I consider that it was the right thing for Şekerbank Açıkekran-Levent to set up a portrait exhibition as its first exhibition. That a space displays its own lines first, as it is new, means that it reveals its own facial features and expressions. According to Cicero, an important figure for the history of philosophy and literature as well as the history of arts, the expressions of the artist's works, together with oratory, set forth their own images: How do human's body and face speak? First come the enthusiasm or tranquility in the motions, scowling, expression in the look, facial lines, etc. Then come the relation with the objects around, nature and environment, the connections and relations of a body emanating from within nature with the other humans, and the motions in the space. This exhibition will include these two views. Both the facial lines and the subjectivity of the relationship the face establishes with other objects. A bridge or a road as well as a look constitute the portraits of human. The painting art has been dwelling on this for a long time; the contemporary art sometimes witnesses the objectification of the self-portrait while sometimes replacing the representative view with intuition and subjectivity. Like a human holding a baby in his/her arms, an imaginativeness looking at the roads compassionately can any time become a part, an extension of the portrait art. Within the Renaissance art, Marsilio Ficino had told "the visual and aural works of art are announcing the artists' spirits". In other words, the artist displays both his own soul and someone else's soul in the portraits. Thus, the art goes beyond crafts, and becomes of the arts named as "ars liberales" by acquiring a philosophical ground. Art is not a craft, but a reflection. The artist gives a "style" to his work as if he is not doing the same (coming side by side of himself, someone else, others or objects) while giving its soul; this style is not identicalness; but a similitudo. It is the similarity of its style. As Petrarca said, the son, who is a resemblance of his father, is not the same with his father, but it is possible to find the style of his father in him, biologically. He is not identically same with his father, but you understand that he is him no sooner than you look at the son. Art brings something hidden to light from its hiding place: Its power conceals something we don't know what it is. Portrait or self-portrait reveals the style of the hidden one.
Sometimes representation of the image, sometimes representation of the state imaginatively, the expressions of the moods have become sine qua non of the portrait art. Portrait or self-portrait is an approach related to the artist's methods of expressing, even more, presenting himself, in any manner whatsoever, brought to us by a look, which could be regarded as an oratory in painting. These are the methods of an artist looking at himself, which he uses to present himself to others by using his own expression. Artists convey a look that is sometimes representative and sometimes anonymous. The motion of turning towards the spirit, performed by the relation with the external objects, is mediation. The states of manifesting his own spirit are not psychological but reflexive; it functions depending on the thought. During the motion between the passion and action of their own views, the artists think with light, colors, lines, shapes and objects. Each artist continues to perform his art as a "linguistic asset". That is, the artist is both himself and his language, a language that belongs to everybody.
Since it is not "representation of a historical event", the portrait art had been regarded as a minor art for a long time. As mentioned by Edouard Pommier in his Theories of Portrait, two Italian words had divided the portrait art into two: ritare and imitare. The former was for drawing a portrait as a means of identification while the latter for illustrating something already existent in reality by making it more beautiful. Imitare, as the perfected portrait, aspired to perfect the drawn and painted face. It was a genre trying to make it perfect and more real than reality itself. In this sense, it was desirous of approaching a hyper-realistic style of painting. In the sense Baudrillard has used this concept; it was making it more real than the reality itself. This kind of a painting art was handling a line lasting since Aristotle as an idea. The Greek painters and sculptors were liable to bring the reality to perfection. Sometimes, the artist does not represent himself in the painting art, as is the case with identity. What this kind of an artist always does is to portray himself as someone else. The portrait always belongs to someone else.
In the exhibition, Şükriye Dikmen from the 1950s, Yusuf Taktak from the 1970s, Seza Paker from the 1980s, Taner Ceylan from the 1990s and Leyla Gediz from the 2000s are the artists from the old and new generations, who continue the portrait tradition of the painting and contemporary arts in the most contemporary manner. Like Seza Paker’s photographs, Leyla Gediz, Taner Ceylan and Yusuf Taktak from the painting art are settling accounts with the memory. Related with the memory factually, Şükriye Dikmen stands out for her abstractions.
The thought and the recollection, her own memoirs and lines appear in the artist's own presentation. Coming from Paris Academy of Fine Arts and Camondo Graphic School, Seza Paker displays the lines of her self-portrait with photograph medium anonymously; but here, the visual presentation is based on the representation of the environs, not the representation of self. Therefore, in her work constituting a heterogeneous series composed of five photographs, the artist Seza Paker presents her self-portrait in a manner close to the world of literature and art, which thinks that the selfhood is connected with an impact world. As written by Blanchot "the face, the self-portrait is not one that exists there, but in fact, it is the nonexistent one; the similarity starts to appear as of the nonexistence’’. In this sense, the artist presents her self-portrait as an idea, not as an identity. In Seza Paker’s works, that self-portrait is always someone else. This way, her surroundings start to become her, and she becomes her surroundings. Thus, the relation is provided.
Another example from the works in the exhibition is also intended for providing the relation: Leyla Gediz is looking at the surrounding subjectivities with her portraits. Her friends have been portrayed without any order of coming to the fore. To begin with, even before being human faces, they are the states, which have become visible, from the artist's spirit, as the elements of the artist's world of painting. The painting art is what gives the soul. The painter Domenico Ghirlandaio from Florence, Italy, who made the portrait of Giovanna Tornabuoni in the 15th century, was thinking that "The art is what gives the spirit and character, the soul". Maybe, this is the reason of Seza Paker's motion while combining the times and geographies, though they are separate from each other, by giving the elements constituting her moods at that moment, by bringing a metastable image side by side with an en route one, instead of displaying her self-portrait with a photograph: because of the fact that photograph has difficulty in catching the spirit at the point where painting can catch it. Just like, Walter Benjamin thought once about the fade-away of ‘halo’ in arts in the age of mechanical reproduction.
As a painter who has followed a hyper-realistic painting world, being shaped globally in the 1970s, very closely in Turkey's art history in a very early period in his early times, Yusuf Taktak, year 1973 graduate of Istanbul Academy of Fine Arts, Painting Department, presents himself in a certain unit of time, i.e. "in a compressed time" with a pictorial virtuosity. Lesser known and rare work of its period, the self-portrait of Yusuf Taktak, who performs his art in Istanbul, conveys this exhibition back to the 1970s, and in a sense, functions as an intertemporal transition, just like I wrote about the artist years ago. Here, the identity or identicalness of the portrait gives the formal autonomy of the figure. This is presented as dependent on the subject's autonomy as well. This thrusts itself forward with a regard to inwardness of the canvas. The subject of the portrait has become the subject himself; the subject becomes the portrait while the portrait becomes the subject.
Graduating of the Painting Department of Mimar Sinan University of Fine Arts in 1991. Taner Ceylan, who unites idea, concept and pictorial view with his occasional performances, is one of the experts on hyper-realistic picture in Turkey today. Questioning the portrait tradition in a pictorial manner, Taner Ceylan shows himself from behind or in profile by showing his hair. The subject of the portrait appears to be the subject himself. In this sense, the balance between in-out and back-side has begun to be created. The inner life is being depicted, but by showing the outside as well. When he has thought about the relationship between in and out in his Aesthetics, Hegel has emphasized that the soul has been getting into motion. The soul begins to be the painter's skill; that is, the soul begins to be the painter's hand, not just any picture. And this is handled as a donation of the life he has caused the soul make. Taner Ceylan, who is a picture virtuoso, is an artist who handles picture itself in the details. A virtuosity that belongs to the 15th century shows us that Taner Ceylan’s peintures also function as belonging to the memory and history within modernity of his picture. In the style that can be read within the distance between the person looking at the picture and him, the artist's look gives us the past in the present time.
Coming from the ateliers of first Zeki Kocamemi and then Nurullah Berk and Cemal Tollu and considering that pattern is the basis of the painting art, Şükriye Dikmen is a female painter, who has developed the portrait art in Turkey by abstracting it, and presents the woman's introspection by portraying the women in general. Here, the abstraction movement is the outward throwing of the portrait technique and material going toward a mimesis. The abstraction is about to outpace the material. The "reality of peinture" begins to appear with the colors here.
Just like Seza Paker who lives in both Istanbul and Paris today, Şükriye Dikmen is an artist who had a Paris experience in the 1950s. Leyla Gediz has come to Istanbul after her graduation from Goldsmiths University in London; a series of portraits of Leyla Gediz's friends as well as her elder sister's portrait are exhibited. The "speed" in the brush touches Baudelaire had discussed in his articles on art in which he had discussed the speed of the modern painter is felt in Leyla Gediz’s pictures. In her portraits in which she has portrayed her friends without any hierarchy, Leyla Gediz also handles and shows her pictures in an arrangement. In the exhibition, the art-fans can also watch Leyla Gediz on monitor while she was portraying her elder sister.
The exhibition constitutes a small line of Turkish contemporary art world from Şükriye Dikmen to Yusuf Taktak, from Seza Paker to Taner Ceylan and Leyla Gediz on the one hand, and it includes the works that show us the moving ones far and away from being a plastic interpretation of the portraits or self-portraits on the other hand. The facial lines or the shoulder movements all belong to the motion world of picture. The speed and motion of Seza Paker’s photographs are given as a picture in the brushstrokes of Leyla Gediz, Yusuf Taktak, Taner Ceylan and Şükriye Dikmen, in the paintings of the artists. Speed and image constitute an important part of art, even though they are standing as motionless images. Isn't it what Henri Bergson calls "time" the one that gives the motion within the image itself? In that regard, we can call them "moving images". The movement is read in the light and color (black and white) of photograph or the brushstrokes in the paintings, portraits and self-portraits: Presentation itself comes from the molecularity of the motions of time. Each one of them is capable of speaking visually in this sense.