Picture this, on the one side of where I walk, the Bosphorus with its close and weighty passage of ships. On the other, early morning traffic tearing around a traffic island festooned with summer geraniums. Suddenly a large ornately upholstered couch appears on the walkway, and a companion chair. A trick of Ottoman wimsy, perhaps, or a carefully orchestrated photo shoot for a prime object or acquisition. The chairs appear slightly absurd surrounding by the industry of ships and the blare of traffic, but also somehow poignant as chairs so often are as we recall other chairs we have known, and perhaps more particularly the people who have sat in them. This particular duo reminds me of my paternal grandmother, and the impossibility of remaining seated in her chairs, a fact for which I was duly chastised.
Arriving at the studio, I received a poem from my studio mate Ann’s partner, Seref Hazinedar. The poem is entitled “Kaldirimlar” (pavements/sidewalks) by Necip Fazil Kisakurek (1905-1983). I had given Seref a charcoal drawing, entitled “Passage”, of commuters in Istanbul, and for him it recalled the poem which is an evokation of the city streets and the thoughts and feelings the poet experiences as he walks them. Then this week I have been proofreading the Phd preparation of a remarkable friend, Isin Onol on the theme of shadows and how they are often presented with negative connotations, our words, and images being littered with the need to bring things out of darkness into “sharp light”. This she sees as a peculiarly western obsession, and she cites many examples of Eastern cultures, particularly, Japan where instead, shadow and darkness are valued, and used as a medium of true revelation. Interestingly enough, the upcoming Venice Biennale is entitled Illuminations. All fascinating stuff, and it got me thinking about my own preoccupations with vagueness, perhaps an attempt to restore a charged mystery to the world.
I awake in the city to my favourite kind of morning light on the Bosphorus, ships passing through a bewitched haze of summery mist.
Leaving this quietude my thoughts return to this city, and the sharp edged tilt of its race into some future. I like what John Cage has to say, “It is only irritating to think one would like to be somewhere else. Here we are now.”
But on every bus shelter now, in the city there is an image of a high rise apartment complex and shopping mall, gleaming behind the picture of a happy couple or family, and so, on my commute into the city, buildings keep slamming up into the sky. In 21st century cities like Istanbul where the developers scarcely breathe in their charge towards “progress”, the personal lived experience of the city is increasingly denied as is any creative evolution of living space, all in the interests of conformity. To question this so called “progress”, might even be considered unpatriotic. Along with this systemic dehumanisation of the city, is the denial of the ordinary person’s lived experience of the city; feelings as expressed in Kisakurek’s poem are disregarded. As the city is repeatedly dug up and plastered over, so to is memory. Perhaps painting the city has the capacity to restore humanity to the city in the eye and heart of the viewer, a painting in its choreography between eye, hand and heart may reawaken some of those thoughts and feelings that have been denied; paintings that emerge as a response and celebration of the quotidian life in the city, not the sentimental backdrop that is carefully preserved for the benefit of the tourists, or manicured for the latest advert for cleverly branded “white goods”.