Although your exhibition has been defined as a "Miniature"
exhibiton, it represents the tecniques and esthetics
of western art and oil-color. How would you define this
As you have mentioned this exhibition should not be
pronounced as Miniature exhibiton. The reason the word
miniature is pronounced in defining the exhibition is
because I am an academic in the department of Miniature
in Mimar Sinan University and it is also because I am
known as a master of miniatures both in Iran and Turkey.
I also have works of art about miniature arts, but this
exhibition mostly conveys oil-color on canvas rather
more than Ottoman or Iran Miniatures. Usually oil-color
painting does not consist of details and the miniature
art on the contrary has details applied in small portions.
Because I educated myself and became a master of miniature
arts, the oil paintings I also represent some elements
of Miniature art with neat details on my oil-color paintings.
This reason, the pronunciation of Miniature exhibition
is not far away from the essence and the content of
The Ottoman Padishas series with tecniquely-material
and esthetically have the traces of Renaisance painting
but it is still called Miniature arts, what is your
comment on that?
Besides the exbition is called "Ottoman Miniatures
- A Painting Exhibition", it does not state that
only miniatures are at this exhibition. The Ottoman
Padishah portraits I painted with oil and used valuable
stones have nothing to do with the art of Miniatures.
They can be defined as portraits.
2) Detail of Mehmet Resat's Portrait
Can we evaluate your over all exhibition approach as
a synthesis of the definition of Renaissance painting
and the content of Ottoman and Eastern Culture?
What did you motivate you bringing together the basic
factors and the elements and techniques of East, Ottoman
Culture and the western art?
We live in such a century that all the boundaries have
been removed and all the cultures are mixed with each
other. So I had the urge to work with a more global
composition instead of working only with Ottoman culture.
I prefer to stay within western art as far as my techique
goes because it is more impressive and challenges the
art within. I also prefer to work with objects from
our culture which impress me more and I am delighted
to work with them. Also, still-life does not only come
from the Western art. All still-life paintings are packed
in a single room (The Fruit Room) at the Topkapi Palace.
These paintings in the Fruit Room are examples of still-life
made with miniature techniques as well as samples of
still-life paintings in the Ottoman arts. Especially
in Memluk Miniatures you can easily notice the sign
of miniature art.
How do you define the presence of Miniature and Tezhip
art which are the traditional and religious works of
art in Turkey and in many Islamic countries which they
were born in or performed since centuries?
Miniature and Tezhip are about to disappear. Art is
has a fast pace of change just like technology. You
know how our life gets much easier, artists go well
along with this simplicity the change brings. This way
works of art with little effort and patience showed
up. The hardship of handcrafting and focus of the eye
has left its place to thought. In the olden days and
the arts performed in those times did not have high
values of philosophy showing up front. We seldom notice
issues like this in Miniature and Tezhip. I could even
say that Tezhip has nothing to do with thought at all.
As per the art of today is getting richer and based
on power of thought replacing the handscraft which directs
the art of world today.
As an artist that knows Iran, Turkey and the U.S.A.
what do you think about your contributions both to Miniature
and the world art with your paintings and miniatures?
I believe I brought new dimensions to art of painting;
working on a shell is something only I work with. There
maybe small statues and icons made out of shell but
painting on them is my speciality. I chose to work with
real valuable stones on The Padishah portraits in this
exhibiton, in stead of painting them. The painting titled,
Leyla•s Camel is unique in the world which can
be considered as a miniature. In this painting I worked
with valuable stones like diamonds, gold, some leather,
bones, horns and ivory. I have taken the traditional
miniature art to a different dimension. You can also
find the self-species of the objects I use. Especially
the piece of carpet in the painting has the real touch
of carpet not only visual but can be felt with the tip
of our fingers.
Vanitas - Still-Life (left)
2) Vanitas - detail (above)
Your painting Vanitas Still-life is composed on a table
with diagonal composition with objects such as a silk
carpet, books, a skull, clock and etc. At the same time
these objects composed around with triple statue which
is large and dominant in dimension comparing with its
surroundings. In other words with this painting you
accomplished a very impressive composition which we
can define it as a synthesis and uniqe sample of the
Ottoman-Renaissance arts. What is the message you would
like to give?
I made this painting during the time I was in New York.
It is called Vanitas Still-life and its painting has
not dried yet. I took the picture of the statue from
a book. I created the position and the combination of
the statue. My intention is not to repeat what
the western artists are doing, it is presenting our
objects in their style. We do not have statues because
of this I wanted to present the western art along with
ours. At the same time, we can say that it may be a
good example to where the thought that western, eastern
and the Ottoman arts can stand well together. I make
my paintings by listening to my instincts and as it
flows from the inside. My researches and the elements
may be considered the same wasy. All my paintings are
results of following my inner voice.
got great support from my son Sehriyar while I was painting
this. My wife Sima's comments are also always positive
for me. For example in this painting there is a shadow
on the wall (background), which reflects a window frame
from across the room. This idea was a great contribution
of Sehriyar. My son's point of view is an important
advantage for me. At my paintings, with the first comments
of Sehriyar minimized my mistakes as well as he contributes
for the content of my works...
back to Vanitas, there nothing similar to it in the
western art of the world, I can make sure that it may
only be close to it by style. This is a result of my
thought. My son can explain you my thoughts about this
Bu resim Osmanli yazisi gibi sagdan baslayip yükselen
bir resim. Sagda, masanin en ucunda yer alan kafa tasindan
baslayip, yukariya dogru bir akis var. Esasinda insandan,
doguya ve dogudan sonra batiya bir akis var. O arkaya
atilan golgede o akisi kesmek icin zaten. Üçüncü
bir boyut katiyor, ve arkaplani zenginlestiriyor. O
olmadigi zaman resimde estetik ve kadraj acisindan bu
akis çok goze batiyor. Oysa golge onu kesiyor.
Golgenin resme dahil edilmesinin teknik nedeni budur.
This painting is like an Ottoman script rising from
the right hand side. There is a flow starting from the
skull at the right hand side of the painting to the
top. In fact there is flow to east, then from east to
the west. The shadow behind it is to stop the flow.
It adds a third dimension and makes the background richer.
The flow is too obvious but the background shadow stops
the flow. This is the only reason it is included in
name of the painting is the root of the word "Vanity"
in Latin. The theme of "Vanitas" means that
our earthly belongings and richness are all in vain
and that life is too short. Vanitas Still-life; is the
name of many paintings done in Renaissance. The skull
represents the mortal life, the other elements represent
the passing life, that is why my father chose "Vanitas".
Now can we talk about the painting Harem's Captive and
This painting symbolizes a woman prisoned into the Harem
and is presented behind bars symbolizing prisoning.
The husbands of the women in those times because their
husband had more than one wife were left alone most
of times, although they live in wonderful palaces or
houses, the world for them is not heavenly. This a scene
from that point of view. The frame of the painting and
the bars over the painting, I made them myself from
the pieces of wood that came out of the old Turkish
Sehriyar: I would like to note something
about that. My father did not craft this frame himself.
This frame was created bringing together hundred years
old wooden elements that were collected from old doors
have to mention that this frame is as important as this
painting because the reflections of the painting as
you noticed are a result of painting the bars one by
one. This frame is the part of the painting, you can
neither chage it nor replace it.
Rather than painting the thought of "bars"
or "barrier" on the painting, making
it real with wood, where did this idea rise
Instead of drawing I wanted give the painting a third
dimension by using the originals. Just like the jewelry
I used making the portraits, I wanted include the original
elements in the painting. In this means I wanted to
use Mixed media instead of limiting myself only oil
iron bars and the frame brings out the beauty and the
theme that the woman in the picture ready to burst into
tears, her innocence along with her lonliness.
did you paint Leyla's Camel?
arose in Iran as first, I started to design it in Iran
then I came to Turkey where Turkish Miniature inspired
me in terms of developing the painting and I finished
it after 7 years. Of course I did not work day and night
for seven years. Sometimes I did not touch it for 6
months and sometimes I worked day and night for another
six months. I worked on the four legs after washing
and re-drawing for 4 times. It can be washed because
it is made out of leather. The seddle on the camel is
made out of mammoth ivory. It is about a million years
old. The motives I made that are on the Leyla's harp
are inspired from the motives on the sword of Sultan
Suleyman. This part was made in Turkey completely. All
of the 32 strings on the harp are 24 karat gold, if
they were not gold they would not be as neat as it is
now. All of the strings have screws behind it and we
accorded them with Sehriyar. The crown is made of diamonds
over the gold.
are about 700 creatures touching each other on "Leyla's
Camel". The muscles of the human in front of the
camel is made out of Samur.
Each figure is the continuation of one another, e.g.
the casket on the soldier•s head is at the same
time the chin of the horse. You can notice the horse
even though you delete or remove the soldier. This is
similar to Escher's style.
"Leyla'nin Devesi'nin temasi ise adindan da anlasilacagi
üzere, "Leyla ile Mecnun'un bir yorumudur
ve deve de, Leyla'nin devesidir. Mecnun'un çektigi
azaplar, çolde ki yanlizliklarini simgeleyen
bir resim. Devenin bezendigi yaratiklar ise, Mecnun'un
yasadigi savaslari ve acilarini yansitir. Ve burada
çok muhtesem bir siir var. Devenin ayaklari bastigi
çamurlarda, insan yüzleri var, gorüyorsunuz.
Bu ayni zamanda"Hayyam"in felsefesidir. Der
ki, "Bir odada çok saygili bir sekilde oturmalisin,
belki duvardan bir padisah bakiyor sana." Veya,
"Meneksenin üzerine ayagin ile basma, belki
bir güzelin yattigi topraktan cikmistir o menekse."
Ve bir yerde diyor ki, "Ben olüp gidince benim
topragimdan bir testi yapilsin ve sen o testiden sarap
ic bir gün, dudagin dudagima degsin."
Cem: The theme of Leyla's Camel as you may
notice from the title is a composition of Leyla and
Mecnun and the camel is Leyla's. It represents the suffering
of Mecnun and their loneliness in the desert. The creaturs
covering the camel represent the war Mecnun went through
and his pain. Here, there is a magnificiant poem underlying
underneath of the painting. At the mud the camel is
stepping on you may see the faces of humanbeings. This
is at the same time one of Hayyam phylosphy. It says
"you should sit there with all your respect, The
padishah may be watching you over the wall", or
"do not step on the flower with your foot, that
flower might be coming out of a beauty. In another place
he says, "Make a pot from the soil when I die and
pass away and drink from that pot so that my lips may
touch your lips".
The four legs of the camel consists of new figures.
We do not see much similar examples neither in Ottoman
nor in Eastern art. How do you comment on that?
Bu sadece çizgiler ile oynamak. Estetik degerler
çok on planda. Fakat, daha da doguya giderseniz,
uzak dogu minyatürlerinde cokca nü figürlere
playing with drawing and lines. The esthetic values
are important. If you go deeper in the east you may
notice a lot of new figures in the far eastern miniatures.
Your painting titled, " Bookcase with Marilyn"
is made on wood and you have created a real bookcase
Because the lids would not be opened otherwise. I gave
place to Photos of Marilyn Monroe and Abraham Lincoln
because I admire them as humanbeings for the exhibition
reasons I prepared in U.S.A.
What about books of Michelangelo, Goya, Islamic Art
you gave place in the bookcase in the painting?
These are books in my bookcase, I painted them and they
How did the idea if painting a bookcase come up?
I made this case out of wood before. First I built the
case and then painted on it. I did what my inner voice
wanted me to do. This how the "Mix Media"
studies began to show upfront. The most special part
of this painting is that the books have pages one by
one. I worked on this painting for 7 months every day
How did you start bookcase paintings period? Is there
demand or is it just because of your inner self?
No I made it because I like the book. Books as elements
is motionless, immortal, and does not disappear among
the painting. If you think about an apple or a flower
they do not look the same after three days. I learned
a lot from these books and they are valuable to me.
I like books the most after my sons. Because I have
got a lot of information from the books, all I have
learned is from the books, I like them because they
are my master. I learned everything from them. I read
a lot about literature and philosophy. I do not have
an university career in that field but I read by myself
and educated myself, I think I have a considered level
in literature field especially Iranian Literature.
2) Detail of the 4 Elements
your "bookcase" paintings, I interpreted that
you have books from the Ottoman period with their cultural
references as well as western books plus Marylin Monroe
photograph in one of the bookcase paintings, does this
say that it is a synthesis of popular culture with 19th
century paintings? After all many details in Leyla's
Camel and bookcase paintings the details such as thinness
of the pages of the books with library records, what
is the inspiration source for your in a way abstract
and as well as lanscape painting titled, "4 Elements"
I am connected to my heart. I do what it tells me to
do. I have modern paintings done during my educational
years. I have a painting about "space" in
Istanbul. It is a surrealist work. Evevryone has a different
way to look at the four elements on earth. This is my
way of looking at it. For this painting I chose a skull
to represent earthand added water and a lightning. As
you know the water, earth, wind and fire. I wanted to
gather the four elements together.
The purity of the four elements creates an impressive
effect comparing to padishah portraits, Vanitas, Leyla's
camel and the bookcase!
It is different but I have poetic moods. I go into different
transformations when I am painting, also into poetries
and different subjects. In my work titled "4 Elements"
the human being comes out from the earth and goes back
into earth. The skull represents the human inside earth.
People has come and has gone. Everyone leaves a legend
behind them on their own but all of them are destined
to die and leave this deadly earth. This painting suddenly
came out, I reply to questions as "I do not care
whether it is a miniature or not". I am very happy
with this picture, as a result I do what my heart wants
me to do.
How did the idea of this painting arise?
I was in a time of hardship, my kids were not feeling
well in America. They suffered a lot. That's how it
suddenly hit me. I could say it is a continuation of
If we dive into more general subjects, do you ever worry
if the art of miniature or the art of east is disappearing?
Or do you think that todays schools and ateliers are
good enough for these arts to continue in the future
in this means?
I worry that traditional arts may not existing in the
future. As you know the old art could not succeed to
exist today and it disappeared. There were only 18 students
in the classroom while I was teaching in Mimar Sinan
University, Traditional Turkish Arts divison. This year
it has come down to only one. At the same time there
was a bid fall in the number of students applying for
Traditional arts comparing to previous years.
What do you think about the interest of the new students
that registar for Traditional Turkish Arts and how do
you evaluate them besides the fall in the number of
registration?For example: do you see the potential in
these students whether thay can perform these arts world-wide?
Or do you see them in search for this goal?
First of all the art of miniature should not be evaluated
as Turkish. As I mention earlier, we are experiencing
a big number of fall in the number of students. It is
hard to find that joy and willing in these students
that continue educating in this area. I could say that
there is a great deal of interest in "miniature"
and "tezhip" in the classes I teach other
than the university. If somebody ever gets famous it
will be from these sessions of classes.
What is your ultimate edge you want to take your art
to? Or where would you like to be in the world of art
and do you picture your art there?
I have covered a long way in my paintings, this feedback
is from the people who watch my art in different periods
and different countries, and I see the result is positive
and in front of everybody's eyes. We have much or less
talked about my contribution to the world of arts earlier,
thus I prefer not to evaluate myself. My friends, the
art lovers, and the collectioners have got more to say
about this matter. I perform the way I want to and I
will continue. In fact there is nothing I wanted to
do but I could not. Especially about painting I have
pictured all my imaginations so far and more to come
will interest my audience. I would be happy to perform
in the new museums that will open up all over the world
Would you like to add anything?
I owe my success to my family. Their comments and critics
are very creative for me.
_ . _
Translated by Babur ALBAYRAK
Special thanks to Asli & Zeynep VELIDEDEOGLU
Bircan Ünver, Light Millennium, Haziran 2003, New