The Insect Art of Ergin İnan

A Thanksgiving trip to Istanbul found me at the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art on a rainy week-day, enjoying an enthralling collection of contemporary artworks. Along with  an absolutely top-notch Design Biennial, the museum had on display a sweeping retrospective of Turkish artwork, nearly all of it unknown to this westerner’s eye. Photography was forbidden in the museum, but for one picture I couldn’t help myself, and you can see why.

Ergin İnan, self portrait

Ergin İnan, Self Portrait, 1996. I was totally not allowed to take this picture.

And now I’m glad I did, because Ergin İnan is one majorly prolific insect-obsessed artist. Unfortunately there is little online about İnan in English, and the esoteric discussions in Turkish about his art practice are hopelessly garbled by services like Google Translate. Something about a childhood letter that he drew insects on? A contemplation of transformation of the spirit and mind? I’m left to my own devices on his symbolism, but that won’t stop me from enjoying his paintings.

In İnan’s works, insects seem to hold the key to the gateway to magical worlds beyond, full of incantations, prayers, and poetry. The care and reality in which he renders his invertebrate subjects is often at a deep contrast to his vertebrate ones. His human portraits are ghostly gossamer shades, just as translucent as the prodigious dragonfly wings that sprout from their backs amidst clouds of arabic text. Or else they look like technicolor Bacon-esque smears, their souls made visible only in the form of a resplendent scarab beetle.

I hope to showcase more of İnan’s art in the future, and possibly track down some coherent criticism regarding his themes and feelings towards his favorite subject. But for right now I am just thrilled that a sneaky snapshot in a museum led me to one of Turkey’s foremost insect artists. Güzel! z end

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