Semiha Berksoy was a seminal figural in Turkey’s cultural scene. Hailing from an artistic family, she began her career as a performer, playing lead roles in several operas, films and theatres—including Turkey’s first professional opera production and its first sound film. Despite having painted from an early age, it was only later in life that painting stopped being a private affair. Berksoy’s paintings, almost exclusively created on hardboard and in informal settings, have an immediate and emotive style that captures glimpses from her celebrated career as a multi-hyphenate star and her tumultuous inner world. She moved freely between different artistic disciplines and introduced fictional as well as real characters into her paintings.
In 1929, Berksoy studied at the Academy of Fine Arts, Istanbul, where she developed a practice in painting. She graduated from the Music Academy of Berlin in 1939 and also pursued her interests in performance and music at the Darülbedayi Drama School and Istanbul Music Conservatory.
In Chain Breaker (1968), created a year before her first solo art exhibition, Berksoy depicts herself as a shackled figure surrounded by a talisman that emerges and recedes from a dark background, which, according to the artist, shows an interior negotiation with her own personality. In a second self-portrait from the same year, Love Story (1968), Berksoy portrays a sinister self that conveys both ebullient and abject interiority. It is this negotiation between the interior and exterior self that distinctly defines Berksoy’s painting practice.