Exploring the career of the Ottoman princess who connected Islamic styles with Western abstraction.
It is said that Europe is separated from Asia where the Bosphorous flows into the Sea of Mamara. So is it a stretch to say East meets West on the the island of Büyükada? This was the birthplace of Fahrelnissa Zeid, a modern artist who married Islamic, Byzantine and Persian decorative styles with Western abstraction. She remains one of Turkey’s most influential painters.
Like many artists, she has a remarkable biography. Zeid was an Ottoman princess. Her illustrious family comprised photographers, writers, ceramicists and other painters. She clearly worked around her day job, because she found time to marry into the Iraqi royal family. Her son Prince Ra’ad is the current claimant to the Iraqi throne.
The Tate show encompasses work from both poles of 20th-century painting, i.e. figuration and abstraction. It demonstrates her experimental approach to techniques and materials. You too could come to share something of her passion for dynamism and geometry. For those outside Turkey, this exhibition could come as a revelation.
In recent years Tate has strongly represented women. Marlene Dumas, Yayoi Kusama, Ellen Gallagher, Agnes Martin and, in 2016, Georgia O’Keeffe have all enjoyed large retrospectives. Indeed one of the most exciting shows here was another influential figure from the Levant, Saloua Raouda Choucair. Her new London fans will be able to compare and contrast.