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Semiha Berksoy

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Semiha Berksoy, Salome, 1962. Courtesy: the artist, Galerist, Istanbul and Vigo Gallery, London

Semiha Berksoy, Salome, 1962. Courtesy: the artist, Galerist, Istanbul and Vigo Gallery, London

A solo presentation of historic works by the extraordinary Turkish artist, opera singer and cultural figure, Semiha Berksoy (1910 – 2004), presenting her work in London for the first time.

The presentation focuses on the confluence between Berksoy’s visual and operatic practices, incorporating heavily autobiographical works from the fifties through to the late nineties. Naïve and symbolic in form, these paintings are intense, dramatic and arresting.

Central to the presentation will be Salome, 1962, perhaps her masterpiece, which was showcased at the 2005 Venice Biennale curated by Rosa Martinez. The figure and role of Salome in Richard Strauss’ opera of that name was of particular importance for Berksoy throughout her life - a leitmotif.

In 1939 Berlin, having performed the lead role of Ariadne in ‘Ariadne auf Naxos’ to critical acclaim, in celebration of Strauss’ 75th birthday, Berksoy was selected to play Salome in Vienna the following year. The war, however, intervened. She then played Salome at the Ankara Opera in Turkey several times in the 1960s.

Finally, however, in 2003 at the age at 93, 10 months before she passed away, she performed a special stage adaptation of Salome in Vienna, fulfilling her life-long ambition. In the context of current socio-cultural developments in Turkey in which the principle of gender equality is, arguably, being rapidly undermined, telling Berksoy’s story now is both timely and significant.