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1597x0x Ilhan Koman and his inimitable sculptures

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  • Turkish Culture List
    Jan 20, 2009
      [See more on this subject by visiting the pages
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      x0x Ilhan Koman and his inimitable sculptures


      Ilhan Koman, a sculptor whose works, uniting
      passion with matter, science with nature, grace
      several cities of Europe, is being remembered in a
      May-June retrospective.

      " Unshaven shaver of stone, Ilhan Koman / Bearded
      to fly... / Wielder of bombs and babies / And
      un-sculpture-like sculptures, / Bizarre refugee /
      Who would have sailed from the South Pole to the
      North / In his battered old boat / To reach Edirne
      / To reach Selimiye..." Thus, poet Can Yücel's
      thumbnail sketch of his dear friend Ilhan Koman,
      made one day when they were on the old schooner
      'Hulda' on a canal near the summer palace of the
      king of Sweden. Hulda was home, a refuge from
      conditions of life in Turkey in the 1960s. And
      Koman was an indefatigable sculptor caught up in
      an endless cycle of exhaustion and renewal. Cheer
      reigned on the boat. It was moored near a small
      clearing, in front of a cave. In the cave, the
      sculptures and materials; in the clearing, the
      current projects, over which Koman slaved until he
      worked up a sweat.

      Hulda, where Ilhan Koman spent his life and
      designed most of his inimitable works, was home to
      the Komans and their four children and to the
      loyal friends that never deserted them.

      Every day tens of thousands of Istanbul residents
      stream past a woman, nestled among the buildings
      at Zincirlikuyu, her pure white arms flung open
      wide, her name, 'Mediterranean'. This statue,
      fashioned of vertical metallic plates, creating a
      luminous hologram, is one of two sculptures in
      Istanbul by Koman, whose works can be found on the
      streets of twenty cities, most notably Ankara and
      Stockholm. While the sculpture's white color
      conjures up images of cleanliness, purity and
      transparency, the real reason why this color was
      chosen is that the desired paint was unavailable
      in the years (1978-80) when the sculpture was
      made. In fact, Koman was going to paint his lady
      in shades of marine and sky blue.

      The iron sculpture on display in front of
      Istanbul's Divan Hotel is reminiscent of a patch
      of earth plucked from an entirely different
      geography. And the reliefs made for the east panel
      of the staircase that descends from Atatürk's
      Mausoleum (Anitkabir) in Ankara depict the Battle
      of Sakarya.

      ISTANBUL AND SHIPS Koman, whose life story begins
      at Edirne in 1921, saw many ships at Istanbul on a
      family trip to visit his grandfather, and ships'
      models were his first works, produced before he
      even entered primary school. As a youth he first
      dreamed of becoming a shipbuilding engineer. But
      there was art in the handicrafts lovingly created
      by his mother. And eventually it came, during a
      feverish illness: "My first connection with art
      came about purely by chance. I was seventeen and
      had contracted tuberculosis. I used to go to
      Istanbul for treatment. I wanted to make good use
      of this protracted period.I realized that I was
      good at painting, so I applied to the Academy.

      I showed them my paintings and was accepted. In
      other words, I entered as a painting student. We
      also had sculpting classes. Hadi Bara and Zühtü
      Müridoglu were the teachers in that department.
      'Your hands are quite suitable for this work,'
      they told me. 'It's sculpture you should take up,
      not painting.' And so began my life as a
      sculptor." Koman was sent to Paris on an
      internship in 1947 as the result of a competition.
      There he was impressed by the art of Mesopotamia
      and Egypt that he saw at the Louvre, and by Rodin,
      Brancusi and Giacometti. On his return from
      France, he entered the Academy as an assistant,
      becoming a teacher and setting up a metal
      workshop. But it was hard to make a living from
      art, so he and his artist friends briefly produced
      metal chairs.

      In 1953, Koman, Tarik Carim and his former teacher
      Hadi Bara put their ideas down on paper and were
      sent to France to meet a group known as 'Synthèse
      des Arts'. The text, which became a manifesto, was
      read to wide acclaim at a conference on art.

      Financial straits however led Koman first to
      Brussels in 1958 and later to Sweden. His Swedish
      adventure, which commenced in 1959, continued
      right up to his death on 30 December 1986 from
      diabetes and, again, tuberculosis.

      Starting from the end of the 1940s, Koman took
      part frequently in international exhibitions: the
      'Salon des Réalités Nouvelles' in 1948, the
      Venice Biennale in 1956 and the Saõ Paulo
      Biennale in 1957, the 1st and 2nd International
      Exhibitions of Contemporary Sculpture at the Rodin
      Museum in Paris in 1956 and 1961, and the 'Art
      Turc d'Aujourd'hui' exhibition at the Musée
      National d'Art Moderne in 1964, as well as one-man
      shows in Bern, Zurich and Malmö.

      describes Koman's art as follows: "He searches
      into the internal structure of the material, then
      externalizes his findings, wages a struggle to the
      death with gravity and profoundly reflects the
      contradictions of our time; he is after a new
      approach in the relationship between man and
      nature, and man and man. Following a long hiatus,
      steel, iron, wood, stone and clay have come to
      life in Ilhan's hands. There's something of the
      alchemist in his face, in those warm, dreamy eyes.
      If you see them you'll understand." Kaya
      �uzsezgin, who claims that a design lies at the
      heart of every work of art, says that in Ilhan
      Koman this design does not appear to be merely the
      first link in the ordinary process of reflecting
      externally what is inside man, of implementing an
      idea in a medium or of expressing fantasy in
      matter."In his case, the design develops and takes
      shape together with the material, assuming
      profound dimensions through the possibilities that
      material offers." Ferit Edgü emphasizes how
      Koman, who was never content with his initial
      findings but was perpetually seeking and finding,
      always turned to new quests since what was at
      stake was continuity. Edgü also points out that
      science took precedence over art in the sculptor's
      last period, saying, "In my view, science and art,
      creativity and discovery, were not diametric
      opposites for Ilhan Koman. Probably for this
      reason he succeeded in giving a structure of
      extraordinary beauty and strength to his metal
      sculptures and extraordinary forms of
      functionality to the typological investigations of
      his late period." For Ilhan Koman an object had to
      be unique, pure and real in order to be art. "It
      can be large or small, an object or a thing,
      representational or non-representational. The
      whole question revolves around whether it is
      unique and real. Art is actually an adventure that
      draws man towards the unknown." Established by his
      children and close friends, the Koman Foundation,
      which aims to take his sculptures into the streets
      and public squares, has assembled a large number
      of the artist's important works. Those that
      represent abstractions from time and space will go
      on exhibition in the garden of the Swedish
      Consulate on 1st May, in the garden of the French
      Institute on 3rd May, and at the Yapi Kredi Art
      and Culture Center on 6th May. The Hulda
      meanwhile, a 1905-built schooner and one sculpture
      that the celebrated artist never managed to
      finish, lives on with the remaining members of the
      Koman family. The visual materials were used by
      the courtesy of the Ä°lhan Koman Foundation