Sultana's Dream

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Sultana's Dream
September 2011


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In this issue Nur Shkembi introduces us to the world of Contemporary Turkish Miniature Art.


Turkish miniature artist, Gulay Pelin, is recognised as one of Australia’s most unique miniature artists. Through her contemporary interpretations, Pelin draws on the rich symbolism of the traditional miniature, the time-honoured techniques of paper marbling (ebru) and the illumination or gilding techniques of the Ottoman style 'tezhip'. By fusing traditional and contemporary styles of miniature art, the viewer is captivated and drawn into exploring further.  

The award-winning Sydney artist has a BA degree with 1st class Honors in Manuscript Arts from Dokuz Eylul University, Turkey. Traditional Turkish motifs and Ottoman Calligraphy inspire her use of rich colours and gold leaf; her contemporary miniatures are exhibited both locally and internationally. Recently Pelin was selected as the feature artist at the 2011 'International Miniature and Illumination Festival' in Algeria.   

To find out more about Gulay Pelin's work visit:

 Featured Images:

“From Vav to Alif” 2009 (30 x 30cm)

Pelin describes this work as the story of our natural life cycle through the visual beauty of calligraphy and pattern. Vav is used here in the Sufi tradition of representing birth (through the human embryo) while the letter Alif signifies the seemingly rigid appearance of our physical death. These symbolic meanings are embedded within the beauty of traditional-style Arabic calligraphy; the viewer is invited to contemplate our mortal existence through this spiritually informed and visually engaging work.

“Sydney” 2008 (29 x 35cm)

Pelin migrated from Turkey to Sydney, Australia in 2002. Like most immigrants, she wanted to find a 'place' in her new homeland. Her sense of finally belonging is depicted in her detailed contemporary-styled miniature Sydney and we are able to enjoy a 'bird's eye view' of the newly embraced, intimate space of the artist.   

“Rise of the Simurgh” 2010 (28 x 34cm)

This elegant hand-marbled (ebru) work is cleverly layered with powerful imagery stemming from the artist’s Turkish heritage. An outline of the famous Sultan Ahmet (Blue Mosque) in Istanbul and a beautifully imposing tulip are entwined with an interpretation of the simrugh (also known as the “30 birds”, or an “ascending mystical eagle-like creature”). The simurgh is often referred to in mythological tales throughout the Middle East, Iran and Turkey.

Since her arrival in Australia, Pelin has been drawn to reading and learning about the Aboriginal Dream Time. Many Indigenous Australians refer to the time of  'Creation' as 'The Dreaming'. This miniature is meant as a tribute to the Aboriginal Dream Time as well as a celebration of the wonderment of storytelling and aspects of Pelin’s past life.
Nur Shkembi

Nur Shkembi is a Melbourne-based contemporary artist and Arts Officer at the Islamic Council of Victoria.