Wooden Faces of Cyprus

By Margaret Sheard

Ismail Ișilsoy is a very talented sculptor who lives in Yeșilirmak and for the last 10 years he has been holding an annual exhibition of his Ismail Ișilsoy (right) with wife Gűlșen and son Denizwork. This year the exhibition was held at the Aphrodite Beachfront Village in Gaziveren on 10th and 11th August. There was a preview for invited guests on the 9th August and as I was not able to attend the exhibition in 2012, I was determined I would not miss this one so I went along to the preview and was at last able to meet Ismail and see his wonderful wood carving masks.

The setting at the Aphrodite Beachfront Village was lovely and we had been told we would be able to see an amazing sunset from this venue whiSunset at Gaziverench we did manage to see and it was indeed a lovely sight with a brilliantly coloured sky and the sun slipping away very quickly, as it seemed, into the sea.

The sun slips away

When we arrived at the venue, Chris recognised Cihan Erdoğan, who is the Financial Director of Evergreen Developments, who he had met many years before and then another familiar face, Erfan who used to work at our local restaurant in Ozanköy. We always say what a small community we have here in North Cyprus and no matter how many miles you travel you can nearly always meet someone you know. There were also the familiar faces of the invited guests, many of whom we bump into at various events around the The exhibitionisland.

So at last I was able to meet Ismail who was there with his wife Gűlșen, who was born in Famagusta, and son Deniz, and although Ismail needed to attend to his guests we did manage to speak briefly so I could gain some knowledge about this very talented artist.

Ismail was born in Ankara in 1953 and he graduated from the Painting and Sculpture Department of Ankara Gazi Institute. Ismail’s grandmother was born in  Paphos so his roots were originally in Cyprus. He spent some 15 years in the UK and travelled extensively while he was there, living in many places including London, NWooden mask carvingewcastle, Stratford-on-Avon and at that time he was very involved in theatre and he also taught drama at Adult Education Centres and other theatrical areas.

Some 13 years ago, Ismail decided to settle in Cyprus and it was at this time that he became interested in wood, especially driftwood he found on the beaches, and he started to carve faces into the various shapes of the driftwood which he said talked to him and this brought out his poetic skill so all of the carved pieces have some words to express Ismail’s feelings as he carved a face into the wood. Ismail said that he does not always find inspiration in what he finds on the beaches and the artist in him has to feel the wood which then reveals the wonderful expressions of the faces he carves.

There were many wooden faces on show, different shapes and sizes and all uniqueI show Ismail my carved picture in portraying Ismail’s feelings as he carved them. I had taken the opportunity of showing Ismail a picture carved from wood that I had bought many years before in Slovenia from a local artist and although I am very fond of the picture, Ismail felt it was a very commercial product and I must admit that, having seen Ismail’s work, I am inclined to agree.

I have always found people with artistic talent to be very deep and I am sure there is so much more to discover about Ismail so I will take the opportunity later of visiting him at his home to see the man at work and to see more of the Wooden Faces of Cyprus.

While the exhibition was in progress we were treated to some lovely background music with Muharrem CemoMuharrem Cemoğlu (right) and Ersan Karaçğlu playing the cello accompanied by Ersan Karaç on guitar. Following their appearance at the exhibition they were then on their way to Nicosia where they were to perform at another venue.

It was an extremely long journey to get to Gaziveren but it was really worth the travelling time to be present at this exhibition and of course an opportunity to see a part of the island I had not seen before. A lovely venue, nice people and a fabulous exhibition.

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