material and the existance of that big mass; yet with no name and shape is the creation dimension itself. And this is what the artist is really concerned about. It’s mysterious motions and formations which are becoming for ages, and this –the very first beginning- is what the artist wishes to reflect : Kuun ! Beforeless, afterless, no downs, no ups, not near, not far, timeless, momentless, without any shape, the well beloved sole locality.

On the other hand the pictorial descripton on his canvases are the circular form of traditional and his unique comment. The deep meaning expression in color dimensions with circular unity. And when we categorise the functions of Gurel’s aesthetics: By getting lighter and increasing the stress, coming back to the same motive and setting forth from the tradition by using it for making it modern or creating again. The passion of loyalty to the past is a tool to improve his self. It is not a thing to create the world from non. With the endless heritage of who lived before us; it is something by reading it differently, meaning it differently and sounding it differently. The repetition of motifs in Gurel’s aesthetics are releated with the artist’s inner mechanism. These painting are reconstructing and setting up the relationship of silence with the unseen divine which comes up and gets seen on canvas with the visible shapes. The inner self and divine are fuzed, comunication is established and deteremination is done on what comes out the canvas. The important thing is by giving these forms lives on canvas and by getting a surface to a sudden light is introducing the big time to whom who knows to see. To introduce the big time favor and to assert it. And at the same time to gather it’s share from the magical time that doesn’t get effected from the world’s dangerous movement and pollution. In an exact meaning a surreal time and the canvas surface which is painted with nonexistent colors give us information about these weird worlds and it is a sign of motion about the inner worlds. This is a way of profession to reach the legand of the painting itself and the expression of the inner core to reach it’s own speech. The abrupty of pure, the crouching of inner processes on the tissue of the paintings create the transparent privacy by it’s newly gained forms. This is the resembling of inner cosmos and outer cosmos and reaching the big kenesis and the big loop hours. The loops to the paintings from the universe and the projections of the nonstop cyling things with promising new objects are showing the new time. The classic form of a knowledge inheritance meet a fresh visuality in brand new are from generation to generation and this describes the myths of forms. Gurel did’t reach this abstract fairy tale in sudden. Before all else, this is an adventure that starts with questions. Next it is up to the paintings’ high and honorable purpose. Painting is a tool for the artist to give answers to the the universe which is unsolved and the secrets that have never been read in whole before. This noble effort is for to reach the big and still closed book of the universes. This is why the artist is moving to the core while painting. He reaches the opposite stream of the time and history. From there he jumps so far away. Maybe this is the reason to reach the prehistoric and indefinite time, times in the beginnings, the first movement. Maybe he is the depository and he is responsible from all times. To the center point of the cycle, the big consistence of universes, this holy action meshed in the deep of the inner ego is for to reach the big harmony, what else can it be?


The art statment of Peyami Gurel is abstract. The round form which can be seen often in his paintings presents the loop structure of existance and universes. And it also presents the earth sphere which express the world. The eternal cycle of eternal existance. On the other hand abstract art moves beyond shape forms, with the inner worlds and the shapeless being which is about the occur. These forms change according to persons and perceptions and it gets shaped under a new dimension of perception. They are the elements and forms of the unseen realms and they are seperate from the outer world. They describe the sameness of micro and macro cosmos. The abstract statement is the invention of sameness, a shape or an evidence of a sensation, new frequencies at inner adventure, outer expression of pulses and transverses of ramnents in esthetic language. However it seems as if it doesn’t have a form, abstract statement has basic forms and now these are all universal. Abstract art is an essence problem and in the painting when the stylized one excluded the big essence comes in. With dissolvation of the patterns in the abstract statement and becoming an assocation of ideas, form can be described as the game of unconnected pictorial subjects when the theme disappears. The phenomenon of abstract is fading in an independent form coming from the inner world for a long time. On the other hand it is clear that the subject of the abstract form is nothing else but a kind of topic which masks itself. The subject of the abstract art includes unseen, the non – world dynamics and surnatural outer worlds and inner worlds dynamics and it relias on the sameness of macro and micro cosmoses. It is expressing the spiritual and mental processes, the pulse of the perception dimensions and frequncies beyond physics, shortly the inner and outer worlds of ours. At the same time however abstract art seems spontaneous and formless, it is the description of the artist’s beauty which drops from his brush with aparted imaginations and dreams. And they set up the wholeness of the paintings that have their own volume inside. The independent form in abstract leans on the inner world’s superior mathematics. For this reason abstract describes a world which is sensible. The objects in the perception level become the living objects of the non-living seen world and they become the subject of the painting. These new designes exist as new fantasies and they navigate at the spaces in the description of “Never Gonna Happen” valley. The oppenings of the perception level, the pulses of earth, the appearence of the trans position, outer space and upper space descriptions are the modelites of the existance which rises by doubling.


Peyami Gurel is a creator in painting language. He moves with the courage to carry our traditional artistic expressions on the painting language and in order to reach a new synthesis there he wants to peel off the karma of the objects and he arrives to an ultra form. From this angle he reminds the Middle Age artists that works in respect of Exemplum, not the nature. In the middle ages, the artist were usually getting involved with the tradition first, then the reality. And Peyami Gurel as a heritor of our traditional art, stands on characteristics and plastic values of this art in order to use particulars of it. Even the light on artist’s canvases clearly services plastic volume analysis and synthesis. While giving life to traditional he tries to overcome it. One of the main direction about Peyami Gurel esthetic is reaching a new language by setting off from calligraphy, ebru(marbling) and gilding. By this esthetic language Gurel reaches from traditional forms to modern forms: He shows us his signs in the freshness of historical esthetic images, by changing them and while they gain motions to their new forms.

These signs are thematic as they are formal at the same time. And as they are thematic they are philosophic and intellectual. For the artist, art expression is not a fact that remains only in the form level. First, the reason of this unity is the emotion and mind. And this unity should have a language which the important thing is a word or speech. Because as a result painting is a language form of art. When the wealth of our traditional heritage meets with the artist’s wealth of senses, we witness a discovery in that visual esthetic dimension. Moving Ebru’s spontaneus norms to the painting language in a rational shape, on the other hand consolidating Ebru’s natural formation that consists in it self with painting language. For reaching this point in an esthetic synthesis, it is not only an arrival of which is figurative but the “meaning” carries the importance. What Peyami Gurel is doing here, the meaning fiction of traditional language to modern language is giving us the good news of a new meeting and a new language in esthetic.

The artist moves with symbols in the meaning dimension. With the axis of starting points such as ebru, calligraphy and tezhip(gilding) he establishes his own geometry. Calligraphie’s graphically scaled systematics, the scale and the logic on tezhip(gilding) the spontaneous existance and the secret mathematics in Ebru provides the integration of the esthetic language centers which is envisaged. The important thing here is the creative mind comments and original views of the artist who attended this traditional forms. He is obviously behind a new language. Searching for a new language means to discover the new forms of mind and it’s facings. Reaching his fresh way of look and starting a new speech on space by gathering the painting techniques. The perception and the sensitivity levels that should come out from the artist are his esthetic nucleus. This is a harmony with the universe in the condition of letting your self go and by the reason of this harmony, it is letting the hidden potentials and the aimings in you out. By this way, the secret elements of Gayb (the universe of unknown) gets a a shape on canvas and appears. This is making a call to the potential sense of love which is growing inside him and also to the round space objects that are in the solar system and spiritual living forms that lives in the upper-space. For artist Peyami Gurel, the elements of the unseen world of not-sensed universe are the elements that we should recognize and they are completing this world. The round form that we frequently witness on his canvases with his subjective boundry is the artist’s facing with his inner dimension, making a referance to the first worlds, the first conditions of existance and also it is a section from the creation level. It is releated with gaining an inner conformity and transforming our core ego. By being a classic modern, he is a mystic his who beleives that all of us are equiped by birth and we all can reach the informations of the universe by passing over our egos.

October 2010

Paul Lorenz

Master of Fine Art Instructor, Academy of Art University, San Francisco, California

Paul Lorenz

The work of artist Peyami Gurel was first introduced to me in late 2009 at the Florence Biennale in Italy. In a sea of contemporary art, I found myself standing in front of canvases full of rich atmosphere, known and unknown landscapes, in palettes both reserved and bold. There was a resonance, timelessness, a sense of history and future that was hard to understand. Over the course of the remaining days of the exhibition, I would visit Gurel’s work and have moments of reflection and contemplation. What was it about these images that compelled me to keep returning?

As a university instructor in the United States, I am always having encounters with students trying to find the ‘latest thing’…the newest way of expressing themselves to the world. Students have much enthusiasm, but little confidence in their creative voice. Everything is new and needing study. With large exhibitions, like the Florence Biennale, there is a lot of enthusiasm and many creative voices. The need for quiet and clarity can be missing and often needed. Being introduced to Gurel’s work, at that moment in time was a revelation. Standing in front of images that had confidence, resolve, purpose and mystery was very welcome.

Resolve, determination, understanding…the ‘latest thing’ in Gurel’s paintings. Resolve, an idea that is so clear and known and yet new and fresh given a 21st century context. Gurel’s resolve did not happen on a whim or by chance. The resolve in his works comes from years of thought and study, from years of contemplation on his culture and geography, and from years of developing his techniques and exploring how they work together, and as independent ideas.

I have had the great fortune to have had visited Turkey, yet it remains a place of mystery with a vast history I have barely experienced. One facet of Gurel’s paintings brings this sense of location and culture to my mind instantly. The arid and mystical landscapes, the visual poetry of his calligraphy and the palpable atmosphere of palette and tone that personifies a man with deep feeling for his land and art. Gurel explores art, craft (marbling) and language (calligraphy) bringing all three expressions to a level that takes all viewers on a journey away from their known world.

When marbling, Gurel can create undulating textures or very specific and studied compositions. What may seem accidental, is actually a series of marks executed with a keen eye for balance and drama. Colors are chosen to play with and play against each other, creating calm or creating tension. Even when tense, the mastery of the artist’s hand is always present. The delicate strings of color become landscapes, dancers, dreams…an open invitation for all viewers.

Without the technique of marbling, Gurel’s compositions become vast landscapes. Sometimes earthly, other times otherworldly, the lands created by Gurel conjure deserts, black holes, places we have seen, and places we wish to visit. The viewer’s mind brings experiences to life through the entrancing visual worlds in the paintings. Not necessarily large in physical structure, the landscapes are vast in scale and proportion due to the picture plane they inhabit. Like the surreal world of French artist Yves Tanguy, Gurel’s world’s are dreamlike, but unlike Tanguy, these worlds inhabit the history and culture of Gurel, abstract, but specific. It is the choices Gurel has made that shift the viewer from seeing a pure abstraction to an abstracted look at an ancient culture.

Language can be one of the most complex ideas to bring to the visual arts. To my eye, the Western eye, the scripts of the ancient lands like Turkey and Iran have visual poetry and beauty all to themselves, aside from what the words are actually saying. Combining this text with the landscape and tracery of the marbling technique adds a new layer of magic and cultural specificity. These combinations fill the eye, test the mind and beckon each viewer to question the meaning of art and the importance of history.

Gurel is not only an artist, but also an ambassador. He puts his life and culture before us, and takes us on journeys far deeper and more profound that we could imagine. He allows us into his timeless vistas and we catch a glimpse of his thought and philosophy. The visual arts are made for our eyes, but Peyami Gurel touches our minds and hearts as well. He opens the door for us to dream.