ON THE PAİNTİNG OF ÖMER ULUÇ
As Ömer Uluç himself points out, “There’s a great hunt going on among artists.“ Another way of putting this is to say that every artist sees other artists as his prey. Just as a hunter may pursue this prey on the basis of vague clues gleaned from stories related by hunters who passed through a region before him –stories that are quite often inaccurate, exaggerated, or deliberately misleading- so too does an artist chase after his main quarry, the existence of which he senses to be among a range of targets he has selected with the aid of his current experience, in the course of this quest, the artist divorces himself from every preconception and preconditioning: every step becomes the determining factor of the direction of the next one to be taken and thus gives shape to new solutions with a hopefulness that increases moment by moment.
As a result of the comprehensive and skillful quest that he has undertaken in an artist context that at once incorporates all that has been produced in the course of history, Uluç bring his work into being. These works become material as reflections of the rich troves of sensitive and sharp observations that he has unconsciously accumulated during the process of the exuberant adventure that he has experienced freely and without confining himself within the constraints of a particular history or geography.
Uluç’s work is not a static result; it is rather an absorbing and impressive development arising from a sweeping motion. In the 1960s, after the initial phase in which he first began to take an interest art, Uluç created his first fascinating painting resembling coats of arms with a strong vertical symmetry set in a vast space. This phase was followed by painting consisting of entities that were created by combining large skeins containing thin parallel lines with asymmetric structures of broadly circular and curved motions that enveloped and defined them. These entities, a single one of which was to be found in each composition, were constantly differentiated and each emerged with a separate personality. Constituting both the basic material of Uluç’s painting in subsequent periods and his ready-made prototypes of objects, these forms also laid the groundwork for the future of Uluç’s art.
Evoking a magical world of pre-designed elements, Uluç’s painting is reminiscent of the standing colossal figures of Michelangelo; of the impossibly powerful movement of the figures and their fluttering garments of Mehmed Siyah Kalem, the great artist of the reign of Sultan Mehmed II; of the dramatic tension created by Behzad when he surrounded vacant spaces with pictorial elements; of the calm, strong, yet monumental movement of Ottoman tile-work; of the gleaming surfaces of mercurial pools in Omayyad and Fatimid gardens whose artificial trees have leaves fashioned from precious metals and flowers created from colored gems. These elements, whose basic features sweep through -no, that’s quite wrong- whose magnificent expression of solitude dwells within Uluç’s painting, go far beyond facile historical referentiality. They are something that only an artist who has succeeded in penetrating the substance of the spirit of the ages can hope to create.
The system of standards that governs the output of 20th. century and displays its humanly distant and powerful and –to the same degree- adamantine and gelid structure to viewers as architectural tectonics created from gleaming, polished building materials and brilliant glass surfaces. At the same time, it also reveals a cultural affiliation with the dematerialized tectonics of Iranian and Central Asian domes clad with colored tiles. The individual elements of Uluç’s painting and the overall constitution of his art are erected on the same genetic foundations.
Another important underlay of Uluç’s panting consists of the naturalness of his artificiality and his belief in its realism.
In terms of their general constituents, the elements of Uluç’s painting whose colors and movements proclaim their existence with such a powerful clamor are related to a world of forms that reaches back to Ottoman, Iranian, and thence to Indian miniatures as well as to chinese cloud-bands; yet they are also structured differently from these by virtue of their unboundedness. On the other hand, they are invested with an attitude resembling the ornamental treatment of the dome of the tomb of Sultan Süleyman I in which semi-geometrical medallions are majestically set at regular intervals on the curved inner surface of the dome.
The pictorial language of movement that the nomadic cultures dominating the Eurasian steppes from the 4th century onwards developed through the stylization of animal motifs and the tension that they achieved by placing and combining these on different scales and in different forms. It subsequently continued in the facades of mosques and medreses that were clad with tiles whose production eventually came to include vegetal elements in addition to these tension-creating features. İn the textiles of İran abd Central Asia, the relationships among ground, time, space, and materiality were also explored and developed. Uluç’s painting contributes to this aggregation by making it possible for these concepts to be recombined with one another while each one remains explicitly readable.
An artist and his viewer confront one another in the world of solitudes that the artist reflects in his work. The joy of sharing the sublimities of another solitary’s world is exciting for every human being. Quite often, Uluç’s paintings are pictures of solitary objects –objects that are brilliant and strong but absolutely immersed in solitude. With their trembling, coruscating, and eternally reforming interiors, these animated, lively and colorful objects soar through a void; and as they advance, now luminous now dark, through a space of across a surface that is infinitely extensible, they stop suddenly and stare out at the viewer. Having thus become acquainted, the two join one another in the void.
From the standpoint of their relationship with infinity and ground, the elements of Ömer Uluç’s panting are different from Kandinsky’s motionless forms in an unbounded space; from Hans Hartung’s large, isolated, and broadly-brushed formations that extend in different directions into infinity; or from Pierre Soulages’ dramatic and powerful dark-colored objects that are close to one another yet face in opposite directions.
The animated and solitary dynamic tectonics that one finds in Uluç’s art become steadily more apparent with the result that his paintings seem to emerge from the surface of the canvas and embark upon a developmental process that is sculpture-like. The attempts, in Uluç’s most recent work, to transform these elements into actual sculpture are an effort to reveal the pictorial representations that have long existed in his mind an genuine tectonics in with essentially three-dimensions attributes.
In Kandinsky’s paintings, objects that are geometrical and very often lacking in depth are set in infinity, stationary and devoid of any obvious internal vitality; each of Uluç’s tectonics on the other hand exists with a different and constant internal dynamic of its own. The relationship between these objects and infinity is not a condition of passively floating through space –as in the case with Kandinsky: there is instead a conspicuous interplay between them and the surface on which or the space in which they exist. This attitude invests each one of these tectonics wit an individual identity.
In Kandinsky’s paintings, objects standing in space are separated from one another by great distances while the structures of the objects themselves are stolid to the point of lifelessness; in Uluç’s paintings, the relation between time and ground resulting from the motion of objects that seem to be rushing across –and even out of- the lustrous, metallic ground representing infinity creates and additional dynamism while the powerful internal structures of the objects impart individuality and tension to their motion.
Regardless of its nature, entering the frame of a previous cultural context (such as “Ottoman”) is for Uluç tantamount to being tossed into jail. This is an expression of his deep respect for individual independence and also a statement of the ever-increasing awareness of the 20th century’s exaltation of the individual. By expressing his attitude towards the elevation of the individual in his painting, the artist brings to it a heightened monumentality and feeling of tension.
For a viewer, to realize that the objects flitting across these metallic, bright, trembling, or flat surfaces with their bold and powerful colors are charged with a barbarous force and to experience a feeling of deep reverence when confronted by the fearless identities that this infinitely powerful expression of barbarity gains for them, is to be made to experience the exhilaration of communion with those sublime objects. It is an exhilaration that eradicates the impotence of all that lack character, color, and courage and is an expression of a life filled with light, joy, and hope. Inviting the viewer into a different world, it also inspires him with a sense of lofty excitement and calls upon him to experience this celebration of his own free will.
These dynamic objects whose own cores are enveloped in brilliant colors parallel Al-Ghazali’s criticism of Aristotle’s theory of an immutable reality, İbn Arabi’s notions concerning an existence whose structure is being renewed from moment to moment, and Max Scheler’s own contributions in the same vein to western culture early in this century. The lines represented by this and similar speculation converge at the summit that 20th century art strives to reach.
The contrast that the powerful, rotund objects of Uluç’s paintings create with the plain, metallic, and bright ground on which they are set is a reflection, in the artist’s works, of a metaphysical reality that imparts dynamism and substance to Oriental and İslamic cultures and to our own modern times. This is the dictum that holds that every entity exits by virtue of its opposite. This is another aspect of Ömer Uluç’s work that makes it important.
Uluç says that his painting is more concerned with content that it is with form. İn terms of its nature however, it is clear that this is vitiated by representational, anecdotal, or melodramatic approaches.
Uluç’s painting are imbued with a motility resulting from barbarously-colored objects set within, above, beside, and beyond bright metal surfaces and with the contrast that comes of pure colors and metallic surfaces. Despite the apparently static structures of forms created from tiny brushstrokes, the forms have an insubstantiality that makes them impossible to catch. Every element is lost within another and forms seem to ripple away from each separate point like the waves of the sea. These are the characteristics that make Uluç’s art different from that of Mark Rothko; they also make a good case for assigning it a special place in the general line of development extending from Jackson Pollock.
İn the most recent stage attained by his curling, twisting objects, Uluç turns them into sculpture. This undertaking stems from the artist’s wish to reveal the core of the formal constituents of his pictorial elements that are suggestive of abstract calligraphy; of the minaret of Samara grand mosque (a product of Abbasid architecture); of the sinuosity of Seljuk, Central Asian, and Iranian tiles; of the turbinate expression of the rotund, fluted shafts of minarets in Ottoman architecture; and of turbans formed by wrapping of cloth. The fundamental structures of his pictorial objects are clearly revealed in the form of coiled ropes, pipes and hoses. The similarities between the artistic will that produced these animated sculptures, which are brought to life around us by directly exploiting all the opportunities for motion provided by their materials, and the one that created the 8th and 9th centuries gardens with gleaming mercurial pools and artificial trees adorned with metal leaves and flowers of colored stone are intriguing.
In place of the abstract protagonists –giants, phoenixes, paradises, and plucky youths- of the fantastic world of oriental tales, Ömer Uluç treats mechanical elements –objects resembling automobile headlights, for example, glower like fiendish eyes- as the concrete monsters of the 20th century. Having added them to the stock of ready-made objects employed in his paintings, he lets them intrude into the viewer’s world where they become observable. These objects are no longer the calm, innocent, and sublime entities they used to be: they have become beings that appear to have emerged from a tooth-and-nail battle and that focus their stares with all the depths of their existence directly upon the viewer. In the 8th and 9th centuries, the Abbasids created automata without intending that these should have any useful function whatsoever. By adding these moving, bellowing animals to their world, they sought to overcome their own solitude. In his “artistic solitude”, Uluç is guided by a similar desire: as the person who designs these beings, he wants to be the one who comes eye-to-eye with them sooner and more often than anyone else. This motivation is why he keeps recreating them anew in different forms.
Ömer Uluç’s art is an undertaking that is shaped as a result of a serious and sustained effort to avoid a break with the illimitable past and especially with the distinguished heritage of the east. It is indeed an important effort, one whose fruit opens new horizons for humanity that extend far beyond our country’s customary artistic output, which tends to be plagued by a short-term and rather superficial view of the west. As such, it is one that needs to be mentioned.
Translation: Robert Bragner-Mine Şengel
ÖMER ULUÇ’UN RESMİ HAKKINDA
Ömer Uluç’un da belirttiği gibi “sanatkârlar arasında büyük bir av vardır”; diğer bir deyişle her sanatkâr diğer sanatkârları av olarak görür. Nasıl, avcı merak içinde, o yöreden daha önce geçmiş olan avcıların çok defa yanıltıcı, abartmalı ve kasten yön saptırıcı olabilen hikâyelerinden çıkardığı ipuçları ile bilinmezliğin içinde avının izini sürüyorsa, sanatçı da mevcut birikimlerinin yardımı ile yaptığı seçme avlarla varlığını sezinlediği büyük avın peşinden koşar. Av serüveni sırasında sanatçı kendini her türlü ön kararın, koşullanmışlığın dışına çıkarır; her adım atılacak bir sonraki adımın yönünün belirleyicisi olur ve böylelikle her an artan ümitle yeni çözümlemelerini biçimlendirir.
Uluç, tarih boyu üretilenlerin bir arada bulunduğu sanat mecrasında, kapsamlı ve mahirane tavırla gerçekleştirdiği av serüveni neticesinde eserler oluşturuyor. Bu eserlerin tümü, sanatçının kendisini belli bir tarih dönemi ve coğrafya içerisinde hapsetmeden, özgürce yaşadığı coşkulu serüven süreci sırasında bilinçaltına biriktirdiği duyarlı ve keskin gözlemlerden oluşan zengin hazinelerin yansımaları olarak somutlaşıyorlar.
Uluç’un eseri statik bir ürün değil, geniş bir hareket oluşumunun ilginç ve etkileyici gelişimidir. Uluç, resimle ilgilenmeye başladığı ilk dönemden sonra 1960’lı yıllarda büyük boşluk içinde düşey bir aksa göre simetrik, arma türü ilk ilginç resimlerini vücuda getirdi. Bu aşamayı, içlerinde birbirine paralel ince çizgilerin oluşturduğu büyük yumakların birleşmesiyle vücut bulan, dolanan büyük dairevi-yuvarlak hareketlerin asimetrik yapıları ile belirginleşen varlıklardan oluşan resimler izledi. Bu varlıklar, her kompozisyonda tek bir tane olmak üzere sürekli farklılaşarak, ayrı kimlikte ortaya çıkıyordu. İzleyen dönemlerde, Uluç’un resminin asıl malzemesini teşkil edecek olan, önceden üretilmiş nesnelerin prototipini oluşturan biçimler Uluç resminin geleceğini de hazırlıyorlardı.