“Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
Positive affirmations can be such comforting throwbacks to the 1960s. The days of upbeat Beach Boys songs, Cat Stevens’ tunes and Scott McKenzie’s famous anthem about going to San Francisco and wearing flowers in your hair, reassured everyone. Artist and Turkish Cypriot Ebrul Ahmet revives that spirit and does it justice as she marries upbeat pop philosophy with a passion for colour that result in vibrant paste-ups that have been spotted on the walls in London’s Brick Lane area since early 2018. Since that time, Ebrul says, “It has been a year that has taught me to go with the flow, follow my intuition and create things that represent what I feel . . .”
Using portraits of some of the world’s most iconic characters as a base, she affixes type and quotes to create images that seem to shimmer with a 1960-70’s sensibility. That era’s philosophical energy was fuelled by wildly popular authors and titles like Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s “Le Petit Prince”, ostensibly written for children but actually dealing with idealistic observations about life and human nature.
We meet Ebrul on the same wavelength as Richard Bach’s “Jonathan Livingston Seagull”, whose antagonist struggles with conformity and individuality, or the third best-selling poet of all time (after Shakespeare and Lao-tzu) is Lebanese-American, Kahlil Gibran with “The Prophet”. One of his more apropos quotes circulating at that time was “If you love somebody let them go, for if they return, they were always yours. If they don’t, they never were.” It was an attitude that fit hand-in-glove with the sexual liberation movement and provided an opening for the trend of self- realization and the search for true happiness and fulfillment that manifests in Ahmet’s work today.
It is with her screen print “Making AmeriKKKa Hate Again”, produced for a university “#dumptrump” propaganda project that Ebrul Ahmet swings right back from that gentler world of self-help philosophies of the 1970’s to the tumultuous present.
With a good showing of teeth, Ahmet stands with Martin Luther King Jr’s admonition: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
So, in a not-so-subtle way she has met MLK’s complacency challenge and taken direct aim at a current American blight. With this bold poster she puts her art … “where her mouth is”.
I like teeth.
But, memorable as her stance against hate may be, we shouldn’t end our look at Ebrul’s work there . . . so lets just pull out some vinyl and sing along with “The Beach Boys”.
So, perhaps as a quote for your next poster? I am rooting for this one.
“I’m digging those . . . Good, good, good, good vibrations (Oom bop bop)
(I’m pickin’ up good vibrations) (Good vibrations bop bop)
She’s giving me excitations (Excitations, bop bop)
Good, good, good, good vibrations”.