Enver Yücebalkan: Signs of the Silver Screen

In the Turkish city of Sakarya, the signature of sign painter Enver Yücebalkan can still be glimpsed on signs produced across his career of more than fifty years. I have been documenting these, and the story of a man whose work made a major visual impression on the city.

Murat Ertürk
2 min readNov 3, 2023
This early 1950s sign for a grocery shop in the town’s historic bazaar, complete with Enver Yücebalkan’s initials E.Y.B., was removed and lost in 2022. © Murat Ertürk

Enver Yücebalkan was born in Bulgaria in 1927, and in 1934 his family migrated to what then the town of Adapazarı, just to the east of Istanbul. At the age of 19 he started work at the Saray (meaning Palace) Cinema. This was opened by the renowned Turkish filmmaker Hürrem Erman and his family, and Yücebalkan turned his hand to everything from ticket sales to film distribution. However, it was his work on hand-painted posters that paved the way to his ultimate calling.

Although he had no formal art or design education, Yücebalkan demonstrated a talent for lettering and illustrating the posters advertising the cinema’s latest shows. This regularly changing output caught the attention of other local businesses, and before long he was running a sign shop from a 30 sq m (320 sq ft) room inside the cinema; the owner even allowed him to hang a sign for his “artist and sign painter” services at the entrance.

Enver Yücebalkan in 1947 (right) with a friend in front of the Saray Cinema, Adapazarı, Turkey. [Left photo] One of Enver Yücebalkan’s wall signs for a milling firm. His signature is visible in blue below the “a.s.” of the second line. [Right photo] © Murat Ertürk

Yücebalkan spent 45 years at the cinema, until it finally closed in the early 1990s. He then took on his own premises where he continued to work until his death in 1998. In these later years he embraced new technology, including the production of illuminated signs, as well as developing a sideline in oil painting.

Throughout his career, Yücebalkan sourced the best quality tools and materials from Istanbul, and collected type specimens so that he could follow the latest typographic trends. He turned his brush to every available surface, from fruit crates to boats and larger mural pieces. The vast majority of his work has been lost, most recently a simple sign board bearing just his initials “E.Y.B” from the town’s central bazaar. The signs that have survived provide a graphic record of local significance, worthy of preservation.

Published in issue 03 of BLAG (Better Letters Magazine) in 2023. The comprehensive article on Enver Yücebalkan was presented in Turkish at the 1st International Ahmet Yakupoğlu Art and Design Symposium, held in 2018, and published in the symposium’s book.