Home » Places » Four famous Turkish artists you should know

Four famous Turkish artists you should know

26th January 2018 Posted by: Duncan Chisholm - Editor

ARTISTS of Turkish origin are perhaps less known about around the world than they should be, as there are huge figures in almost every medium making big impacts on their respective areas.

From a literary Nobel Prize laureate to famous photographers, painters and a Palme d'Or winning filmmaker, the collective influence on the arts of Turkey's most successful artists matches any other country in the world.    

Orhan Pamuk - Author

The author, born in Istanbul in 1952, earned the 2006 Nobel Prize for Literature has achieved greatness in his craft and "in the quest for the melancholic soul of his native city discovered new symbols for the clash and interlacing of cultures," according to the Nobel committee. 

His best-known novels are Snow and My Name is Red. 

Pamuk became internationally-known for circumstances outside of his work in 2005 and 2006, after being accused of insulting the Turkish president Tayyip Erdogan. He was eventually cleared of the charges in early 2006 and went on to become a Nobel laureate later that year. 

Although he is respected globally, Pamuk has said that he feels the years where he'd receive a great reception are now over. He says he was given a great reception as Turkish author replacing a former generation of writers: "The good years are over now. When I was publishing my first books, the previous generation of authors was fading away, so I was welcomed because I was a new author."


"I read a book one day and my whole life was changed." - Orhan Pamuk


Pamuk's books have been translated into over 50 languages around the world, and he is now known across the world as a great author, but he hadn't initially studied to become an author. 

He actually trained as a journalist at Istanbul University, but never worked in the trade, and decided to become a novelist at the age of 23. He is said to have retreated to his apartment to write, focusing on this and very little else, before publishing his first novel seven years later.

Have a look at his website here.  

Nuri Bilge Ceylan

Born in Istanbul in 1959, Nuri Bilge Ceylan spent his childhood in Yenice, his father's hometown in the North Aegean province of Çanakkale. Bilge Ceylan is not only known for his work with film, and has also received praise for his photography work too. He is said to have decided during military service that cinema would be his path in life. 

His most famous films are Winter Sleep (2014), Distant (2002) and Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (2011). Winter Sleep won Bilge Ceylan the Palme d'Or at Cannes Film Festival in 2014, one of the highest accolades in cinema. He is regularly rated among the most innovative and accomplished film directors of his generation, from a global perspective. 

Bilge Ceylan's photography work has delved into extremely personal themes - his collection For my Father follows the life of his father in rural Turkey, where Bilge Ceyland grew up. Although it is clear he is a very talented photographer, however, Bilge Ceyaln has tended to focus on his filmmaking career instead.

Bilge Ceylan has said that he likes to write with his wife, actress Ebru Ceylan, because she is not afraid to criticise his work. 


"The human is a very complex creation. I wanted to show that complexity as it is." - Nuri Bilge Ceylan


He initially graduated in electrical engineering before travelling abroad, including to London and Nepal, before deciding that filmmaking was his calling. 

Have a look at some of his work here

Elif Gulen

Born in Baltimore to Turkish parents before moving back to Turkey where she has lived most of her life, Elif Gulen is well-known among Instagram users through her amazing photos posted under @fisheyedreams

Having exhibited with support of the British Council in Ankara, Turkey's capital city, she has now moved on to work on documentary films. Her first documentary film focuses on the transformation of a neighbourhood of Istanbul, using the family and their lodgers' stories to tell the main tale.  

Gulen is associated with the Tiny Collective, a photography group which includes photographers from all over the world - the group was brought together in reaction to the limited estimatations by established photographers towards what could be achieved using mobiles for photography. 

She has travelled all over the world, too: she has worked in China, Cuba and Yemen and has produced lots of photography from her travels. 


"I feel like I’m an outsider roaming the streets looking for moments that unfold which can become surreal."  - Elif Gulen


One of the most interesting projects which has involved Elif Gulen's work is an exhibition supported by the Australian Centre for Photography, which you can view here

Have a look at her site here.

Pinar Yolacan

Born in 1981 in Turkey, Pinar Yolacan lives and works in New York with support of prestigious art galleries such as the Saatchi Gallery. She studied at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design and the Chelsea School of Art in London, before graduating from the Cooper Union. While still a student she was a runner-up in a New York Times photography competition. 

Yolacan says that the main underlying theme in her work is her fascination with the female body. 

She has also completed photography projects focusing on our relation to food too: "I think I’m so interested in raw food because of its transient quality. Anything organic that doesn't have a permanence shows passage of time and I am fascinated by that."

Perhaps the best-known of her projects took the use of food in her work to eccentric levels - Perishables featured older women sometimes clothed in raw food, and was received to critical acclaim among the art community.


"It’s extremely personal asking people to model for you. I remember once a cab driver that I was working with brought the wrong woman from a village & I just had to shoot her because otherwise she would be upset. So you have to be sensitive towards people & the communities in which you are working."  - Pinar Yolacan


Pinar has exhibited all over the world, from London to Helsinki and Istanbul. 

You can view her profile at the Saatchi Gallery site here.


This editorial was sponsored by Yasar University, to find out more about their courses take a look at their profile.


Sign up for our newsletter

Follow Us

© 2020 Student World Online Registered in England and Wales 08074528
Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Contact us