Turkish family nostalgia with Memory Matters exhibition, on show at London’s Fitzrovia Gallery

A new short-run exhibition in Central London will get you feeling very nostalgic about Turkish home life.

Artist Didem Ünlü, whose paintings have featured in Turkey, Britain and beyond, dips into personal photos from old family albums for her latest exhibition called Memory Matters.

The photos are combined with her mother’s textile notebooks and sewing patterns to create a memorable set of paintings, currently on display at the Fitzrovia Gallery in London.

The artist re-materialises the memories of found items and recreates the moments by colouring and painting over the sewing patterns that she has dug out of her mother’s cupboards.

Although rooted in her own personal journey, it’s also one that will be familiar to others, as Ünlü juxtaposes the “knowing and remembering with(in)”, encompassing both the past and the present.

Art historian Prof. Dr Marcus Graf, in his foreword on Ünlü’s current works, writes that the artist is “creating a comment on history and its visual presentation”, as she focuses on memory in the ‘interplay of personal and societal context’.

Graf also states that, “While [the artist] lived in London for over a decade, the photos from her family albums meant strong links to her past. These still standing reminiscences of her personal history were building bridges between the Now and the Then, as well as between London and Istanbul”.

Artiritli kadın, 2016, Didem Ünlü


Many in Britain’s Turkish community will connect with the nostalgia of these illustrations, which also represent a form of yearning for ‘home’. Yet, as Graf points out, these photographs are not merely the vessels of nostalgia and homesickness but their use, along with sewing design patterns, can be understood as a nod to societal templates in which people are forced to live within certain matrixes and rules:

“Without falling into the trap of kitschy nostalgia or false melancholy, she reconsiders personal history and creates alternative family portraits that contain a social memory value for all of us. This is the reason, why the works go beyond autobiographical and subjective references.”

Baloncuklu kız, 2015, Didem Ünlü


Ünlü’s artistic approach, adds Graf, “leaves enough space for the spectator’s own stories and histories” as she eternalises the people whom she depicts and aims to add data to the pool of our collective consciousness with her current solo exhibition.

The exhibition is sponsored by Peker Holding.


Kahve zamanı, 2017, Didem Ünlü


Title: Memory Matters

Dates: opened Tuesday 14 January and runs through to Sunday 26 January 2020

Times:  11:30 am – 6:30 pm, daily

Venue: The Fitzrovia Gallery, 139 Whitfield St, Bloomsbury, London W1T 5EN

Admission: free