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1204x0x "All or nothing" Burhan Dogancay

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  • Turkish Radio Hour
    Mar 3, 2005
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      [See more at: http://www.dogancaymuseum.org/ ]

      x0x "All or nothing" Burhan Dogancay


      Walls whisper and cry to him. Doors open for him. He
      enriches his works with materials taken from real life. One of
      Turkey's leading contemporary artists, Burhan Dogancay's works are
      exhibited in 56 museums throughout the world. Nevertheless, he has
      singlehandedly founded a museum on behalf of his father Adil Dogancay
      and himself in Istanbul, which he calls `the world's most beautiful

      Q: You received your first instruction from your father, painter Adil
      Dogancay. You also followed his advice and learned a profession.

      But in the end you decided to live solely from painting in a city like
      New York. Most people would regard this as madness.

      A: They even called it that on ABC television. "A mad Turk has come to
      New York and is trying to earn a living from painting!" Courage,
      that's what it is. Since my father was an ordnance survey officer, we
      traversed Anatolia village by village. He taught me the ABCs of
      painting when I was a small child. Later I studied law and earned a doctorate in
      economics. I also did a stint as a government clerk. But my whole
      ambition from youth was to be painter. New York was the art capital in
      the late 50s and 60s. I went to the U.S. in 1962. It was a `jungle'.

      For 14 years I tried to make a go of it. I suffered severe material
      deprivation. But I had a motto, "All or nothing". In the `80s my
      situation improved.

      Q: You regard walls as `the mirror of society' and have photographed them
      in many countries. Why walls?

      A: Every painter has been interested in walls. For me walls are a poem, a
      dream, perhaps the most beautiful abstract painting in the world.

      You'll realize this too if you pay attention. The first painting, the
      first writing, was done on the walls of a cave. It's in our genes.

      Give a child a pencil and the first thing he turns to is the wall.

      In my youth there were no colorful wall posters in Turkey. But the
      posters and ads I saw on the walls in France made a big impression on

      The walls of New York are something else. In fact, walls are
      a mirror of the society we live in. You can learn all the social,
      economic and political aspects of a society from its walls. You can
      see very beautiful compositions. There is chiaroscuro, and the effects
      of the wind and the rain. Man comes, he sticks his posters on the wall
      and reveals his hidden emotions in graffiti.

      I've visited 113 countries and photographed their walls. I've
      collected posters every place I've gone. I have a very big studio in
      Soho, and one corner of it is like a big trash heap. As a result I'm
      putting together what I saw in various places on five or ten walls and
      creating a composition. I am
      taking my inspiration from several different walls. On rare occasions
      I use a wall mirror. In addition to your photographs you also keep an
      archive of each country.

      No one besides me has made worldwide photographs of walls. I have
      about 30-40 thousand slides from 113 countries. They make up an
      archive of the last 30 years of the 20th century and the start of the

      Fifty or a hundred years from now when sociologists, art historians
      and psychologists examine those photographs, they will understand the
      problems and concerns of our time.

      Q: Which motif is used most on all the walls you have photographed?

      A: The most frequent motif is the heart. If I had photographed them,
      there would be millions. But I had to find the most original of the
      hearts. In thirty years I found one: A heart with two arrows. I also
      came across a black heart on a wall in Nicaragua.

      I draw the following conclusion from these photographs: There is no
      end to the human imagination. You see things that make you say, "I
      would never have come up with that slogan, or that image, in a
      thousand years." I also see that the gap between the rich and poor
      countries is widening by the day. I predicted that the 21st century
      was going to be the century of terrorism before September 11th
      happened. Your Ribbon series has also drawn a lot of attention.

      The most important element on walls is light and shadow. I made a
      model of those walls that was my own invention and put it on the roof.

      My purpose was to examine how and where the shadows fall in the
      sunlight. I transferred these things to canvas. The shadow of the
      ribbons resembles calligraphy. In fact,
      I am not doing calligraphy but making shadows.

      Q: Your works are in 56 museums and many collections all over the world.
      But you have gone to a lot of trouble to realize a dream of yours by
      founding a museum on behalf of your father and yourself. How did the
      idea of founding a museum in Turkey come about?

      A: Every artist wonders what will happen to his work when he is gone. My
      purpose was for a portion of my works at least to stay together and be
      seen together with my earliest work. To me, Istanbul is the world's
      most beautiful city. All it lacks is culture and art. If there had been a museum of modern
      art here, I wouldn't have had to set up my own museum. When I found no
      museum, I decided to take things into my own hands. Apart from some
      help from a few young friends, I had no assistance at all. "Not a
      museum but a miracle!" they call it. We have Turkish and foreign
      visitors, but we're going to have an official opening in May. My whole
      aim at the moment is to turn the museum over to a foundation or an

      Q: What did you keep in mind when you were choosing things for the

      A: Unfortunately our building isn't very big, so we can only exhibit
      one-tenth of the works. We had room to display two from each period. I
      allocated one section for my father. Some of my works have been put in
      storage. Once a year the works will be rotated. Only my and my
      father's works will be exhibited in this museum.

      Children are another reason I had this place built.

      I place a lot of importance on their art education. All the proceeds
      from my exhibition, `Blue Walls of New York', which is currently on at
      the Is Sanat Kybele Art Gallery, will go to the Education Volunteers'

      I see the future in children aged 5 to 12. In the museum I want to
      create an artistic environment for their art education. Already
      students are coming every week.