Sketching Istanbul’s Hans Part 2: Rüstem Paşa Han

This blog is reposted from Yabangee.com where I and my friend Emilie Varlet are regular contributors.  Emilie and I, as close friends and sketchers, have been collaborating on a writing/drawing project since the Fall 2014.  Here is my contribution to the first part of our Han Series.

Emilie Varlet and Gabrielle Reeves began exploring Istanbul’s hans in the summer of 2014, when they first started their sketching adventures in the city. They have since become fascinated with these buildings and how they reflect the city’s vast history. In this series of articles, they will share their discovery of these ancient places through drawing and how this exploration has really deepened their love for the city.

Rustem Pasa Han Sketch, Emilie Varlet

Rüstem Paşa Han Sketch (Emilie Varlet)

 

Rüstem Paşa Han

Tucked deep into the narrow streets that create a labyrinth along the Golden Horn in Karaköy, the caravanserai is nearly lost within an overgrowth of the hardware stores, paint shops, and piles of fish nets and anchors that have materialized outside of its walls. From the first time I stepped into its courtyard, I knew this place was special. A lost secret, a hidden jewel of history, a glimpse of the old and densely layered Istanbul. The Istanbul from which a new one has grown — this city has continually built itself on top of its old self. Always manipulated by its inhabitants; pushed, dragged, broken, rebuilt, restored, expanded, and stretched. Yet still with evidence of an ancient civilization below its surface.

Above the stone doorway, which droops slightly with age, a metal sign is nailed into the wall. “Kurşunlu Han” is printed in bold black letters above a previous name that is just legible under a smear of bright green spray paint: Rüstem Paşa Han. Inside the courtyard and just past the spring maker, or yaycı, a Corinthian column emerges from a floor paved with worn and mismatched stones. Placed incongruously on top of the elaborate marble stump sits a water pump, frequently used by passing workers. The column, so intertwined with its environment, is evidence of a the han’s layered history.

Rustem Pasa Han

 

The complex seen today was built upon the ruins of San Michelle, a Genoese church. Mimar Sinan, the most renowned architect of the Ottoman period, constructed Rüstem Paşa Han on the site as a commissioned caravanserai. A caravanserai is a kind of hotel or inn for travelers and traders taking rest along trade routes, especially the Silk Road, which passed through Anatolia and Istanbul. The han’s spacious courtyard is encompassed by two levels of columned archways which support the deep and low roof. A narrow flight of steps greets visitors in the central courtyard and extends to both sides of the upper level. As I look from the entrance through the web of barbarous grapevines at the rows of pointed archways, I can’t help but draw a parallel to another work by the same imperial architect: Rüstem Paşa Mosque. This mosque, which bears the same name, is just across the Golden Horn, perched above the chaos of tangled shopping streets in Tahtakale. Though each building provides a different purpose, they mirror one another in both form and energy, serving as serene havens in the midst of disarray.

Rustem Pasa Han Sketch 1, Gabrielle Reeves

Rüstem Paşa Han Sketch (Gabrielle Reeves)

 

Rüstem Paşa Han is small, easy to explore, and filled with an array of workshops, glowing neon signs, piles of shipping pallets, and kittens darting under cardboard boxes to escape our approaching footsteps.  As with many historical hans in Istanbul, Rüstem Paşa was converted into a series of workspaces when it no longer served as an inn. As we draw, workers pass and take a curious look at our emerging images, and we in turn glance into their workshops where men work tirelessly in the dim glow of florescent lights, perfecting a trade that has not yet been consumed by machines. As my pen scratches across paper, I fall into a meditation with the sound of the constant work around me; the ting of hammers, the blow of torches, the cutting of metal wires, and the perpetual call for çay.

Drawing is my way of connection. Connection with a place, with the people who inhabit that place, and with the person working beside me. Whether we are sketching with frozen finger tips or trickling with sweat in the fading summer light, this han continues as a source of intrigue, wonder, experience, and discovery. Our drawings in turn serving as a time capsule of each moment and memory as we sit in the midst of human history.

 

 

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Brown Paper Drawings

In order to get more drawing in, I have been carrying a 5×7 inch brown paper sketchbook with me everywhere.  Sometimes life in the city goes so fast and when I look up from my daily activities, I realize it has been days or perhaps weeks since I have drawn.  Although I am painting, stretching canvases or working on some project nearly everyday in my studio, drawing from life introduces a different element to my artistic practice.  While studio work is meditative, something about the call and response of sketching on location makes me feel connected and engaged in an incomparable way.

As you can see from my recent drawings, I can’t seem to get away from this brown paper.  The push and pull of black and white on top of a mid tone seems to work so well with the layers of Istanbul, and I hardly seem to be starting from an intimidatingly white page these days.

If a mere 15 minutes opens in my day, it is enough to keep up with consistent drawing.  I have found through this practice that working within the limitations of my time and materials, can often provide the most creative results.

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Sketching the Asian Side from Besiktas

 

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A sketch and a poem in Karakoy

 

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Topkapi Palace on a sunny day

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An elaborate column from Hagia Sophia

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Sketching home objects in Trabzon

 

In the Snow

Earlier this month, we took a long weekend trip to the Black Sea.  Nearly 2 years ago, I traveled this region by car, camping, swimming and driving into the cool mountains and high plateaus.  This year I was anxious to see the Kara Deniz during these cold winter days, as the last time I visited had been in the hot and green summer.

I was picturing snow everywhere up to our ankles, so naturally the only shoes I brought with me were snow boots.  However, when our plane arrived into Trabzon late on a Thursday night, the air was warm and dry, a high contrast to the rainy Istanbul we left behind.

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a quick sketch of Ozgur on the flight to Trabzon

 

Central Trabzon during the day was sunny and pleasant, yet as we drove further into higher elevations, our view was blinded by snow.  Our first excursion into the mountains was to Hidirnebi Yaylasi, where there is an impossibly beautiful view to the sea.  Yet alas, because of the thick fog and falling snow, we could only see a few feet in front of our us.  This obscurity served as a completely different kind of beauty, and we walked among frozen trees and hanging icicles as if in a dream.  After a walk though the deep snow, we warmed our red faces and cold feet by propping them in front of a burning stove in a local cabin.  We were served our own çaydanlık, or tea kettle, and sipped glass after glass of black tea.  Later on, we ate honey on toasted bread and olives and more çay as it brewed on the stove beside us.  I could barely make out the images of huts and homes outside of the window, but did a little sketch regardless of the ambiguous view.

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A sketch from Hidirnebi̇ Yaylasi

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On the the following day, we drove again up the winding mountain roads to a village by the name of Zigana.  The snow was just as deep, but the air remarkably clean and the landscape luminous.  The fog of the previous day had lifted and we could see onto neighboring mountaintops for miles.  We walked through the village, analyzing animal tracks in the snow, taking pictures of the view and feeling the cool bright air on our faces.

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Return

Now that I am caught up my my India posts, here is some news from the present:

I’ve recently retuned to one of my favorite places that I have ever visited, Ibrahimpasa village in Cappadocia.  I was here last summer for a 2 month residency before my Indian adventure, and I have to say, it was one of the best times in my life.  So this year, I have returned to do a shortened 2 week research period in order to reconnect with this place, and get back in touch with that constant flow of observation and response that I experienced last summer.

Some shots from my first day..

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Drawing India

All works were done on my travels through India, Summer of 2013.

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“Monsoon Colors 1” Mixed Media on Paper, 2013

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“Fountinhas” Mixed Media on Paper, 2013

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“Panjim Market” Mixed Media on Paper, 2013

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“Market Portrait” Mixed Media on Paper, 2013

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“Rickshaw” Mixed Media on Paper, 2013

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“Cafe Sketch” Mixed Media on Paper, 2013

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“Market Sketch 2” Mixed Media on Paper, 2013

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“Monsoon Colors 2” Mixed Media on Paper, 2013

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“St. Sebastian” Mixed Media on Paper, 2013

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“Panjim 1” Mixed Media on Paper, 2013

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“Panjim 2” Mixed Media on Paper, 2013

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“Field Worker” Mixed Media on Paper, 2013

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“Panjim 3” Mixed Media on Paper, 2013

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“Young girl” Pen on Paper, 2013

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“Hampi” Mixed Media on Paper, 2013

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“Agra” Mixed Media on Paper, 2013

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“Panjim 4” Mixed Media on Paper, 2013

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“Panjim 5” Mixed Media on Paper, 2013

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Sketchbook Page, 2013

Old Goa

Sometimes life gets busy and moves so fast, that it is easy to loose track of various projects.  However, my experiences in India last summer are too exceptional to skim over just for the sake of catching up to the present.

So, its time to revisit last July, when the Monsoon was so heavy that I found it difficult to think, draw, see…but when I could wipe the fog on the window clean, I found moments of clarity in still cathedrals, in wet ruins, in the florescent green of moss covered stones.

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“Old Goa” Pen on Paper, 2013

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“Old Goa 2” Mixed Media on Paper, 2013

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