“THE PROSPECT OF HOPE”
“Yet nature is made better by no mean
But nature makes that mean: so, over that art
Which you say adds to nature, is an art
That nature makes. [....] this is an art
Which does mend nature, change it rather, but
The art itself is nature.”
Shakespeare, The Winter’s Tale: Polixenes, Act IV, Scene IV
The cultural tools that we employ to the end of transforming nature are indeed derived from nature. One can therefore talk about common memories insofar as the transformation of nature is concerned. These memories, which are dramatic in terms of space, can give us the necessary inspiration for creating a better future that is free from bad taste and pragmatism. Perhaps it is this state of “hope” that we see in Erman Özbaşaran’s paintings.
In his works, Özbaşaran deals with the tendency of “human beings” to construct, consume, destroy, and recreate in pursuance of their needs and greeds. In the artist’s view, this is a cyclic process. As parts of nature, human beings spend their time discovering their lives and also manipulating them. In Erman Özbaşaran’s works, one perceives an endless desire to construct and destroy, which is reminiscent of the cycle that can be traced all the way back to the creation of human beings. These works virtually depict the chaos and the build-up that originates from this process, and address the relations between human beings and things, and also between things, nature, history, and culture.
Terry Eagleton writes that nature is but a state of mind where we feel at home in every respect. In his view, our entry into the symbolic order, i.e. language and everything that it entails, triggers a natural game between ourselves and our determinants, and in the process, we suffer from inner turmoil and turn into so-called historical creatures that are no longer identical with themselves. It is proper to and inherent in the nature of this symbol-making creature to go beyond itself: “It is the sign which opens up that operative distance between ourselves and our material surroundings which allows us to transform them into history.” (Terry Eagleton, The Idea of Culture, Malden, Blackwell Publishing, 2005, p. 93).
Just like traditional societies, which employ myths, sagas, and songs to give voice to their values, Erman Özbaşaran employs in his works—as parts of his miniatures—objects whose stains and lines are done away with, objects which are perhaps dilapidated, and demolished historic buildings and their architectural details that are about to vanish, all of these appearing as indistinct objects and shapes. I don’t believe that we will come across passionate or attractive styles in these works. Neither will we see a city center made up of shiny office towers that suggest the power held by multinational corporations. Özbaşaran took photographs of and integrated concrete or steel structures into his early works due to his interest in such structures. The artist, who put somber and sorrowful touches onto these uncontrollably-multiplying structures under construction, tries nowadays to detach himself from photography as much as possible, using new material. He creates textures that are destined to perish as the backgrounds of his works, which give the impression of a plan.
This leads also to some kind of deformation. Lead color becomes more and more dominant. Bright colors are not used. The artist works diligently on all the layers filled with minuscule dots, drops and stains, all of which are indeed meant to disturb the elements making up the works. Özbaşaran uses the myriad of rolling papers, which are diligently aligned and arranged, not as a discursive medium, but simply as a material. And this works perfectly well, earning the act a new substance.
The prevalence of dark colors attest to a pessimist state of mind on part of the artist during the creation process. However, in his hands, thousands of rolling papers attain unity on the canvas. What we see is a sunset perhaps, or a bedlam with fires burning all over… Or a wire netting that draws our boundaries, or a wall due to its size and dimension… We can also discern a wavy sea at times… To cut a long story short, the artist wants to disturb us. Even though the highly-detailed layers of Erman Özbaşaran’s works are suggestive of decay and deterioration, the artist actually wants us to keep hoping. Because, in this exhibition, he creates his own “symbolic” war field, which lays bare the destruction caused by war. Özbaşaran constructs his paintings like miniature paintings. We, as spectators, realize that the dots, and the buildings depicted from a distorted perspective, portray but the traces of bullets and bombs, i.e. the aftermath of war. It is necessary to give form to the elements that build up in the war field. Our perception of war as a thrilling experience rather than a totality of dry facts with regards to what happens at war depends also on whether we can perceive time as shaped by the space in question. With his works in the exhibition, Erman Özbaşaran creates this very time, and manages thus to discuss the issue with his spectators through a different kind of communication, where the spectators are freed from their senses.
As an artist who lives in Istanbul, Turkey, Özbaşaran documents the destruction of his city through this very discussion about the cartographic maps of destruction that he has created, bearing thus witness to our times. He transforms the “traces” in his works into memories. Even though his artistic techniques and use of material is rather complex, the feeling of calm prevails in his works, which makes us hope that destruction may somehow be followed by “peace”.
Through the symbols that he creates, Erman Özbaşaran brings to light new meanings and forms, and presents a previously non-existing reality to his spectators. In this manner, he offers us the prospect of change, which emerges as a problem at some point in our lives, and which is perhaps necessary, as well as the prospect of a long-desired opportunity, and downright goodness even.