Painting as an art form has a long history, going back to the origins of humanity. When I wrote about painting in the past, it was generally about how photographers aspired to make their work look like paintings and clearly stated my position on the matter: “Painterly? No, Thanks!” In this post, I would like to talk mainly about painting and a particular painter, a good friend for a long time: Hatice Kumbaracı Gürsöz.
I have known Hatice for a long time, her brother Mehmet, a good friend for even longer. When I was in high school, I used to stop over to say hi to Mehmet, often time dragging him along to do things together with a bunch of other friends. I got to know the family reasonably well. Their mother, aunt Emine, was the matriarch of the house and an elementary school teacher. The father, uncle Ferit, as we the friends called him, was also a teacher, an art and music teacher, and rarely a patriarch. He played the violin, and among our friends, we often repeated his rendering of a very old song by Hafız Burhan, “Kuş Sesleri.” It was a song about nature, chirping birds, busy bees, lambs running around on rolling hills. (Incidentally, Hafız Burhan, a very famous singer in the early 20th century happens to be the father-in-law of my uncle, small world!) I trust the artistic bent in the family goes back to uncle Ferit and his practice of painting, Hatice carrying the artistic torch in the family.
Hatice started going to the State Academy of Fine Arts in Istanbul, a couple of years after we went to college. I remember going to visit her at her school with Mehmet, mainly to borrow some money that we would rarely return! And, she knew that too. In those days, The Academy was the hotbed of all kinds of arts and artists. Every time we went there, we would see something interesting, clever, inspiring, even if it was simply drawn on a blackboard with chalk. The creative bunch lived in that building, from its faculty to the students. Various studios lead by faculty with different styles and take on art pushed the students to find their own path. Hatice spent her formative years in this creative cauldron, attending the studios of faculty who would help her develop her style.
Her style, reminiscent of naïve art, seems to be based on a strong use of color to set the mood, simplified perspective (maybe even lack of it) to aid in the narrative results in depicting lived-moments and keen observations. Her paintings may depict Hatice as one of the elements in the work. But she, as the artist remains outside the canvas, looking from outside in. The projection of these lived-moments on the canvas through the prism of her artistic sensibilities has resulted in interesting work that carries her unique eye and style.
Hatice has spent many years abroad as her husband Bahattin served as a diplomat in the Turkish Foreign Ministry. Interestingly, Bahattin is also a good friend of mine going back to our high school years. They spent time in Australia, Pakistan, Germany, Greece, and Turkmenistan, which probably influenced Hatice’s work either by providing different local subjects or with longing for her homeland, both of which are echoed in her various work. Another influence on her work is her staunch belief in the principles of the Turkish democracy, as articulated by Ataturk which often enter her canvas, especially around special holidays. Her celebration of the Turkish villagers and village life, especially Anatolian women often enter her thematic work. Doves frequent her canvas possibly as longing for peace for all. In celebrating these special holidays with art, Hatice carries her father’s tradition, and at times makes him her subject as you will see in some below.
In some ways, it is hard not to envy painting where the artist has the full freedom to place the elements anywhere they want. Their canvas is the fertile ground of their syntheses, where they bring different parts of the structure of their art together. But, to each his or her own! I am taken by the analytic nature of photography where I choose a frame from among an infinite number of frames, as a result of an analysis, often instinctively. Although we may each have our chosen medium in which we practice and express our ideas, appreciating other forms of art enrich our own. Some level of influence, inspiration, cross-pollination in art is inevitable.
Enjoy Hatice’s work on her website, and read about her numerous exhibits in Turkey and abroad, from Australia to Germany, from Pakistan to Greece, and other places in between. Art in any form is a joy to behold, even if it may take time for us to learn to appreciate them.