Rüya

Istanbul, September 2011: I visited an antique book market several times during those sweltering Fall days.  It was a temporary market, set up beneath white tents in a parking lot next to the Pera Müzesi.  A great place to rummage through lose papers, beautiful old Quarans and books illustrating the art of carpet weaving.  I would dig for an hour or so before relaxing  in a plastic chair to have a hot çay, and gaze out over the sprawling city.

I had collected several sheets of lose paper with arabic writing, and a few worn out journals bound together with cardboard covers before finding a magazine dated from the 1920’s.  The cover illustration reminded me of a dream, and I felt compelled by the simple quality of its line and color.  I purchased the piece, having been so transfixed by this image, and after many months of handing he magazine, flipping through its pages and admiring the delicate writing and eloquently drawn cartoons, it struck me to recreate a version of the cover image for my Hüzün Exhibition.

This dream-like image seemed to fit perfectly into my concept, as it reminded me of that surreal Istanbul feeling I was trying so desperately to capture.  The tittle came to me before I began, Rüya….Dream.  Below is the original drawing by the unknown artist, and the evolution of my version.

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"Ruya" Mixed Media on Paper, 2013

“Ruya” Mixed Media on Paper, 2013

 

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Little Paintings

I made these little panels when I lived in Istanbul.  My intention was to paint as many  tiny images as I could and someday hang them in an exhibition.  However, I was spending so much time out in the city drawing from life that I almost completely neglected my studio work, and the only oil painting I completed was the “White Pigeon”. So I took back the the US this single oil painting, a few blank and half worked panels, and many travel drawings and sketch books.

When I began working in my studio again, I decided to complete some of the little panels, and worked on them occasionally in between my larger works.  They were intimate and satisfying to focus on.  So different from the larger and somewhat intimidating pieces.  I completed 6 for the Hüzün exhibition, and when I stood back to look at them hanging on the gallery wall, I realized that they looked like little icons, which linked them back to my influence and interest in early Christian art.  This gave them more significance than I had planned, and I was pleased to see other people drawn to them as well.

Since the show I have made 30 more small panels. They are of varying sizes, but do not exceed 7″ in either direction.  I intend to take some of them on upcoming travels, and leave some in my studio for future response works.  Someday, if I can pull myself away from my travel drawings and larger paintings long enough, I will fill a gallery with hundreds of these delicate little paintings, as was the original plan……..

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“White Pigeon” Oil on Panel 5″x7″

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“Bitmiş” Oil on Panel 5″x5″

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“Self Portrait with Language” Oil and Found Paper on Panel 7″x5″

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“Lessons 4″ Oil on Panel 7″x5”

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“Fortune 1″ Oil and Turkish Coffee on Panel 5″x5”

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“Fortune 2″ Oil and Turkish Coffee on Panel 5″x5”

 

The Exhibition

Almost two years of work, many long studio nights, and a few tears resulted in my first solo exhibition at the Corridor Gallery.  It is was an incredible feeling to see everything from my sketchbook pages to my large studio paintings occupying one space and cumulating in a statement about my life in Istanbul.  I’m happy for the opportunity to share this part of my life with the world, in the way that I know best.  Thank you friends and family for the support and encouragement!  You can read a review of the show, as well as a few controversial comments (but what’s art without a little controversy) here, please enjoy!

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Portraits

A few portraits from my exhibition, that to me capture the very essence of my concept, the complexity of Hüzün.

A street vendor, selling roasted chestnuts on the streets of Beyoğlu, shielding his cart from the pelting rain, and a the Han worker, pausing in the doorway of his workshop, with soot blackened hands and clothing……..

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“Beyoğlu” Oil on Panel, 45″x30″

"The Han Worker" Oil on Panel, 32"x24"

“The Han Worker” Oil on Panel, 32″x24″

Hüzün

Hüzün: Memories of Istanbul

Hüzün, the Turkish word for melancholy is among the most mysterious concepts I have ever come across.  Hüzün has an Arabic root, and in one sense refers to a type of spiritual anguish, suffered when we grow in attachment to worldly pleasures, and in turn experience a distance from God and spirituality.  However, the modern concept of hüzün goes far beyond the history of the word.  It is not only a spiritual affliction experienced by devout Muslims, but also a much more ambiguous emotion felt by the residents of Istanbul.  Turkish author Orhan Pamuk described hüzün as “the emotion that a child might feel while looking though a steamy window.”  Hüzün is not the melancholy of a single person, but a dark mood shared by millions of people together, by the entire city of Istanbul.  Although a grim concept, hüzün is central to Istanbul culture; it binds Istanbullus together, and is shared with pride throughout the community.

To a newly arrived visitor, the deepest presence of hüzün may go unnoticed, or simply described as a mysterious presence or air about the city.  I myself, emerging as a new resident of Istanbul, was ignorant to the strong effect hüzün has over the city.  In the first months, I characterized the feeling as a magic, or dream-like quality that possesses every detail of the strange and beautiful city.  Indeed, it is a kind of magic, a type of collective awareness that is unique to Istanbul.  However, as the months wore on, and winter settled over the Bosphorus, I felt the presence of hüzün so tangibly I could almost touch it, and I experienced the heavy weight of Istanbul for the first time.  These works are my hüzün, my Istanbul, my surreal world.

“To feel this huzun is to see the scenes, evoke the memories, in which the city itself becomes the very illustration, the very essence of huzun.  I am speaking of the evenings when the sun sets early; of fathers under streetlamps in the back streets returning home carrying plastic bags.  Of the old Bosphorus ferries moored to deserted stations in the middle of winter,/ of the children who play ball between the cars on cobblestoned streets;/ of teahouses packed to the rafters with unemployed men;/ of ship horns booming through the fog;/ of crowds rushing to catch ferries on winter evenings;/ of the city walls, ruins since the end of the Byzantine Empire; of the markets that empty in evenings;/ of the seagulls perched on rusty barges caked with moss and mussels, unflinching under pelting rain;/ of crowds of men fishing on the sides of the Galata Bridge;/ of the busses packed with passengers;/ of the little children in the streets who try to sell the same packet of tissues to every passerby;/ of the underpasses in the most crowded intersections; of the overpasses in which every step is broken in a different way;/ of beautiful covered women timidly bargaining in street markets;/ of the view of the Golden Horn, looking towards Eyüp from the Galata Bridge; of the simit vendors on the pier who gaze at the view as they wait for customers; of everything being broken, worn out, past its prime;/ I speak of them all.”

~Orhan Pamuk “Istanbul: Memories and the City”  Chapter Ten

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“Huzun 1″ Powered Graphite and Turkish Coffee on Paper, 30″x22”

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“Huzun 2″ Graphite and Turkish Coffee on Paper, 30″x22”

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“Huzun 3″ Powered Graphite and Turkish Coffee on Paper, 22″x30”