Portraits: Reflections on the Veil Jane Brettle and Tulu Bayar
Public Discussion and Opening Reception on Saturday 29th September, 12 – 2pm 2 October to 7 November 2007
In the context of ongoing debate around the shifting and heterogeneous cultural and political meanings of veiling, Belfast Exposed Photography presents an exhibition of work by two artists, Jane Brettle (UK) and Tulu Bayar (US), entitled Portraits: Reflections on the Veil. Both artists are interested in exploring visually and culturally, the complexities and nuances involved in understanding the social practices of veiling.
Beyond Black by Jane Brettle Jane Brettle has been working on the production of a series of photographs of veiled subjects for over two years. The work began as a solitary exploration but has developed into collaboration with a group of Muslim women around questions of representation, portraiture and veiling. In the catalogue essay, Reina Lewis remarks on how a portrait is seen to represent ‘knowable individuals and social status – yet the media is full of images of veiled women that stand as generic, un-individuated figures mobilised by conflicting interest groups in debates over everything from multiculturalism (whether seen as beneficial or divisive) to the threat of Islamic terrorism.’
Brettle’s work, Beyond Black, is made up of two series; the first features anonymous figures in black chador and niqab (face veil) arranged in compositions that echo iconic images from 19th and 20th century photographic history, produced by such luminaries as Julia Margaret Cameron, Lee Miller, Man Ray and Helen Chadwick. In the installation, these unidentified figures are presented alongside a series of large-format portraits of Muslim women wearing a range of garments representing a diversity of veiling practices. These women, who are members of the Pakeeza Group in Edinburgh, are actively engaged in working to undermine myths and prejudices around the veil.
Confluence by Tulu Bayar In a video work entitled Confluence, Tulu Bayar presents a slow motion sequence of two women looking towards the viewer but who also appear to be gazing at themselves, as if in a mirror, whilst they arrange and remove scarves over their hair. Gradually the women replace their headscarves with wigs. Reina Lewis remarks on how Confluence links ‘Islamic veiling to other forms of head covering (such as the wigs worn by ultra-orthodox Jewish women) and invokes a recently developed strategy of Muslim wig-wearing by religious students in Turkey where the secular state bans veiling on university premises.’
Lewis concludes that ‘the works of Tulu Bayar and Jane Brettle reveal the overburdened significance of the veil, bravely intervening in art historical debates and contemporary cultural politics. Unpicking the possibility that any one type of veil or image of the veil could provide a unifying truth of either religious experience or racialised identity, their works celebrate women’s agency, inviting us to recognise the multiple and contradictory investments in veiling practices held by those who (sometimes or always) wear one and by those who observe. The dialogue set up between these two sets of work offers a chance for exactly the sort of considered reflections on the veil that are so urgently needed.’
Artists’ Biographies Jane Brettle is an artist based in Edinburgh and an Associate Senior Lecturer in Contemporary Photographic Practice at the University of Northumbria. She has exhibited and published both nationally and internationally, most recently in 2007 at The Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh; and in 2006 at the Kunsthalle Palazzo, Liestal, Switzerland and the National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh. Her work has been commissioned by the National Galleries of Scotland, Visual Art projects, Photo 98, the Northern Centre for Contemporary Art, Eastern Arts and Visual Art Projects. She has received major artists awards from various organisations including the Scottish Arts Council, the Gulbenkian Foundation and numerous Trusts and Foundations. She previously established photography projects and facilities in Scotland including Photography Workshop and Portfolio Gallery in Edinburgh. She was a founding director of Fotofeis (the Scottish International Festival of Photography). Jane Brettle’s work is in several public collections including The Deutsche Bank Art Collection, and the National Galleries of Scotland and in private national and international collections.
Tulu Bayar holds a BA from the University of Ankara and an MFA from the University of Cincinnati. Bayar has participated in numerous solo and group exhibitions at venues both in the US and Europe including the Center for Photography at Woodstock, NY; 825 Gallery in Los Angeles; Artemisia Gallery in Chicago; Elgiz Museum of Contemporary Art in Istanbul; Camac Centre D’art in France; Galerie Image in Denmark; D-21 in Germany; Current Gallery in Baltimore; Contemporary Art Center in Cincinnati; Ankara Photographic Arts Center; Pittsburgh Filmmakers Media Arts Center; The Center for Fine Art Photography in Colorado and The Society for Contemporary Photography in Kansas City. Bayar also has received various artist-in-residency grants, most notably from the Camac Centre D'art funded by Tenot Foundation in France and the Center for Photography at Woodstock funded by the Andy Warhol Foundation and the New York State Council on the Arts. Bayar has been teaching photography and multimedia courses as an Assistant Professor at Bucknell University for six years.
For further information or hi-resolution scans, please contact Rachael Wilson at on +44 (0)28 90230965 or info at belfastexposed.org
Belfast Exposed Photography would like to thank Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Belfast City Council, Northern Ireland Community Relations Council and University of Northumbria for their support for this project.