The emblem of a design: The work of Utku Varlık

The French-Turkish painter Utku Varlık was born in 1942. On his father's side, he comes from a reputable family from the then Ottoman city of Thessaloniki (a Greek city since 1912). His mother's family, important landowners, came from Abkhazia, a territory in the far west of Georgia on the northern coast of the Black Sea.

He began his artistic training between 1961 and 1966 at the Istanbul Academy of Fine Arts [İstanbul Devlet Güzel Sanatlar Akademisi] in the painting department of Professor Bedri Rahmi Eyüboğlu and between 1964-1966 in the engraving and lithography department of Professor Sabri Berkel. 


In 1970, he went to Paris where between the years of 1971 and 1974, he continued studying painting at the Académie des Beaux-Arts  with Professor George Dayez and lithography at the Atelier de Cachan between 1973 and 1975.


Utku Varlık, L’automne, peinture à la tempéra, 61 cm x 50 cm, 1991, Paris, France.


From 1975 onwards, after working for a long time on expressionist prints and etchings, he said to himself "Painting should be like a summer sea" and moved towards imaginative painting dominated by poetry... The world from which his works emerge, is dreamt in a fantastic-realistic mode. İl invites the viewer to reflect.


Today still, the artist works in his Parisian studio and his works are exhibited in private collections, museums in Turkey and around the world.


To name a few: Istanbul and Ankara Fine Arts Gallery, İş Bank, Central Bank, Ankara, Dekoreks Private Collection, Ben and Abey Gray Foundation, Alix de Rothschild, City of Paris, National Library of Paris, Museum of Resistance and Deportation in Lyon, Bülent İsmen Private Collection, Istanbul Modern Museum and Ali Hatemi Private Collection.


His son Alex Varlık, a former lawyer at the Paris bar, entrepreneur and co-founder of the 'Georges Hotel Galata' in Istanbul, is his father's artistic advisor and owns the most important collection of the artist's works.


With a certain creativity, Utku Varlık, through a game of alternation and by means of almost unreal scenes, wishes to appeal to our desire to travel. Our imaginations can be nourished while we make our way, according to our personality, to places where only our own experience can be enriched with a thousand and one sensations. This veil that constantly caresses our curiosity expresses the complexity of the world with its desires and pains.


Utku Varlık, Hallucination, techniques mixtes sur carton, 46 cm x 65 cm, Paris, France.


Yet the question remains: how can we explain the fact that these blurred and chaotic zones form a perfectly homogeneous whole in spite of themselves, giving a disconcerting impression of unity and harmony?


This idea of disorder, destruction, instability or darkness in the artist's works announces, in my opinion, a new world, a new life, a new cycle and above all the emblem of a design where chaos can engender hope... 


The existentialist questions (whether they be atheist or religious) remain: why are we on earth? Who are we?  Where are we going?  


In the black and white work entitled "Sanrı" [Hallucination], a dove spreading its wings emerges from this tumult. This bird, with its immaculate whiteness, symbolises peace and hope. 


A light suddenly appears from the background of the work, is it a glimmer of light that promises life? Is it a life struggling to keep energy from scattering all over the place? Or is it a hint of hope trying to assert, demonstrate or establish, while forgetting that sometimes it is just the impossible that holds us back, while the possible makes its way through this dove, giving a new beath to life or to the canvas...


The artist, a scholar, constantly challenges us to give his works a name, an identity or simply a style...


Eloïse, Ébru FESLİ



Image de couverture : Utku Varlık, Les fragments, techniques mixtes sur carton, 61 cm x 50 cm, 2013, Paris, France.