Demir Kardaş

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From Colouring to Work of Art

Demir Kardaş refers to his works as “Colouring”. He is an artist who avoids talking extensively about and defining his works and his process of creating art, without being lost in details. This may be the reason why he simply terms them as “colourings”. By collecting all the creative power he dedicates to lithograph in an “act”, he finalizes all efforts of defining.

Whereas, when his art, in his own words, “his colourings” meet the viewing eye, it implies an aesthetical/visual construct far beyond colouring. In the area of art where colours, lines and planes come together, you feel the presence of an infinite universe that moves in its own rhythm based on its own specific principles. Like in all visual constructs, when the viewing eye, in other words, “the observing subject” (Fontanille 1989) meets the work of art, many processes, perceptions, sensations open up the door of the world of meanings beyond the visible. The meaning is located there, expecting the viewer with all its potentiality and possibilities.

In the visual construct Demir Kardaş reaches by “colouring”, you feel the specific presence of the construct. The essential elements of this construct are the basic units such as colour, line and plane, like in all paintings and the form in which they come together. When we consider all his productions, Demir Kardaş’ paintings provide an original process in bringing together such visual elements.

As every artist, as he produces his works in the cognitive and passionate area where his own perception and creativity takes him, we observe clearly that Kardaş constructs a visual language of his own: even though he does not like making statements and enunciation about his works, he invites “the observing subject” into a specific world through his strong visual construct. His works seize the viewer with this construction. “Colouring” acquires a meaning as a concept-word for Kardaş’ workmanship, craftsmanship, “bricoleurship” while “work” reflects the level which this effort attains in discovering his visual universe.

A “bricoleur” in the workshop

Lévi-Strauss, who underlines “bricolage” aspect of art in the paintings and photographs he analyses, argues that in aesthetic creation “bringing together” accompanies the effort to “setting”, organizing an order and he made significant contributions to the analysis of paintings (Lévi-Strauss 1993).

The workmanship included in Demir Kardaş’ production process should be considered as “bricoleurship”’. Kardaş is an artist who masters in original printing techniques, and who benefits from the opportunities provided by the technique he uses through and through, and who tests them and experiences trials.

Technique, for him, appears not only in setting the visual construct but also in creating the texture on the surface of paper: colourless “gaufre” (indents and blotches obtained through imprinting on cloth, leather, paper) that we see in japanese stamps colour Demir Kardaş’ paintings as well as making the surface touchable, and palpable by hand, thus enabling the perception of the structure of his paintings by several senses. In almost all his paintings, circles, ellipses, lines flowing into the center from the right or left side rise to the surface of the paper as “gaufres” or inspire an impact of a formal variety by going into details. These vague indents and blotches that are perceived by the eye as well present themselves to the viewer under strong light. When we consider it in terms of expression in painting, besides the possibilities introduced by colour and form, it is a bricolage that contains the texture perceptibility of the surface of paper in the creation process.

This intensive work that brings about mastering in technique guides Kardaş’ artistic adventure. Besides the linoleum technique which he uses frequently, the work of the artist who uses metal engraving, screen printing derives from the technical possibilities of relief printing and intaglio printing; as production continues without any break, works beyond the new expressions follow one another.

Printing techniques constitute the soul of Kardaş’ works: the fact that colours and forms that are vital parts of this structure are interwoven indicates another craft, a work based on the knowledge of colour. Trials related to printing techniques and this knowledge supported by experinces appears as a significant factor that guides Kardaş to new forms of expression. These techniques that are used skillfully in fact, serve to the expression, and are the pathway that conveys the world as perceived by the artist to the viewer, and are the body that carries the aesthetical and semantic universe of the work.

The formation of meaning on the surface of painting: colour/line/plane relation

Demir Kardaş says that in the creating/producing process, painting takes him further away. Again in his own words, as a result of countless repeated efforts and trials, “the painting puts the ultimate point”.

For the artist who proceeds with painting without any interruptions after submitting himself to the abstract dynamism of painting, a new phase opens up: The workman of technique now heads for an imaginary adventure. The colours and lines meet each other in the space of paper, they distance from one another, and they fill up the space; the planes appear; colours cover the planes, lines divide the planes into parts; circles intertwine, colours follow the dynamism of the circles, lines penetrate through the circle, lines wave; rectangulars surround the whole, introducing geometrical areas on the surface of painting; the white colour specific to paper stops in small planes without contacting the paint; the space of painting is a universe on its own. Purity, impurity; intensity, planeness; conflict, agreement… Everything comes together in this area.

In Demir Kardaş’ works the magrin that surrounds the colours and lines on paper are sharp. A blue contour (dark blue or turquoise) surrounds the designs from all edges with a geometrical and mathematical precision as if to place this dynamic world to a powerful plane. The contour that surrounds the surface of the painting as a limit that is strong and unchanging, in fact, can be read as a meaning that aims to balance the dynamism inside. The contour is a structuring element that presents a strong stance to “dynamism” and that “fixes” the visual world that gives the impression that it would move for ever inside. When we consider it in terms of meaning it assumes, what is /dynamic/ in the deep structure is balance through /stability/. In this visual construct that conveys the impression that everything moves inside the large plane provided by paper, stability provided by the contour enables us to define “the balance” in Kardaş’ original prints as a specific element of meaning. The “fixedness” and “corneredness” of square smooths the environment in which these varieties dance in the infinite movement of colours and lines, “peace” in visual terms and in terms of meaning spreads over the surface of painting slowly.

FORM   MEANING
Contour /stability/
/with corner/ } “Balance” +”Peace”
Colour/line/plane(s) /movement/ /circle+with waves/

 

Rectangular compositions come to the foreground in original lithographs of Demir Kardaş in 2008 and 2009. In these works there is mathematical and geometrical precision: The areas separated by vertical and horizontal lines can be counted, the separated areas are in a net ratio with each other, rectangular forms are embedded in a large square, and they complement one another. In paintings derived from traditional motifs of 2008, the specificity of the square and the fact that figures are repeated enable us to study these works as modern tiles.

In his 2009 works, in its structure that superimposes the circles inserted in a large rectangular and rectangulars re-formed by thin lines, the visual construct that imparts a strong, regular, deliberate feeling of precision that represents the relation of “part/whole” is dominant just like in his works of 2008. The fact that similar colours on the grey/dark blue/black scale are mainly used in the compositions that evoke the feeling that everything stands in balance to the utmost, chronological time seems to have stopped, and decorating lines (çintemani art) specific to Ottoman fine decorations that flow diagonally in waves on the surface, emphasizes a “modest” discourse that conveys “splendour” deriving from time immemorial.

In these arrangements that evoke the proposition of Hellinger, the German psycotherapist, who argues “greatness lies in the ordinary”, “splendour” and “modesty” exist in harmony (Hellinger 1996: 51). Once again the opposition between “fixed/dynamic” is dominant in painting. Circles placed inside the square contours form a specific “centre” in the paintings (in general towards the right top corner). Now we face an artist who has established his own discourse.

In his works of 2010, Demir Kardaş produced lithographs in which mostly circles were dominant. However, this time the contours disappear from the surface of the paintings. As a matter of fact, the feeling of “centre” which is dominant in the circle substituted the disappearance of the contours in the compositions. The circles move around a centre, and each element seems to have been connected to one another through a source of power on the surface.

The colours that are located on the background in which dark colours are dominant are light and shining as compared to 2009 compositions, “light content” has become more distinct; the visual themes extracted from the past through new colours/figures/curved lines and “splendour/modesty” axis of sense which is revealed through its structure is substituted by a movement that is related to today, to “life”. The dominance of circular movements makes us read these paintings as “circles of life”, and the basic semantic area of the visual construct as /livelihood/.

Another specific element of this period is /lightednees/. In the semiotics of light, the theoretical approach studies light at two levels: both as a physical phenomenon and a psychological one (Fontanille 1995: 22-23). The perception of light requires a series of operations that relate to seeing, providing the discourse of light relates to semiotic operations that contain spirituality.

The source of light that appears in Kardaş’ 2010 paintings is devoid of extreme shining, in other words, they are dull, even diffuse, however, the visual construct conveys the lightedness to the surface of painting very efficiently. Its location is determined, it is located in top right part of the painting area, and it indicates a light diffused on space, rather than intensity. Light seems to have a mathematical value on the surface of the painting. When we read this configuration of light together with dark colours (earth and mineral colours) that are dominant in the lower part of the same section, you feel the effect of “gravity” that is dominant in all the paintings.

In these paintings “light” circular parts belong to the sky, however, other circles are connected to the earth through “gravity”. This time we observe that the paintings host the dichotomy between “the sky/earth”. “Balance” appears once again as an important field of meaning. It seems to express this incomprehensible balance which we do not observe, but we feel in this world in which we live with all its chaos.

In the paintings he produced in 2010 and 2011 in which circles dominate, small white spaces which are left blank and which does not contact with the paint draw attention. These white spaces belonging to painting paper which are left blank consciously in the original prints can be considered as a meaninful element when we consider all the visual constructs of Kardaş. The space which is left “blank” in the network of relations the colours establish between one another, is perceived as limited “space” on the surface structure while it is perceived as “breath” in the deep structure of meaning. In general, it can be associated with /air/ since it is located in the upper part of the surface of the painting. When we consider the construct in which it is embedded “the earth/sky” dichotomy that appears as heavy and satisfied colours in the part at the bottom can be associated with “light/heavy” dichotomy.

The “white” area on the surface of the painting can also be associated with poetic “space”. Charles Baudelaire’s well-known poem “Spleen” starts with a line that reads: “J’ai plus de souvenirs que si j’avais mille ans”. Then comes the space. As if wanting to emphasize the heaviness, and the excess of thousand years, the poem continues following this space: the poet talks about a heavy chest of drawers cluttered with notes, documents, and paper. This first line presents the main theme of the poem . If we establish an analogy with poetic creation, the small blank planes Kardaş leaves on purpose in his original prints, can be considered as a reference to the presence of the area (paper) that represents the dynamism of colours and its plurality as well as a reference to the white colour that contains the potentiality of all colours.

On the other hand, forms of superposition which the original print paintings contain provide opportunuties for another kind of meaning on the surface of these paintings: when we consider how in the construct that covers the area of the paper /smooth≠wavy/ with /cornered≠circular/ circles, the colours (/hot≠cold/; /light≠dark/) are combined, another significant relevance is observed on the axis that extends in depth from the bottom layer to the surface layers and from the surface to the bottom: In most of the paintings “the carrier area /the carried area” relevance (“the heavy” areas that carry “the light” areas are apperent), emphasizes once again both the “balance” position in this visual construct and the theme of “balance” as a field of meaning.

“Balance” (Theme) Visuality
“Light” ≈ Carrying space(s) With Light
“Heavy” ≈ Carrying area Opaque

 

In the circular constructs that brings the colours together and contains circularity, we encounter a plastic and poetic description of “the world”. This world, which is presented to our viewing through tens of different colours is the way its creator perceives: if we consider Paul Eluard’s famous proposition “La terre est bleue comme une orange/Jamais une erreur les mots ne mentent pas , our eyes perceive the world Kardaş paints as a colourful orange.

With the dominant colours in the lower parts of the visual construct that contain circular forms with “mineral”, and the categories like “earth” the element /earth/ is placed in the text. Besides /air/, which we associate with the space left on the surface, the element /water/ that is associated with dark blue, turquoise and blue and the relations established by source of light that is connected with the solar spectrum shaped by orange, red and yellow colours with the element /fire/, provide a key to Kardaş’ visual universe. The circular form represents both the world in which we live and circular life, and it is associated with the four elements in the deep structure.

When we consider all the paintings, we observe that the elements are not distributed equally: we see the element /earth/ as the dominant one (earth and mineral colours); however, in some paintings /air/ (sky blue and white) seems to make itself heard little. We can argue that /fire/ which ranks the second in terms of visual frequency (the colours that signify the phases of the sun), followed by the element /water/ (ocean, sea blue). In search of a hierarchical order, a structure can be suggested only in terms of form:

/Earth/ ++++
/Fire/ +++-
/Water/ ++--
/Air/ +---

 

The colour black in the paintings with the association of the themes such as “the burnt object”, “death” opens up another field of meaning. In some of the paintings in 2010-2011, it is distinct as a signature that appears on the top layer of the surface of the painting: if we consider this black image as the spelling of “Allah” in modern letters, the Eastern comprehension that views black as the sign of “wisdom” that contains all colours (in short Cosmos), implicates the presence of “a mystical” meaning in these paintings.

When we consider the order of the elements, the order we observe on the visual plane /earth/ + /fire/ + /water/ +/air/ can be evaluated in its semantic relation to “the beginning” and “the end” that can be associated with the colours /white/ and /black/. In the light of these relevances, it would not be wrong to conceive Demir Kardaş’ paintings as the reflections of cosmos on painting.

On the other hand, Kardaş’ paintings derive mainly from traditions. Especially the repeated motifs in his paintings in 2008 and 2009 (tulips, çintemani) and the colours (turquoise, red…) are the signs that stimulate our visual and cultural memory. The motifs of Ottoman dynasty, tile designs, the ornamentations of shirts or kaftans of sultans find a means of expression on the surface of Kardaş’ paintings. As tradition provides a source to the modern, it reaches to the present by a new expression.

An apprentice following the footsteps of his masters

Demir Kardaş, probably since his childhood, enters the enchanting world of painting that has always occupied one part of his imagination in 2006 to produce/create what belongs to him: he is resolute to discover the centre of attraction of art.

He is introduced to the plastic and formal possibilities of visual language in Ergün Başar’s workshop. In the guidance of his master, he concentrated on design, drawing and collage. Here he conceives the plastic values of the art of painting; he is introduced to the language of painting. Today Kardaş Works with Ergün Başar and continues learning without cease. On the other hand, this process of discovery takes him to the working environment of İmoga (Istanbul Graphic Arts Museum). He works with Eda Tekcan for 6 months in 2008, and learns the printing technique. Basic printing techniques and creation processes would introduce a new momentum in Demir Kardaş work. As he finds out about the technical and structural features of lithography, two masters guide Demir Kardaş: Emin Barın’s calligraphies and Sabri Berkel’s visual universe appear as a significant vein that feeds his enchantment. Kardaş encounters a guiding power in both the philosophical plane and the practice of painting of these two masters.

Besides deriving his power from the depth of tradition, he establishes his own individual language of painting gradually, and traces his individual pathway. The artist in the process of creation and production of original printing is only a workman who constructs one mould for tens of times, on and on again and who seeks the best.

Demir Kardaş’ unending curiosity for learning about painting introduces the members of staff at 2009 yılında Işık University Faculty of Fine Arts in 2009. In the Theories of Art and Criticism Master’s Programme, Kardaş takes courses in fields such as Turkish painting, criticism theories, philosophy of modern art as well as workshop studies. In March 2011, we see him as a student with enthusiasm and as an artist dedicated to original lithography in Imago where he held his individual exhibition.

This volunteering craftsman of painting seems to continue learning and working for ever.

Each painting is an object presented to our visual perception; aesthesis arises out of the meeting between this object and the subject, the fact that the subject meets the object in a common ground is essential for the discovery of the possibilities of meaning; in fact the creator/artist provides to the viewer that seeks meaning, the field of “missing and expectations”.

As Greimas states, “to try to say the unsaid, to paint the invisible is a special and singular experience”, as it is an attempt to complete what is imperfect. “Imperfection appears to be like a trampoline projecting us from insignificance towards meaning” (Greimas 1987: 99). Aesthetical experience acquires all its power of meaning from this statement.

This loyal workman of original lithography dedicated to the resources of tradition, open to scientific conceptualization, eager to learn, and destined to produce tirelessly, continues his journey with modesty. Like a traveller following the cosmos with his paints.

Demir Kardaş depicts his own cosmos by travelling inside the greater Cosmos. Like all artists, he combines colours and lines on the surface of paper. He retreats after combining them, and by remaining silent, allows them to their dialogism. That is how he establishes his own discourse. We can define his painting as a visual discourse interwoven by working, skill and patience. What he depicts is a discourse that belongs to the field of the viewer.

Prof. Dr. Nedret Tanyolaç Öztokat

Bibliography Algirdas Julien Greimas, De l’imperfection, Pierre Fanlac, Périgueux, 1987
Claude Lévi-Strauss, Regarder, Ecouter, Lire, Plon, Paris, 1993
Jacques Fontanille, Les espaces subjectifs, Hachette, Paris, 1989
Jacques Fontanille, Sémiotique du visible, Puf, Paris, 1995
Bert Hellinger, Kabul etmenin özgürlüğü, Sistem Yayıncılık, 1996.