A Celebration of My Defeats 1 (Buggle Call), 2009

On Ali Cabbar’s Disquiet Shadow

By Basak Senova
(From Disquiet Shadow exhibition catalogue)


When I first encountered Ali Cabbar’s works some years ago, I was moved by the different associations and reflections conveyed through his exceptional visual language, which was simple and direct. His works have the potential to unfold themselves through multiple layers that become activated by the effort of the viewer. Hence, they all carry a sense of disquiet and solitude, with fragmentary and incomplete narrations.

Years later, I detected similarities, both form-wise and content-wise, between his works and Fernando Pessoa’s The Book of Disquiet. Eventually, while working with Ali Cabbar for the “Disquiet Shadow” exhibition in 2009 and 2010, Pessoa’s book came to function as a compass for my curatorial decisions. Therefore, I will follow the paths of this book once again in my attempt to write a text on his works.

Disquiet Shadow

The entire life of the human soul is mere motions in the shadows.1

Ali Cabbar’s work addresses political, psychological, and existential dimensions of an individual, processed through a highly politically engaged life. Yet, none of the politically charged issues in his works implicate a didactic tone; instead they conceal themselves either with symbols or black humour. Thus, he creates a shadow which veils the disquiet of his experience. Nevertheless, a suspicious viewer always has the gratifying opportunity of revealing that which is hidden in the shades of shadow.

The burden of feeling. The burden of having to feel.

Narration is a precept for Ali Cabbar’s works. All the works have their own narratives with lapses and incomplete tenses. They are mostly fragmentary, as if moments and motions are extracted either from anonymous anecdotes or personal reminiscences. Some of them are subtly deceptive. Some of them are innocent. They are painful. They are disquiet.

I’ll appear in the fog as a foreigner to all life, as a human island detached from the dream of the sea, as a uselessly existing ship that floats on the surface of everything.

The works are mostly in the form of a series, and sometimes just a single piece. Ali Cabbar’s narrations always develop as a personal inquiry toward certain issues that he has been confronted with as an individual, such as: his resentment toward political powers; his questioning of axiomatic powers and authority; his distress over a nation with short-term memory loss; and his fight for freedom. It is, therefore, possible to follow the traces of an exiled individual’s experiences.

But my self-imposed exile from life’s actions and objectives and my attempt to break off all contact with things led precisely to what I tried to escape.

Exile is, indeed, not a choice and always linked to the possibility of return. However, it designates a new realm that is different from the homeland. “Exile discourse thrives on detail, specificity, and locality.”2 Therefore, it is possible to perceive two or more realities that one could experience in exile.

Let’s cut a path in life and then go immediately against that path.

Moreover, exile, as a solitary experience, also indicates an opposition to the place where one is forced to live.3 It could be a schizophrenic experience, as it demands a continuous effort to locate one’s self.

I’m two, and both keep their distance – Siamese twins that aren’t attached.

One of the most important characteristics of Ali Cabbar’s works is how they oscillate between these realities. Together, they always inhabit either more than one reality together or the opposition between these realities, even if they are juxtaposing one another. Yet, in some cases these realities are too far away to intersect. In that respect, they might be forcing the viewer to read the works in multiple ways. There is a constant tidal situation between states of these multiple and diverse realities. Nothing stable is maintained, however, it is possible to read an alternating charge and discharge of meaning. This is the state of being inside and outside at the same time.

Suddenly, I am all alone in the world. I see all this form the summit of a mental rooftop. I’m alone in the world. To see it to be distant. To see clearly is to halt. To analyse it to be foreign.

The aesthetic distance to these realities which the works create also emphasizes the artist’s position as someone who witnesses, observes, and records through his unique way of expression. This very distance simply shows how he rejects to becoming an accomplice to these realities in revealing what they indicate. Yet, in this very act of recording –through art works that take on the responsibility of expressing- he utilizes black humour as a means of undertaking the cruelty, injustice, and emergency of his life experiences. This manifests a connection between aesthetics and politics in his work.

For me he had the visual mission of a symbol…

At this point, we encounter an over-exposition of symbolism. He has, all throughout his life as an artist, , duplicated meaning by using visual rhetoric, regardless of the dates of production. And in some cases, an artwork even becomes a symbol on its own. His drawing style plays an important role in arriving at a clear perception and recognition of these symbols.

Ali Cabbar has a degree in graphic design, and has been living and producing in Belgium for the last 15 years -the country where ligne claire was developed. Ligne claire is a drawing style pioneered by Hergé (Georges Prosper Remi), the creator of The Adventures of Tintin. It uses clear strong lines of uniform thickness and weight, along with strong colours devoid of shading or cross-hatching. For this reason, it is also called Democracy of Lines.4 Cabbar’s drawing style evidently follows Ligne Claire in similar fashion, and therefore is quite distinctive in terms of clarity and simplicity.

Within all this simplicity, he is also obsessed with details. These details function as the foreshadowing of his narrations. The exaggeration of the scales and paradoxical visual elements highlight these details in some of the works.

I sleep when I dream of what doesn’t exist; dreaming of what might exist wakes me up.

Such compositions, therefore, present dreamlike states, like a shift from realistic to surrealistic, by unfolding discreet and fragmentary stories. In such cases, amnesia creates lapses in the narratives of the works. As the stories are spontaneously being completed by the viewer, amnesia also works as a defence mechanism to cope with whatever is being experienced at the moment.

On Spatial Design of the Exhibition

Yapı Kredi Kazım Taskent Art Gallery used to be a bank before it was transformed into an exhibition space for contemporary art. The structure and architectural elements suggest a challenging space as a gallery for contemporary art. Obviously, viewing an artwork could change completely due to the setting. Therefore, the gallery has once again been architecturally transformed to meet the design requirements of the exhibition.

The exhibition consists of sections with different formats (such as drawing, mural, animation, light box, and spatial installation). Therefore, the gallery is divided into sections with minimal architectural interventions. The walls are built only of plaster; the ceilings and the walls are painted either white or black.

In order to support the style of the artist, the exhibition’s spatial design is based on the simplification of the space through the use of basic geometrical forms in creating sections, and by eliminating unnecessary details.


1     Pessoa, Fernando (2002). The Book of Disquiet. Ed. and Trans. Richard Zenith. London: Penguin, p. 380, 122, 85, 380, 27, 20, 80, 60, 127.

2     Naficy, Hamid (Ed.) (1999). Home, Exile, Homeland: Film, Media and the Politics of Place. New York: Routledge, p. 4.

3     Said, Edward (1990). “Reflections of Exile.” In Out There: Marginalization and Contemporary Cultures. Ed. Russell Ferguson. Cambridge: MIT Press: 357-366.

4     Herge. Retrieved Jan 04, 2010, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herge

Ligne_claire. Retrieved Jan 04, 2010, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ligne_claire



A Celebration of My Defeats 2 (Flag Ceremony), 2009

In the Shadow

Interview with Ali Cabbar
(From Disquiet Shadow exhibition catalogue)

Basak Senova: I would like to start with the term “disquiet”, since it is the most detectable feature in the entire exhibition and its physical construction. Throughout the works, this term also has close associations with the state of solitude, not as being destined to it, but on the contrary, as a choice in life. How do you approach these two terms?

Ali Cabbar: Disquiet can be described as an awkward state such as being “copy/pasted” into an environment one doesn’t belong to, or like one sees in a bad collage. I often feel this way. Actually, I feel disquiet not only in my soul, but in my body as well.

As for solitude… Yes, mine is by choice. Maybe that’s why there’s only me and my shadow in all my drawings. Solitude is the choice of a person who feels he has that strength within him. It becomes necessary for an artist, for a person who produces.

Although human beings are social creatures, they feel that they are alone at certain times in their lives. They are both a pack and solitary. I prefer solitude. You can see the efforts of a solitary and disquiet figure trying to communicate in many of my works. I see that figure as an icon of resistance. I try to create a personal sign language by using disquieting body movements. Like a semaphore.

B.Ş.: What about “exile”? Where does the attribution of exile stand in this context?

A.C.: Exile… the feeling of not belonging anywhere, like a castaway who washes ashore and tries to live as a guest, but never knows if there’s ever any hope of going back.

A person doesn’t become an exile out of the blue. When a person is born, it is assumed that s/he is going to grow up and live belonging to a place. However, political, religious, economic reasons can force some people to leave their home. Psychologically accepting the state of exile takes place at the end of a process.

For me personally, this is how the exile process has unfolded: First you become arrested through antidemocratic enforcement, you get tortured, are imprisoned for years; this is called captivity. Then when you come out, you can’t adapt to life, alienation begins, you go abroad to escape it. You try to find a roof to put over your head in another country; you’re categorized as a fugitive or refugee. After many years, you become a citizen of the country you live in, and you divert yourself for a while by considering yourself an immigrant. Fifteen years later, when you start thinking philosophically, you come to realize that you are an exile. You now belong nowhere. Although the passport in your pocket makes you a citizen of that country, it doesn’t make you from there. If you go back to where you were born, you see that you no longer belong there. You’ve become homeless. It’s as if part of your memory has been erased. At this point, you start thinking; maybe some people are born an exile. This has nothing to do with the captivity or fugitiveness you went through in between. I find the feeling of not belonging, or not being able to belong, liberating. It flushes the pointless feeling of belonging and nationalism out of a person.

Another situation created by exile is displacement. An exile, just like an immigrant, is a dislocated person. You may think that an exile is forced out, whereas an immigrant is assumed to have made a choice. But I think that unless one has been pressurized from the outside, no one would leave his home.

Are circumstances worse for a person who is displaced, compared to a person who always lives in the same place? I see being displaced as an “opportunity”. Or as a new beginning…

B.Ş.: The works question the concept of personal freedom by indicating an oppositional, even tidal situation that is closely linked to your past. This questioning also signifies the difference between the state of being inside and outside.

A.C.: When you look at the whole of my works, the attempt to understand and explain the concept of freedom becomes apparent. I’m looking for answers to questions such as: ‘is there any such thing as personal freedom?’, or ‘are we free to the extent that we show opposition?’. I sometimes ask myself whether people really want freedom, because it seems as if the “unbearable lightness” of being a pack makes their lives easier.

As a member of a generation who was in search of freedom, I became part of a struggle that took place in the 1980s. Now when I evaluate those days, I realize that the struggle itself was more important than the defended purpose. It is necessary to show despotic political powers that they cannot cow everyone into submission, that it’s not a completely open field out there.

Being inside is usually understood as being in prison, not being free. But in some cases, the outside isn’t free either. Although it seems like a contradiction, in some oppressive regimes, being in prison can make a person feel more liberated. He is paying for putting up a fight and not surrendering.

I believe that what matters is feeling free inside our minds. State, family, society, economy, and tradition have all taken us captive, and we have willingly accepted the repression.

If we were to look at these concepts from the perspective of space and dimension, I would naturally prefer the outside, the wide openings, the sky, the horizon. I’d like to forever walk in the open wilderness.

B.Ş.: Modes of “pain” shape the narratives of the exhibition. Yet, “black humor” is one of the tools you use in your artistic expression as a mechanism for resistance. The use of parody in response to traumatic events is seen nearly in all your narrative-based works.

A.C.: Pain is something I feel when I look at the world. It comes with helplessness and anger, and is suppressed with a pill of disappointment and amnesia. Perhaps that is why the figures in my works seem to be squirming in pain.

I’m not a person who expresses himself by talking. But for some reason, or because of this, my works “talk too much”. My experiences –both good and bad, memories, political views all reflect on my work. It’s true that I use symbols as an expressive tool. I like to give different meanings to clichéd symbols. For example, although a blindfold symbolizes torture, I also want to add to it the meaning of not wanting to see. Or, whereas tied hands symbolize captivity, I also identify it with how, in reality, we enslave ourselves. I carry the hope that an observant viewer will see beyond the obvious and understand the hidden notions.

The body movements in my drawings can be read as a sort of traffic signs or emblems that express feelings and notions, like scenes composed and constructed as if on a theatre stage. I want to transfer my disquiet to the viewers and have them leave my drawings with questions on their minds. I know it’s not right for me to do this.

Black humor enables people to communicate without the use of certain dangerous words. It’s a good means to criticize the system and one’s self. If this is a quality I possess, I’m not that bad off after all. Humor is a good thing, no matter what color it comes in.

B.Ş.: At this point, could you also explain the role of fiction, and the patterns that are used in the exhibition?

A.C.: I have the feeling that I am watching the events outside me develop as if from a display window or from a screen: as if I have fallen down to earth from space in a transparent orb. Sometimes I become invisible. No value (religion, nationality, property, business life, tradition, custom) carries any significance for me. I watch people around me who respect these values and live a “normal” life with envy. I constantly have a feeling of disquiet, melancholy, as if I was “dizzy from low blood pressure”. Alienation, a dark outlook on life, disappointment… Most people’s lives are shaped by coincidences. What I mean is that our being here and not there could be because we missed a bus. Some people call this fate. We might have willpower over certain small aspects of our lives that can create change, but our general course is defined outside of us by factors such as gender, education, and class.

It’s difficult to explain the construct of life, but I’d like to say this about the construct of my works: I usually work to create a series. I sometimes think that a drawing needs a “sibling”. I look at a drawing and wonder what took place a second ago, so I make another drawing. Therefore, I end up creating a consecutive series like animation frames. My series “Human Situations” and “Pull the Strings” are examples of this narration.

B.Ş: Amnesia operates as another defense mechanism for you to cope with life. In its broader sense, amnesia has been systematically constructed as a defense mechanism. Yet, what if this defense mechanism is spontaneously programmed and applied on individuals by a system? What if such a system eventually comes to a point where it constantly hacks itself through a cognitive architecture of dissociations?

A.C.: Our mind capacity may not be able to hold all our memories. And sometimes it may be necessary to “delete” certain memories, experiences, and particularly unpleasant things in order to take the load off the mind and enable the “system” to function properly. But unless a person has an illness such as dementia, human memory does not forget anything important; it may only suppress it for a while. I might be emphasizing a suppressed memory loss in the exhibition works entitled “Shadow’s Shame – Amnesia”.

Blindfolds equal torture, amnesia equals escape; or blindfolds equal not wanting to see, amnesia equals the reaction the system wants and expects from us. The system has gone beyond the imagination of even those who direct it, and continues to program individuals by constantly recreating itself. Millions of people living in all four corners of the world, in different cities, and countries (are) unite(d) around common inclinations, common ideals (!).

B.Ş.: Political powers don’t see the field of contemporary art as a threatening platform, which is understandable considering its limited access to the public. Yet, your work has been shaped by your reaction to ongoing corruption, and to the circumstances created by suppressive and axiomatic political powers in the country. How do you see the potential of your efforts in terms of challenging this power?

A.C.: The notion that political powers do not consider contemporary art to be a treat, if that is indeed the case, is due to the extent of democracy established in a country rather than how much public access art has. Many works that we enjoy seeing today in galleries and biennial exhibitions used to be censored 30 years ago, during the September 12th regime. Exhibitions might have been closed down and artists arrested. Having a democratic or fascist government makes all the difference in the world to an artist.

Apart from that, political powers, wherever they may be, are built on fear, lies, and propaganda. People willingly submit to them, and this makes things much easier for these powers. I think that every artist has a problem with authority, and they should. “A Celebration of My Defeats” series can be taken as a criticism of militaristic/authoritarian governments, which have been an ongoing part of our country’s past. On the other hand, the “Shadow’s Shame” series is a call for revolt against this.

It would be naive to assume that art alone could “fix” the world. I don’t recall any revolution that took place as a result of an exhibition.

Public interest in art is another matter. I think that contemporary artists put every effort out to reach the public, even if this sometimes means making concessions from art. I’m not optimistic, but I am hopeful.


Pull the Strings, 2007-2008

Ali Cabbar and the Forty Voyeurs1

By Roger Pierre Turine
(From Disquiet Shadow exhibition catalogue)

The sea and improbable distances… The man chained to God who travels forbidden lands knows of this mirage, disoriented on every level…

With a range of inconceivable images, Ali Cabbar brings us together to day-dream in a strange and enchanting world -much like himself. And there we stand, wide eyed in face of these humorous poetic openings, looking into the secret aspects of a well perceived life.

There’s a little bit of everything in the graphic universe of the most Belgian of all Turks living in Brussels. A destructive inference inherent in the art of painting that questions our own imagination: from humor to dimensional loss, melancholy to merriness. He magnificently brings together all the personalities we love in this small country of ours, Belgium, replete with modest heroisms, all hidden behind a hat and enigma. They are the people we meet by coincidence; if not themselves, their brothers or someone akin –like in fairytales-: Simeon and our pirates, our space travellers, our gold hunters in outdated utopic colonies.

Cabbar has become integrated with this foreign place which he has chosen as his second homeland. Here, he finds nourishment from art history for his imagination; it’s as if the place was cut out just for him. The spirit and inspiration of Bosch, Bruegel, Magritte, Delvaux, Folon all sprout straight out from the images of his own graphic and mythological conquests.

On the other hand, for those who know him, this world so rich in discoveries, in the unexpected, in heart breaking abstractions, resembles the road he himself walks on in this life -not always a bed full of roses for one who repudiates the law and refuses to march life’s path without self-questioning.

Ali Cabbar is a political artist. This attitude is not to delude; it is to warn us that nothing can ever be won without an awareness that brings clarity to the fact that any strifeless thing tumbled toward us is not only pointless and wretched, but a big lie. His humorous expression of purifying imagination, especially his elegant poetry that cannot be written in words, is priceless.

First a graphic designer

Ali Cabbar is happy to be a graphic designer. Unlike others who at times tire of being a publicist, an organizer, a newspaper cartoonist, he enjoys being a graphic designer. He is an illustrator accomplished in expressing existential chaos with drawings and color. He has arrived at art from print making and graphic design, and this is the only way he expresses himself, despite the fact that he also has works on canvas. He worked as a graphic designer for a newspaper for 25 years, until 2001. He claims to be proud of being an illustrator. He was the art director of The Wall Street Journal Europe for seven years, and periodically drew editorial illustrations for the Herald Tribune. He then professionally became an artist. His whole life decidedly consists of art.

As for his life… Born in Istanbul, Ali Cabbar gets the ever-present symbolism in his works from the country’s politically and socially formidable years.

First there’s the sea, the ferries, the distant light houses. Having to take the ferry daily from the Asian side of the city where he lived, to the European side in order to go the work formed a committed relationship with the sea. Many of his finely detailed pictures are often decorated with fishermen –sometimes lucky in their keeps, sometimes not-, as if the still sea eases his solitude.

Nevertheless, he also draws the imprisoned man, with his hands and feet firmly tied.

A blinded man, hands covering the eyes; or a man without an eye – slightly dizzy; a man without a head… could it be that he can no longer carry it?

Cabbar feeds his imagination with his own stories, his own life experience. He lived through a military coup thirty years ago, when he was a politically active student. He was arrested, sentenced to silence for three years; an anti-fascist, communist who disturbed the established order. Once he was set free, he exiled himself to Australia. He then went to Brussels and stayed there!

Poetic surrealism

I discovered Ali Cabbar during his exhibiton at the Botanique Gallery in 2006, and fortunately for me, took an interest in his extraordinary and rich universe. Shortly before that, he had opened an exhibition entitled “Exilic Existence”, portraying a dream-like world in which he had both good and bad days.

A major source for his imagination are dreams. His plain drawings are inspired from a comic book to which but hasn’t yet committed, but loves. His style of drawing also originates from illustration: It is a way of looking at human beings, their identities, at reality. They are filled with the dynamic of design, the depth of narrative.

He is the story teller not of Life, but more tangibly, the teller of an extraordinary play that is his own experience.

We often come across eyes in his work. Did you notice that? The eye is an unusual, ominous object that belongs to no one. But why this eye, expressed in so many different ways, hidden away in a veiled universe? How does he know all this? Apparently, it’s the whisper of the muse!

Being a man of the times, Ali Cabbar draws on the computer. He doesn’t use pencils, erasers, and paint. The computer is his drawing board, the little cave where he works, his studio. On the computer, Ali plays with colors and then prints everything on paper or canvas. Exquisite works. A graphic designer turned creator. The Demiurg (creator deity) of the inner world who flirts with absurd poetry. A nondirectional aide to personal wounds. His works are usually in the form of a series, with a bit of surrealism here and expressionism there.

In the series “Shadow’s Shame”, a man seems to be apologizing for being there, another curses, begs, mockingly gives a military salute, or there’s a heroic clown playing out the banned acts of an era. A life materializes and surrenders itself between shadow and reality, like an extension of the chaos of our own lives. Somewhere else, a blind man with a skeletal head covered with butterflies walks toward an uncertain future… from life to death.

A man sits, his whole being saturated in unanswerable questions, his body suspended between heaven and earth. Dizzying colors, postures: Cabbar possesses an intense, striking, cutting sense of design, and we are his accomplices. In his self-portraits, he imagines a more humane world, a man floating in the air with an umbrella amongst clouds made of cotton. A tightrope walker, an oarsman, a lampost lighter… the “little prince” stays up waiting in the night. We salute the poetic ballet’s fireworker. The light he sheds opens up dialogue for oppositions, and unites the wounded with the pleasant.

After his show at the Botanique Gallery, I wrote: “Cabbar is an acrobat who walks on the rope of life between dream and reality, the static and the dynamic, comic book and painting, Tintin and Magritte. Despite being Turkish, Cabbar must feel that he is among friends here.” I insist on this and would put my name under these words anytime.

Play of shadow and light, satire and politics, longing and verismo… The artist rows his boat towards waters seldom still, a sea that constantly renews itself… he puts one step after another on land that is more often unstable than solid…

Approach Cabbar in the same manner he approaches you: as an incorrigable voyeur bearing a tongue in cheek smile!

Brussels, 25 February 2010

1   The original French title of the text is an equivocation that makes reference to Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves: “Ali Cabbar et les quarante voyeurs”.


Knockout, 2009

Istanbul 2010-a garden of forking paths

Paal Boee
Published in C-arts Magazine No. 14, pp. 28-33 (2010)

A common point of arrival in Istanbul is Taksim Square, which lies on top of the main street of the city’s European side, İstiklal Caddesi.
If your mission is to explore the art life of the city, which this year is named “European Capital of Culture”, you will not have to go far before you are caught up in the long row of galleries on the street.


Disquiet Shadow

One of the most interesting solo exhibitions in Istanbul at the moment is Ali Cabbar’s Disquiet Shadow at the Yapi Kredi Gallery.

After a three-year-long imprisonment following the military coup in Turkey in 1980, Cabbar immigrated to Australia for six years and then to Bruxelles, where he still lives. A very large part of his production in exile could be characterized as a study of how political suppression becomes internalized in the individual body, and accordingly, of the individual conditions–and impasses–of freedom struggle. Perhaps more than ever before, the current exhibition demonstrates the ingenuity with which Cabbar treats this theme using a simple drawing and printing technique.

On two opposite walls in the exhibition’s central room, two series of six wall prints (Face Cards I-II) depict acts of self-blinding and self-silencing respectively. The series can be read from left to right like a comic strip, almost as if they were snapshots of the stages in a magician’s show: the first series starts off with the artist standing upright, eyes open, arms hanging down. In the next four figures he twists and turns, covering his eyes with his hands. In the last one, his eyes have been erased, and he holds up his empty hands as if to demonstrate that he has not hidden them there.

Like in the Face Cards series, many of the works depict the artist’s body as suppressed or deprived of freedom, but at the same time a “disquiet shadow” often lurks behind his acts, defining their meaning, often contradicting his positions. The shadow sometimes points down at him as if judging his suppression as self-exerted and deserved, sometimes expressing the opposite of it, like when his tied hands cast a shadow of free doves behind his back.

The import of Cabbar’s simple variations is complex and deep: the body and its shadow both stand out as political signs, demonstrating how suppression may not only be disguised as freedom within a totalitarian culture but even implanted in the individual in such a way that he effectively blames it on himself, or even takes on the role of his own torturer.

Supposedly, therefore, Cabbar’s drawings are in their essence a battle with and within technique, over the power of representation of the body, which in the end seems to point back at the possibilities of art as a political medium.

This is especially visible in the series Pull the Strings, where the “strings” pulling the individual through hooks in his skin are identical to the color lines that compose the body’s striving movements of opposition. Perhaps more subtly than anywhere else, these wall prints incorporate the contradictory passivity/activity principle implied by Cabbar’s idea of the human being as a politically defined form.



Dunce’s Corner, 2009

Praising the Disquiet

Musa İgrek/Zaman/10.04.2010

(…) The exhibition, as its title suggests, unfolds the burden of disquiet before our eyes as a serious subject. Inspired by Pessoa’s The Book of Disquiet, it brings two injured kids, ill-treated by life, together on the same shores: Fernando Pessoa and Ali Cabbar.

(…) Exiles, alienation, being the odd one always follows him, like a disquiet shadow. When we dig deep into the minimalism of his works, magic appears and absorbs the viewer like an eternal hollow. We see the artist’s face in all his works. It is said that Pessao wrote his books as 70 different personalities. Cabbar too, makes himself understood beneath many different covers. And always points to himself.

(…) Criticism of militarist/authoritarian power mixed with emotions, implications and black humor casts many questions to the viewer.


Face Cards 1 and 2, 2006-2010

Disquiet of the Shadows

Erkan Doganay/Taraf/15.04.2010

(…) Cabbar, as if endorsing the verses in Baudelaire’s poem, ‘The Man Who Tortures Himself’; “I am the wound and the dagger!/I am the blow and the cheek!/I am the members and the wheel,/Victim and executioner”, puts questions to the viewer through his life experiences, and wants to make them as disquiet as himself.

(…) In fact, conflicts between the solitary figures and their shadows in his works shown at the exhibition, entitled Disquiet Shadow, voice a person’s inner struggle. The shadow becomes a free individual performer. Sometimes accompanies the figure in great harmony, sometimes empowers the figure by becoming the main character and at times completes it perfectly.


Fairy “Tail” , 2009

Disquiet shadows
that bring mankind into the light

By Virginie Ballet

Ali Cabbar’s shadows are far from being still or dark. « Disquiet shadows », the Istanbul exhibition of the Turkish artist presents us with meaningful shadows,which seem like the embodiment of  the mind’s complexity.

Organised in the Yapi Kredi Art gallery since the 7th of April, Disquiet shadows has been designed to represent the multiple dimensions of the individual.

Sometimes tortured, sometimes day dreaming, individuals are envisaged as symbols of the cruelty and injustice of life.

These trials result in different reactions, which Ali Cabbar has tried to depict in his series entitled « face cards ». This playful series of drawings represent one man in the different phases he goes through. Fear, joy or anger are conveyed, always without any didactic purpose. The artist, trained in Marmara’s fine arts faculty, does not give any life lesson, and only uses black humour to underline life’s harshness, and its consequences : escape, schizophrenia or shame. Every feeling is transformed into a face expression or a situation.

What is most striking about Ali Cabbar’s work is self-deprecation, suggesting that every one has a dark part in them, those « disquiet shadows » that manipulate the characters Ali Cabbar draws, without them noticing it.