A Journey into the Depths of Wisdom with Özgür Demirci
For Özgür Demirci, the process of becoming a human being begins with respect for other creatures… We depart on an exciting journey of discovery as we dive into the depths of Demirci’s sea of creativity, who emphasizes artistic intuition and is inspired by a wide range of subjects ranging from traditional arts to mythology.
In your works you derive inspiration from traditional Anatolian crafts and patterns. How does your creative process take place? Do you conduct research into these patterns, or is it more of an inspiration based on free association?
I begin each work by searching for-building a new surface onto which I can paint as if on an ordinary paper. During this process I modify the paper’s texture, the surface and how it absorbs the paint. I find various types of paper with differing surfaces and I build a limited number of them. Each time I change the form of painting and the material that contains the paint I use. Consequently, my art is divided into phases/periods. I never go back. I am not interested in doing so. Once the papers I work with are extinct, an era comes to an end. I do not have the urge to adopt a stylistic genre and to proceed with it for a lifetime. I think such an attitude is against the essence of art; but today’s actors in art are anxious to market “stylism” as if it is an artistic must-do. In fact if they went back just a little and looked at the artistic geniuses, they would see they always went back and forth between various styles and always produced art interactively.
On the other hand, my relationship with pattern and motif began in my high school years. Right after my freshman year, thanks to some teachers recently appointed to my department I received a good textile education. I could design various patterns for fabrics, tapestry and kilims, weaving them in loom templates at the workshop and could see the results. During this time I became familiar with traditional patterns. And during my college years, thanks to easier access to books and literature in this field, my interest reached an academic level. Probably as a natural consequence of this interest and accumulation I worked at a textile factory as a designer the first year I came to Istanbul. I also very carefully and attentively examined the mosaics, clothes, coins, jewelry and motifs on home accessories of ancient civilizations in museums, which must have had a great contribution to the accumulation of such a memory.
Which mythologies, regions, cultures or periods inspire you the most? Anatolian poet/philosophers like Yunus Emre or Hacı Bektaş Veli are also extremely important. What place do they have in your art?
Since I am able to understand, I feel a great interest and sympathy for the arts, languages and religions of the East, especially the countries of the Far East. China, Japan, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Korea, India… I have always been more interested in countries where Buddhism is widespread. I think Buddhists have a great respect for nature, animals and the environment, and they live more morally correct lives. Similarly, in Anatolia I am more interested in people and beliefs with the symbol of the sun in their flags or turning certain animals into symbols because they live in greater harmony with nature. The depiction of Hacı Bektaş with the lion and the gazelle on his lap, even this single picture is enough reason for me to sympathize with him, and it is a great clue on what kind of a world of ideas he has. As what inspired Buddha, what helped him reach “the absolute reality” and “perfect understanding” was Bodhi or the tree of Bo, similarly, what brought Hacı Bektaş to wisdom was a love for nature and humanity. By not distinguishing a lion from a gentle gazelle and placing them both on his lap is an indication of his wisdom. For a human being, wisdom begins by realizing that every living thing in nature suffers, becomes angry, becomes offended at least as much as he or she does. My paintings do not depict the man in struggle with nature, they are about the thoughts and dreams of the wise men negotiating with it. In short, contemplation, intuition and coincidence are the three basic notions on which my paintings are constructed.
Another area of my focus is the Ottoman and Uyghur miniature. The oldest and most highly qualified examples of Turkish painting belong to the Uyghur Turks. The wall paintings and various miniatures found in Uyghur city remains from the 8th and 9th centuries are from the period during which Turks believed in Buddhism and Manichaeism. The first thing apparent in these miniatures is a decent life in harmony with nature. According to Manichaeism any evil deed, such as murder, or pulling off plants or fruits from trees , prolong the captivity of divine light on earth. Moreover, Mani both wrote and illustrated Manichaeism’s holy book, Arzhang, so that the illiterate could understand it as well; and these depictions are the first examples of miniature. In this sense, the birth of art in the East and West are one and the same; both develop from the urge to illustrate holy texts for illiterate people.
You say you do not plan your composition in advance, embracing an intuitive attitude. How did the paint behave on the hand-made papers you used in your new series some of which are on view at the Treasure Room exhibition? Were you able to predict it, or how can you predict it? Similarly, are your paints and pigments ready made or are they prepared in line with traditional methods, according to the examples of those epochs?
What goes around comes around. All these readings and resarch processes fill me and a place in me called the subconscious as it fills a treasure room. At some point you feel the desire to evacuate this room. And everything begins right at this moment. New images demand new materials and if you cannot find them you have to invent them. I make use of traditional methods of calligraphers when making these papers. I can never predict the results; actually getting to know the material, seeing-observing how they interact and the accumulation of experience as such will gradually render it predictable. At this stage, my case takes a lot of time as a trial-error process. I usually buy my paints as ready mades and I especially prefer Chinese and Japanese products.
Your works embody a deep narrative urge. How do you interpret them in this framework? Shall we read each of them as a sequence of a story, or is each a single story harboring various readings?
I never depart with the urge to illustrate a story. Anything that keeps my mind busy from time to time definitely finds a place in my canvases as a color or form, one day or another. On the other hand, these paintings I create as a series can be thought of as a story book; like a whole book containing various stories under different headings, with a clear beginning and an end, weaved around a certain idea or emotion and collected under one big title. Each painting is meaningful in itself, but also part of the puzzle. A finished and exhibited work is as far from and close to the viewer as it is far from and close to me. Me trying to explain my work is nothing more than trying to interpret it, like the viewer. Even if someone like me who emphasizes spontaneity and coincidences begins the process with a preliminary design, the work can be finalized in a radically different way. As a result, the story is constantly rewritten throughout the process of painting. It is never possible for me to predict the end of the painting. Working with the feeling of curiosity kept alive by this mystery is another source of motivation. I deeply enjoy looking at a painting once it is finished.
What are the new materials you would like to experiment with, or new subject matters you would like to focus your future research on?
I think of using a different material on canvas instead of oil paint. I have not pursued it yet. There are 8-10 papers I have to finish first, as soon as I finish them I will enter a new phase. I believe I will focus on Confucius and as he said, ” Either find a path, open a path or remove yourself from the path”.
How did you meet Art50?
A friend of mine had started working there. Ahe offered me to be featured in the website and we have been working together since that very day.