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EXCERPTS From CRITICS

Kayihan Keskinok (From the catalog published in 1966.While Baykam was only nine years old. See "catalogs")

 

The critical period

 

The critical period for children comes near the completion of these developmental stages. At this time a child's attractive naiveté disappears. To the extent that he acquires skill in portraying the external world, he loses his artistic force. In these circumstances, it becomes evident that Bedri Baykam, who had completed these developmental stages when he was six or seven, got through his critical period for child prodigies; but he says that "Bedri is up to it". As one can see, this statement of Professor Legueult supports our claim.

 

Taking all this into consideration, we are forced to judge the plastic qualities of Bedri's painting as we would the work of an adult painter who had passed through all the developmental stages.

 

Harmony of form and matter

 

The greater part of the artist's work consist of drawings, characteristic for the lightness of the very stuff of them, the lines which make them up. For this reason all of them achieve the form which their matter requires. The use here and there in his compositions of darker spots does not change the formal character of the work. Therefore the work always retains that light, flowing quality of line. This harmony of form and matter, which ever since Aristotle has been taken by philosophers as an element of beauty, forms the basis of Bedri Baykam's work. It is for this reason his pictures are reminiscent of Paul Klee's, Matisse's, or of the prehistoric cave drawings done in thick lines so much simplicity

 

Particular features of composition

 

The paintings done by Bedri after the age of seven are special from the point of view of composition. His pictures, when he is between six and seven years old, are constituted of open space. After that he works toward a closed space. With the transition to closed space begins a very powerful period in which the artist is striving to surpass himself. "In the compositions prior to this period, while we cannot add anything to the picture, we may remove a section or a part, or else divide the composition. But in the work of this new period, removal of the least portion destroys the composition. There is in these works a compact, organic wholeness, an order built of interdependent elements".

 

Equilibrium

 

This closed space has brought to Bedri's paintings a new system of equilibrium. This feature, appearing at the time he is seven and intensifying with each passing year, has given his paintings this particularity: Large open areas are left on the paper, or else areas of dark, securing a deep harmony in which the eye can rest. When the lines thicken, or when there are more spots, the blank spaces shrink; and conversely, when the spots lighten, the amount of blank space increases.
It is through this handling of spots in an inverse proportion that the forceful equilibrium is achieved in Bedri's work. The problem is connected with the law of contrasts. With greater numbers of spots, or with thicker lines, the as a field can balance be achieved. Conversely, when the lines are thin, or the spots more dilute, the whiteness is thereby unaccentuated and the surface must be quite large. In either type of execution, there is a great difference in the proportion of black and white in the picture. Together with this, an asymmetric type of composition is carrying Bedri toward a form newer than those of the latest trends. It is impossible not to agree with the correspondent of the New York World Telegram and the Sun when he calls Bedri "the forerunner of 21st century art".

 

Baykam as an expressionist

 

Insofar as Bedri's paintings take place within the framework of a subject, of an event, he is an expressionist. This affects not only the unfolding of his compositions, it also assures that the line will be expressive in itself, so much so that it often achieves a dramatic quality. This expressionism, however, has not led him to paint in detail. With him there is neither one line too many nor too few. He attains to the richest expression through this most economical system of line and spot. "The realities hidden behind the external are, in his portraits, brought forth with an intuitive talent. With Bedri, a few lines are enough to show the model's psychological state".

 

Diverse elements come together, in his compositions, to make up a consistent whole. In my opinion, Bedri has been able to reach this point, which brings to his works their style, as the result of a particular interpretation given by him to certain instinctive preoccupations of the painter.

 

One day, Bedri gave the following answer to a question of mine: "What occupies my thoughts the most is the problem of how to bring trees, houses, people and mountains into harmony." The "extraordinary rhythm" in his works is without question the result of this preoccupation. In his rhythms, which take shape through cyclic repetitions of motion, arabesques and motifs having the same feel, one senses a quality at whose base lie the ancient Turkish calligraphy, miniatures and decorative arts. Generally Bedri Baykam brings into play undulant rhythms produced through slant wise motion. He also uses the up-and-down rhythms of the carpets or the traditional folk dances. We can see this even in the paintings inspired by his short trips to Europe. As Raymond Legueult says, "all of Bedri's works reflect the atmosphere of the land in which he lives".
***
From the Art Galeri catalog 1982
"If Bedri were 16 or 18, I'd say he was a genius. You tell me he is six years old. What can I say? This work shows incredible talent."

Charles Palfi
Director, School of Art
Geneva, Switzerland

 

"Bedri Baykam is the hero of the day. Amazement is the impression which overwhelms us when we loot at his drawings. This amazement is many-faceted. His child's soul was perhaps that of a Davy Crockett, a Marshall Rommel or an Ataturk: or that of a visionary perhaps. Think of Mozart, of Chopin, of Roberto Benzi and of so many others. Bedri Baykam is certainly one of them."

Marcel Perret
L"Express Dimanche
Switzerland

 

"It's impossible to describe Bedri's work, independent and original, beyond the framework of art as we know it. To find the source of inspiration or seek a resemblance to Matisse, Picasso or Dufy is a futile occupation. Everything he draws is pure 'Bedri Baykam'"

Selmi Andak
Art Critic
Cumhuriyet
Istanbul/Turkey

 

"There are those who claim that one can not be a painter before the age of 14. As one who has proved that Rafael started painting at the age of six, I'm glad that Bedri confirms my theory."

Dr. Wilhelm Stein
Professor, History of Art
Bern, Switzerland

 

"The work of this child is amazing. The graphic elegance, the unfaltering precision of his line which runs in precious arabesques on the white sheet, bring to life a whole world of personages, animals and objects, all admirably described and variegated. This child is born with an extraordinary gift. He is seven years old, a dangerous time for child prodigies. But this one seems up to it!"

Raymond Legueult
Professor, Ecole Normale
Supérieure des Beaux Arts
Paris, France

 

"Seven-year-old Bedri Baykam does not only achieve the extraordinary within the particular style of his age of development, he is also an extremely unusual child who, with the power to shape and the feeling for form of an adult artist, carries out the task set before him with the outmost rapidity; and this as if he were playing all the time. What is astonishing is that, apart from this ability, he understands the realistic fundamentals of a difficult subject (a front view of a horse-carriage, for instance) without impairing in the least the formal qualities of the drawing."

Prof. Dr. Ludwig Hofmann
Pedagogical Institute
Vienna, Austria

 

"He can draw with both hands equally skillfully, can pass from the figurative to the non-figurative, can make use of a brush, a pencil or a charcoal, and finally can enliven Matisse and Miro before our very eyes."

Le Figaro

 

"To appreciate and assess this phenomenon at its proper value one can't help but cite the cases of Rimbaud, Pascal on Menuhin and remember Mozart's precociousness which had caused quite a sensation at the time.
... In the case of Bedri we are faced with a painting, and even with a pictorial art of the highest quality.
... Bedri Baykam is in fact a painter; a painter as much by his drawings as by his colors and original character.
... In Bedri's painting we are given a lesson which has not yet been fully appreciated, a way of understanding and grasping through intuition such as Dufy, Kandinsky or Chagall have passed on to us.
... In Bedri's work one discovers that instead of mastery there is intuition, which is at the basis of all perception, instead of discipline, simplicity, and instead of imperious order of the aesthetic elements, there is innate talent."

José Alcaraz
Musical-Mexico

 

"This child draws, not like Raphael, but like Saul Steinberg and Paul Klee."

Andrew Hudson
Washington Post

 

"Bedri Baykam is nine-year-old boy who comes from Turkey to show us these first fruits of talent which undoubtedly he has.
Young Bedri shows on the one hand an elaborate, even pathetic irony in his drawings of the lines of a face, and on the other hand a vivid sense of movement in his delineation of figures dancing, fleeing away or wrestling, and in the sudden apparition of armed horsemen on the white surface of the sheet without one excess line in the essential rendering of this sudden motion of images."

Professor Arturo Bovi
Rome, Italy

 

"The composition covers the whole sheet of paper with small designs over large surfaces. There is a powerful mastery over material in such a manner that the spontaneity of expression is in no way hindered. All this has a distinctness which an adult artist can only achieve after a long process of development."

Hufvudstadsbladet
Helsinki, Finland

 

"In 1964 Raymond Legueult was writing the following about Bedri Baykam: 'The work of this child is astounding... His drawings are astonishing in their quality. The elegance of design, the unfaltering precision of line running through the white sheet of paper in elaborate arabesques give life to a whole world of people , animals and objects wonderfully vibrating in description and diversity'.
Bedri Baykam was seven-years old at the time. He is fifteen now. However he has kept that prodigious talent and has added to it dexterity, freedom of expression, extreme sobriety of style and especially freshness of emotion which attribute to all the themes that inspire him, to his landscapes in particular, an extraordinary poetical element. A few lines, some spots, dusky shades, some gray strokes will suffice to suggest a bridge over the Bosphorus, a hill emerging from the mist, a coast hanging between the sky and the sea. All this is expressed with a laconism which an artist can only acquire at the end of a long career."

Frank Elgar
Carrefour-Paris
***

 

Baykam is among the artist who achieved a formulation of their style in a period when they rebelled against the cerebral attitude of the Conceptualists as well as the cool posture of Pop Art and the meticulous renderings of the Photo-Realists. As for the doctrine that a painting was essentially a matter of space flattened into a single color plane-this no longer seems very interesting.

***
Much of Bedri Baykam's work, while necessarily and purposely reflecting the recent past and the current situation in art is also essentially autobiographical. His brush has the stroke and drip of Abstract Expressionism. His imagery is indebted to Surrealism and to popular culture. His painting and his manner of working is partly derived from Performance and Action Art. His work is strongly effected by the fluid movement of the filmic image. (Baykam has actually worked as a filmmaker). His painting is clearly concerned with politics and with the politics of art in particular. He is an artist who has read and looked with great attention and who has written critical pieces himself. He has absorbed the art from his own Turkish culture as well as from the Western world and fused it with his personal experience to create a vital, authentic art of activated color and passionate feeling.

 

(From the catalog; Peter Selz, Dramas of Human Encounter, 1986)

 

***
Baykam, who besides being one of the leading and most popular figures on ¸the contemporary Turkish art scene, has been very active in the West during the 1980's while introducing the attitude and sophistication of an international artist to the Turkish art scene. He is also the author of very controversial articles and sees himself as the "Guevera" of third world art. In his writings, which are published in various magazines, he makes it clear and obvious that he knows not only the contemporary art world but also the fact that the things that lead to the construction of art history and art market happen "behind closed doors".

 

(From the catalog; Beral Madra, E.M Donahue New York 1988)

 

***
"Si un artiste présente de l'intérét, il est automatiquement d'avant-garde. Mais il ne fait pas de l'avant-garde. Il fait de l'art, tout court. Peut-on faire de la recherche à longueur de vie? Picasso lui-même a voué une partie de son temps à propager ses propres découvertes. A partir d'une archétype extrémement précis, qui est le discours cubiste, Picasso a fait de la diffusion bien emballée ( du produit qu'il avait mis au point. Il y a des gens qui font cette vulgarisation à un degré moindre. Mais comme le disait Picasso lui-même, 'faire un chef-d'oeuvre dans sa vie, c'est merveilleux, en faire deux, c'est exeptionnel, en faire trois n'est réservé qu'à de trés rares élus'.
Bedri Baykam fait tomber quelques grains de sable sur le chemin afin que chacun puisse refaire la route qui le méne de ville en ville, de pays en pays à la recherche de cette peinture qui court le long du siécle."

Otto Hahn (From the Baykam catalog; Paris, Galerie Lavignes-Bastille. April 1990, see "catalogs")
26 fevrier, 90

 

***
Since 1987, Bedri Baykam's works operate as a kind of repository. They overview and exhaust the limits of the intelligibility of Painting in paradigms of styles and currents.

 

***
In 1987, Baykam began to tag his works with his famous motto: "This Has Been Done Before". At first painted boldly on a white plain canvas and then repeated at various occasions in installations, in the corner of different paintings and finally as a repeated element of depth together in his drips and other works, it did not impose a singular meaning. It pointed to a moment of crisis in the production of Art in general, the feeling of being at the end of History. At other times it would confirm a space for Baykam in the History of Art. There was also the issue of originality and authenticity which existed in every image which threw the practice of the critic into question. The critic was disarmed of his most repeated and cherished weapon, through which s/he was used to shoot down any work done in the last decades. The humor and sarcasm of the conceptual graffiti brought a light ending to a heavy crisis.

 

***
As one of the early neo-expressionists, he found it hard to convey it to both words. U.S.A and Europe the demand was for an all-too-obvious "local and provincial touch": How could the Turk be a neo-expressionist?

 

(From the catalog; Vasif Kortun, E.M Donahue Gallery New York 1992)

 

***
The roots of Baykam's political works lie in his art. In the paintings he has made since the beginning of the 80's there have always been references and allusions to daily politics.Some works he has displayed in his shows since 1987, (Such as "Kubilay's Room", "Democracy Box", "Protest on Censorship", "27th May 1960", "Turkish Independence War") have focused almost exclusively on the relationship between art and politics and represent important milestones to this chapter. Baykam has also created rich abstract and figurative expressionist canvas series.
The big canvases, bright colors and dynamic figures and his bold statements about consumerism, triviality, eroticism and conventions took the people by storm.

"From the catalog; Beral Madra, Livart 1994"

 

***
Baykam went on to establish himself as the first free-standing artist to live by his own work in Turkey, but he also started fighting in defense of the principles of the secular state.

 

***
Baykam made an immediate impact on a cultural scene still overshadowed by the military coup of 1980. Most artists were still shy of public and political themes, but Baykam struck out riskly, confronting the limits of a military state that, under Ozal seemed to make repeated concessions to Islamic fundamentalism while maintaining a quasi-dictatorial squeeze on personal and political liberties.

(Patrick Wright, The Guardian 1994, Saturday, November 12.)

 

***
The degree to which the art-world has changed was forcefully brought home to me when I made a flu-laden dash to Istanbul and back just before Christmas. The occasion was a big retrospective exhibition of work by Bedri Baykam held at the Atatürk Cultural center which occupies one whole side of Taksim Square. Baykam, now in his forties, is perhaps the best-known contemporary Turkish artist. He exhibits in France and in America as well as in Turkey. During his time in America he protested vigorously about the way in which American museums, specifically the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, discriminated against Third World artists, almost without being conscious of doing so. He renewed this protest in Europe, at the time of the 'Magiciens de la Terre' show held in paris. This show, as he pointed out in a polemical text entitled, 'Monkeys' Right to Paint', still insisted on regarding all Third World artists as either unsophisticated primitives or as decadent imitators of Western modes. Baykam is an example of an artist fully versed in modernist sophistication who nevertheless attempts to deal with subject-matter which is often purely Turkish. Furthermore, many of his paintings deal, not with the past, but with the turbulent present of a country caught between East and West. His political commitment is such that he writes a regular newspaper column concerned, not with art but with political and social issues. The opening reception for his exhibition was therefore also a political event-it attracted not only fellow artists but those determined to support the secular state founded by Kemal Atatürk, in the face of increasing Islamic fundamentalism. No American artist occupies such a central place in the national culture and in fact no British artist does either.

Edward-Lucie Smith, Art Review, London, p-30, February 2000

 

***
Bedri Baykam is easily the most famous contemporary artist in Turkey. In his extravaganza exhibitions he includes music, video and sometimes performance art as well as dynamically explaining the art himself to anyone, old or young,who is interested. As a result of his flamboyant personality, Bedri Baykam has many fans, almost like a sports star, among people of all ages.
Preferable are Baykam's paintings after he returned to Turkey in the late 1980s and 1990s,when he was outraged by the political oppression, tortures and even murders of prominent intellectuals in those years. He is also on a campaign against fundamentalism and a major advocate of what is called "Kemalism" in Turkey, the avid followers of Kemal Atatürk. These works are straightforward both as paintings and as statements; they use bold photo transfers of shocking newspaper headlines or portraits of famous political leaders accented with brilliantly colored slashing gestures. "The Nazim Hikmet of Che, The Cuba of Nazim Hikmet" even includes an entire poem by Nazim Hikmet, a famous Turkish poet who was paid homage by Che Guevara. Baykam's style clearly takes off from Andy Warhol's portraits, particularly the famous Mao, but these works are far from deadpan. Returning to Turkey in 1989 was definitely good for his art.

Susan Platt, Art Papers Magazine, Atlanta p-54, May-June 2000
I’ARCA

 

For Baykam, life seems to be a continuous battlefield. After the years spent in the USA (1980-87) and in Paris (1975-80) his return to Turkey was marked by sociopolitical commitments, which found him in the fore frant for the libertarian cause of the Center-Left-wing coalition. Bedri baykam began his artistic life very early, with solo exhibitions of his work already at the age of six. An almost magical name rests upon thes political and artistic commitment of his: Suphi Baykam, the name of his father, a greatly prestigious polotical personality, with whom he shared a great feeling which is renewed today with another Suphi, his son. In actual fact, strong ideological battles are still going an in Turkey, due to non-stabilized democratic structures, difficult relationships between the East and the West-vhich affect international politics as well- religious questions and monetary inflation. But in spite of all this, and despite the fact that some of his friends have fallen, victims of terrorist attacks, this exenfant prodige from Ankara, who has been living in ‹stanbul for many years, has kept his energy intact, as well as his nature as a tireless storyteller, as a pictorial and caustic narrator. Hes has continued his battle in faor of non-Western art not by distributing handbills in the waorld capitals, but by launching powerful, vigorously expressive messages from the placid, enchanting Bosphorus-messages that declare the right to all the positive incentives of life.
This has been done before is another emblematic title. It is related to the comment that Westerners have often made on non-Westerners work; it concerns the principle of free crossing-through that Bedri has assumed, but on different grounds than those of postmodernism. Writing, scratches on the canvas, wide, liberating Pollock-like backgrounds, a minute handwriting with an impressionistic feel, overwhelming pin-ups, messages from literature, sections of photograps, etc. Are elements that he uses in various ways and that time after time take teh form of chaotic, vitalistic tales: an unrepeatable moments of myokinetci and conceptual energy, an astonishing palette.Clement’s Purity (1989) is an emblematic paintin: on an essential, abstract motif with a black background, the orange-yellow title stands out. Clement Greenberg is targeted, the theorist who, on traditional grounds, is responsible for the “purty” of Americam abstraction, although Bedri is not one of the minimalists the critic considered to be a great enemy. In his most recent paintings, Baykam has slackened and altanated a gasping beat with a more incisive and contemplative rhythm: dreamed visions, roaming shapes, like light clouds, with a lyrical character. They seem to tell us that tehe guerrilla fighter does not disdain sitting down and looking out from the Eastern and Western shores of the Bosphorus in turn.  

Nka Journal of CONTEMPORARY AFRICAN ART

 

In addition to being one of Turkey’s best-known and prolific painters –his artistic career actually began at the age of six- as well as an extensive writer on art and politics, Bedri Baykam is also a cultural activist or what he chooses to call a cultural guerilla.
Part I, or ‘Monkey’s Right to Paint’, argues that modern art is a world phenomenon, not just a western manifestation, which would not have reached the reverence that it has without the artistic and cultural contributions of past non-western cultures, especially those of Africam art and artists. Baykam supports this thesis by including an ideological profile of the western art critic, a critique of the biased nature of art historical narration, even, asketch of the western artist, whose advantageous position is secured throigh art institutional backing.
In Part II Baykam moves away from examining ideological and art historical conditions underlying artistic exclusion and scrutinizes the nature and function of the present art world. There, he examines the overwhelming impact of Duchamp’s concept of the ready-made on the post-modern art world, in turn crippled into a state of neo-ready-made. As Baykam often states, ‘This has been done before.’ Locked in a dead-end and unable to surpass this apathy the art world and its attendant art structures have gone into textual production overloda. Art, it seems, cannot survive without the written text. But Baykam does not entriely deflate art writing, just texts that push art “beyond.. Its real value, content, and depth.” (p.291)
Overall, Baykam’s Monkey’s Right to Paint is a seminal book written by an artist for artists. But it also speaks directly to western art critics and historians by mirroring enduring ideological attitudes expressed toward artists of the periphery. Moreover, this artistic modus operandi provides instructions on how to alter art history’s universalist narrative traditon so as to ensure fairer professional inclusion of non-Western artists. Yet, Bedri Baykam fosters no illusions that his art world –more egalitarian, tolerant of artistic diversity- can come into being without struggle from within the art system.

LIBERATION
Expo/Bedri Baykamjoue avec les matières.
Vision de femmes
Galerie Lavignes-Bestille
27 rue de Charonne, 75011. Rens.: 01 47 00 88 18 Jasqua’au 13/7.

 

Il existe au mouns un artiste pop en turquie, en la Personne de Bedri Baykam (né en 1957). C’est ce que rappelle cette exposition, qui réunit une dizaine de ses tableaux récents, plus une vidéo, sous le titre Intrigues féminines.
Des Intrigues donc, et même des intrications et des imbrications entre le sujet qui domine chaque toile-une figure féminine, genre bimbo nue-et le cadre dans lequel elle est mise en avant, fait d’une juxtaposition de motifs, certains peints, d’autres imprimés dans les divers matériauxjuxtaposés par l’artiste: rideaux, bouts de tissus, revêtements de sol. Histoire de jouer avec les images, les matières, le kitsch et de mettre en jeu de cachecache figuration et abstraction. Le tout avec une grande facilité.

 ART ACTUEL / mai-juin 2002

 

Avec sa nouvelle série spectaculaire, Bedri Baykan entend bien se réapproprier cette éternelle histoire érotique de la femme. Richesse des matériaux, géométrie harmonieuse de tissus, de revêtements en plastique, de plaques en zinc, de pigments éclatants et de photocollages. Le tout agencé avec un plaisir si contagieuxqu’il est difficile de résister à I’envie de caresser ces jolies filles trop lascives. Voici “Intrigues Féminines”, douce apologie de la liberté sans entraves par un des enfants terribles de la litterature et de I’art en Turquie. Tous les Turcs (ou presque) savent qui est Bedri Baykam. Né en 1957, il exposait dès I’âge de six ans.o le considere encore aujour-d’hui comme I’un des pionniers du nouvel expressionnisme. Par ailleurs, il est aussi un très actif militant du Parti kémaliste, qui prône inlassablement les valeurs démocratiques et laiques dans un pays tiraillé par son histire entre I’Orient et I’Occident, hélas encore déchiré par les conflits ethniques ou religieux. Auteur d’un best-seller romanesque, “L’Os” (censuré pour pornographie puis autorisé à reparaître quelques mois plus tard, qui racontait avec près d’un an d’avance les conséguences d’un terrible attentat à I’avion piégé contre un gratte-ciel new-yorkais) et de treize essais dont huit sur la politique et cing sur I’art, il ne mâche pas ses mots.
Chacune des expositions de Bedri Baykam est un événement. Ses perfonmances mêlent convictions politiques, libération sexuelle, tolérance, générasité, provocation. Une vitalité qui serait celle d’un néo-fauve en liberté, un Attila du pinceau jouant du multimédia et de sa notoriété pour de nobles causes. Combats de femmes enduites d’huile d’olive, jockey fou à la recherche de son cheval, tentative de visualisation des rêves d’une princesse endormie, recherches sur la psychologie humaine et le sexe, vrais animaux et vrais acteurs réunis en performances, voilià quelques-uns de ses excès qui attirent toujours la foule et qui provoquent des débats. Et si par hasard vous vous demandez encore si “Cela n’a pas été fait avant”, Bedri Baykam vous répondra, de façon affirmative: “L’Art c’est oser. C’est créer I’histoire, mâcher I’histoire. Impressionner les personnes intelligentes et les belles femmes. Trouver un soleil bleu. Vivre tous les jours comme le samedi. Etre une tête de Turc. Tromper le diable. Etre empoisonné par la peinture. Habiller une peinture comme déshabiller une fille. Décider de ne pas aller en vacances. Refuser la réincarnation.” Sujets sur lesquels il est intarissable.

LE MONDE / Le femmes de Bedri Baykam / 24 Juin 2002

 

Bedri Baykam est amoureux de la vie, des femmes, de la démocratie, des femmes, de la liberté de penser, des femmes, et on en oublie. Cet artiste turc né en 1957 a fait sa première exposition è I’age de six ans. Chaque génération connait son petit prodige, mais Baykam est le seul à avoir duré. Sans doute parce qu’il est boulimique: il peint, photographie, filme, écrit, milite pour la laicité, édite une revue et a publié un roman porno à Istanbu, en décembre 2000, qui imagine, avec dix mois d’avance, la destruction d’une tour de New York par un avion de ligne.
La galerie Lavignes Bastille expose sa dèrniere série, une vidéo et des tableaux, sur le thème “Girly Plots Intrigues féminines”. Ce n’est pas politiquement correct. Baykam est peintre, donc voyeur, et son goût pour le baroque oriental donne è ses ceuvres une luxuriance dont les Europèens ont perdu I’habitude.

FRANK / An International Journal of Contemporary Writing & Art

 

Down to the Kemik: Bedri Baykam and The Bone
As Turkey struggles to find its place in the European family, famed Turkish painter and cultural provacateur Bedri Baykam launches his most audacious coup to date: a deeply personal retrospective of a half century of art and action echoing the political and social turmoil of his country. A record 3000 people turn out for the grand opening in the Atatürk Kültür Merkezi in central Istanbul.
Turkey’s contradictions between economic sophistication and blatant poverty, democratic aspirations and human rights record and worldly intellectuals amongst virulent fundamentalists, baffle many Western analysts ready to accept Turkey as a European equal. At worst, Turkey’s external image remains stymied by unfortunate cultural stereotypes-belly dancers, Gastearbeiters, Midnight Express, Byzantine exoticism- the very things that Baykam and his three decades of abstract expressionism, multimedia performance art and politicized conceptual installations have attempted to dismantle. “If we don’t represent an economic advantage to Western museums and galleries we’re as valuable as monkeys in a zoo” the painter states.
Baykam’s work incorporates objects, political news, old love letters, cut-outs of glossy porn stars and photographs of himself and thus nothing can be tossed until the artist combs the print with scissors. It all becomes art and statement.One wonders if it isn’t obsessiveness that ultimately cements an artist’s place in the history books. Driven by a passion to prove to the Western art establishment that talent and innovation are universal –in 1987 he installed a public ballot box and asked viewers to vote on the question “Do Monkeys Have a Right to Paint?” With 93 % answering yes, he decided to keep painting. Part of Baykam’s genius is his seemingly non-depletable energy to both create and self-promote, which he does with an unabashed bravado, often converting simple fans into adoring believers. His greatest accomplishment may be the way he has activated sponsors, banks, city government, Turkish Airlines and a major industrial holding company, to publicly back art that openly affronts the values and traditions of its own culture.Likened to the status of Andy Warhol in this country of 65 million, Baykam released a silver-cased 500 page bi-lingual monograph with an embedded DVD video documentary on his life and work, a publishing first for a mid-career artist anywhere, he claims. A household name in Turkey, his limited fame in Paris, London, Milan, and New York speaks directly to his raison d’etre as spokesperson for high culture from “the rest of the world”.

ART REVIEW/ March 2002

 

For Turks everywhere, he is a major star. About a year ago I took him to lunch at my local Turkish grill house here in London. The proprietor and all the waiters recognized him as soon as we walked in. It was as if I’d arrived in the company of Elizabeth Taylor. Photographs were taken and autographs signed. I still benefit from the association whenever I eat there.
In stanbul, Bedri works in a well-lived-in studio that overlooks the tumbling rooftops of Pera. He also edits a glossy art magazine called Skala. He has recently written a bestselling novel entitled The Bone. Banned in April 2001 for being “obscene, indecent and dangerous to the healthy development of society at large”, Bedri’s book was finally unbanned last November.
One reason for the size of Bedri Baykam’s audience in his native country is that everything he does has political significance. Bedri is what Turks now call a Kemalist –a committed defender of the secular state created by Ataturk against a rising tide of Islamic fundamentalism. His work nowadays tends to avoid directly political themes. It makes its point, just as his novel does, through gleeful, uninhibited eroticisim. The new show-later to bee seen in reduced form in both Paris and New York- is called “Girly Plots”, and that is what it is about: girls, posing raunchily and wearing little or nothing. The works are for the most part large-scale collages, and the photos, though inspired by the soft-porn magazines Bedri collects (you find them in piles in his studio), were all taken by the artist himself.
For an outsider like myself, the exhibition had fascinating overtones and undertones. In the United States, its imagery would undoubtedly arouse feminist ire, and it will be interesting to see how the work fares when it reaches West 24th Street. Similarly, it would be impossible to put on a show of this kind in Turkey’s neighbour, the Islamic Republic of Iran. Feminists and Islamists alike abhor this kind of imagery- not merely representations of the nude female body, but representations that focus on the provocative aspects of sexuality and the submission of the female body to the tyrannous male gaze. In Istanbul, however, these images are, on the contrary, the emblems of liberty. The provocative, flashy style of dress favoured by many young, urban Turkish women says the same thing.
Bedri Baykam has already had such a long career as an artist that it is easy to forget he is, in local terms, a middle-generation artist.

 

Sanat ve Politika Bedri Baykam'ın Rüya Sahneleri; 4-d Çalışmaları üzerine düşünceler
Baykam, Rüya Sahneleri: 4-D çalışmalarında Türkiye'de mevcut durumu postmodern biçim dili ile ele almış, "rantable" olmak yerine entellektüel açılımlar yapmıştır.
Sevil Dolmacı

 

Bedri Baykam, son on yıllık süreçte meydana getirmiş olduğu "Saydam Katmanlar", "Dişi Entrikalar", "At Serisi" ve "Lolitart(e)" gibi serilerinden yola çıkarak geliştirdiği ve lens teknolojisini kullanarak boyutlandırdığı Rüya Sahneleri: 4-D çalışmaları; içerik, mekana yayılım ve kurgusal ilişki bakımından analiz edilmesi gereken bir bağlam oluşturmaktadır.
Bedri Baykam, sanatçı kimliği yanında siyasetle olan ilişkisi ve toplumsal olaylara karşı duyarlılığı ile tanınan ve farklı platformlarda karşımıza çıkan çok yönlü bir kişilik ve kimlik barındırmaktadır. İşte bu nedenle de çalışmalarında güçlü kavramlar ve günlük hayatın mevcut durumları, söz konusu durumların çizilmiş tarihsel katmanları ve kanık / sadığımız / satılan detaylar mevcuttur.


Baykam, Rüya Sahneleri: 4-D çalışmalarında Türkiye'de mevcut durumu postmodern biçim dili ile ele almış, "rantable" olmak yerine entellektüel açılımlar yapmıştır.
Sevil Dolmacı
Yirmi otuz yıldan beri tüm dünyayı (Paris, New York, Beyrut, İstanbul, Moskova, Yeni Delhi...) sinsice saran din olgusu, bir anlamda dine dön/üş/dürülüş 21. yüzyılın farklı disiplinlerine de yansıyan, günümüz Türkiye'sinde de sıkça tartışılan bir durumdur. GeorgesCorm'un bahsettiği gibi her birimiz -ki bununla tüm dünya ima edilir-tutkuyla İslam rüzgarının yanında veya karşısında yer almakta, yine hırsla terörizmden onun İslam ve Kuran'la bağlantısından söz etmekte aynı zamanda İsrail Devleti'nden antisiyonizmden, antisemitizm veya İsa'yı konu alan filmlerden bahsetmekteyiz. Günlük veya haftalık yayın organlarında, televizyon ekranlarında sıklıkla derin bir İslam bilgisiyle yapılan sohbetler, Kuran' ın şu veya bu ayetinin yorumlanması ve yaşamın bu ayetler çevresince olum/lanması/suzlanması ile karşılaşmaktayız.
Avrupa'da da benzer durumlar mevcuttur: Papa II. Jean Paul'un tantanalı ziyaretleri, ardından Ölümü ve 2005 Nisan'ında düzenlenen cenaze töreni uluslararası bir medya gösterisine dönüştürülmüştür. Asya kıtası da bu durumların gerisinde değildir: Hindistan'da Hinduizm'in canlanması üzerine Hindularla Müslümanlar arasında yapılan karşılıklı katliamlar, Tibet'in ruhani lideri Dalai Lama'nın uluslararası medyatik bir şahsiyete dönüşmesi, batıda bir meditasyon pratiği olarak algılanan Budizm'in bir kolu olan Zen'in tüm dünya da popülerlik kazanması gibi daha pek çok örnek bulunmaktadır.
Baykam her zaman olduğu gibi dünyadaki bu durumun farkındadır ve konunun Türkiye'deki kısmıyla ilgilenmektedir.
Rüya Sahneleri. 4-D isimli çalışmalarda, Türkiye'nin nereden nereye geldiği Baykamsal bir perspektif ile ele alınmıştır. Baykam öncelikle tarihsel alt yapıyı ortaya koymuştur. Bugünkü siyasi yapılanmanın (din üzerinden siyaset), Amerika'nın "Moderate Muslim" (Ilımlı İslam) modeli olarak sempatikleştirdiği hükümetin hangi topraklarda, hangi gelenekle, nasıl bir çizgi sunduğu verilmeye çalışılmıştır. "İstanbul Efsaneleri. Haliç (1)", "İstanbul Efsaneleri: Haliç (2)", "İstanbul Efsaneleri. Yeşilçam Rüzgarı (5)", "Atatürk'lü Yıllar (4)", "Türk 68'inin Devrimci Lideri: Deniz Gezmiş (3)" isimli çalışmalar daha analize girmeden akıllarda genel bir görüntü çizmektedir. "İstanbul Efsaneleri. Haliç (1)", "İstanbul Efsaneleri: Haliç (2)", "İstanbul Efsaneleri: Yeşilçam Rüzgarı (5)" isimli çalışmalarda; Bizans mozaiklerinden Osmanlı Sultanlarına, tipik Osmanlı yapılarından yazılı belgelere (ki B. Baykam yazıyı çalışmalarının bazen çekirdeği bazen de tamamlayıcı bir unsuru olarak mutlaka kullanmaktadır) kumaş, madalyon, tuğra gibi Osmanlı dönemi objelerine, genç, kendine güvenen adeta poz veren Osmanlı ve Cumhuriyet kadınlarına kadar pek çok öğe İstanbul panoraması üstüne eklemlenmiştir.

Baykam, çalışmalarında yazı gibi kadın figürünü de aynı anlayışla ve aynı sıklıkla kullanır. Baykam'ın sözkonusu tavrını "Rüya Sahneleri"nde Müslüman bir toplumda kadın imgesinin değiş/en/tirilen/meyen taraflarını Batı bakışı (bugün yaratılan imaja uyan yaklaşımı) da ekleyerek vermeye çalıştığını görürüz. "Harem'in Bugünü ve Dünü (1)" ve " Harem'in Bugünü ve Dünü (2)" çalışmalarında bu açıklıkla görülür. Harem, Arapça haram kökünden türemiştir ve kutsal bir alanı tanımlar. Osmanlı'da harem ise "Harem-i Hümayun", devlet adamları yetiştiren "Enderun" mekteplerine paralel bir kurumdur ve buradaki kadınlar Osmanlı'nın en üst kültür grubunu temsil ederler. Batı'da ise harem, sadece kadınların yaşadığı ve erkeklerin sahibi olduğu bir zevk ve sefa mekanı olarak algılanmış ve tablolara da bu türden yansıtmalar yapılmıştır.

Cumhuriyet döneminde kadın bu imajından sıyrılarak okuyup yazan, üreten, kendini keşfeden bir anlayışla başı dik bir kadın imgesine dönüşür.
Bugün ise din olgusunun ağır bastığı siyasi düzen içinde kadın değiştirilen yasa ile ikincil konuma atılarak korunmaya muhtaç ibaresi ile sadece aile kavramı içinde yorumlanıp "eş" ya da "anne"ye indirgenmiştir. Yasalarda bu böyledir ancak pratikte ikinci bir kadın tiplemesi daha vardır ki zevk sefa mekanını tamamlayan ve sadece o ortamda var olabilen kadın. Ki bu durum yasalar şöyle dursun dini merkez alan siyasi yapılanma için Kuran'da da haram yani yasak kabul edilmesine rağmen gazete manşetlerinden inmeyen skandallarıyla ne kadar farklı bir boyutta yaşandığını göstermektedir.

Baykam 21. yy.'da çizdiği kadın tiplemelerinde kendi deneyim ve kimliklerini yadsıyan röntgenci, nüfuz edici ve güçlü heteroseksüel erkek bakışı ile bakmadığının altını çizmiş, o kadın bedenini bambaşka bir sorunsallıkla alternatif bir çözümleme arayışı içinde, çıplak bedenleri arzu nesneleri olmaktan ziyade sözkonusu durumların çıplaklığı olarak yorumlamıştır. Yani bu kadınlar mevcut durumların farkındadır ve bu nedenle endişelidirler, yüzleri gülmez, uzaklara umutsuzca ve korkarak bakarlar...

Sanatçı bu kompozisyonları yüksek sanatı (ki bundan kastımız neo ekspresyonist fırça darbeleri ve palet anlayışı) popülerlikle birleştirip özgürleştirici postmodern anlayışla çalışmıştır. Söz konusu postmodern tavır, Lytord'ın öne sürdüğü gerçekliği temsil etmek yerine o gerçekliğe giden perspektifleri yaratmak fikri ile de karşımıza çıkar l6.yy.'daki uzanmış tanrıça kadınlardan (Urbino Venüs'ü gibi) yani cinsellikten arındırılmış ülküsel kadın imgesinden, 19. yy. Ingres'in tüm cinselliği ile doğu cazibesini güçlü kılan hamam sahnelerindeki kadınlara, 20.yy.'da Chirico'nun metafizik dünyasındaki ruhsuz kadınlarına, Picasso'nun parçalanmış kadın tiplemelerinden 21.yy.'ın doğulu ve batılı ayrımının kalmadığı bilinçli kadınlara kadar geniş bir tarihsel ve imgesel perspektiftir. Sanatçının bahsedilen kadına ait imgesel ve tarihsel perspektifi, sorunsallaştırılan din olgusu/mevcut siyasi yapı konusunu daha net kılabilmek adına yaptığı akıllı bir seçimdir.

"Atatürk'lü Yıllar", "Türk 68'inin Devrimci Lideri. Deniz Gezmiş" gibi çalışmalar Atatürk'ün demokratik ve eşitlikçi yapısının altını çizerken, bu bağımsız yapının kalıcılığı adına verilen mücadeleler de tekrardan izleyiciye hatırlatılmıştır. Bu hatırlatmalar "Teşekkürler Türkiye" isimli çalışmanın alt katmalarındandır ve sergi mekanında söz konusu çalışmaların yerleştirimiyle de bu açılıkla görülür. "Teşekkürler Türkiye (6)" 2007 yılında yapılmış bir çalışmadır. Çalışma medeniyet beşiği İstanbul kenti üzerinden anlatımını sürdürür. Kent üze-rine eklemlenen insan kesitleri, bugünlerde hızla büyüyen İslamcı kesimi işaret etmektedir bu da kesitte karşımıza çıkan çarşaflı kadınlar üzerinden çarpıcı kılınmıştır.
Söz konusu İslami kesimin gelecek ve geleceğe yönelik planlan Ilımlı İslam modeline uygun giyinmiş/örtünmüş küçük bir kız çocuğu ve onu elinden tutarak kendi yoluna doğru çeken/sürükleyen Atatürk'ün arka planında kalmış/kaybolmuş bir "baba" silüeti ile açıklanır. Bahsedilen kesitler kompozisyonun yardımcı elemanlarıdır. Ortada, kompozisyona hakim pozisyonda düşünceli uzaklara bakarken Türkiye Cumhuriyeti'ni kuran Atatürk, sol tarafında "halkı" yani çarşaflı kadınları ve onların erkeklerini arkasına almış Başbakan Tayyip Erdoğan halka teşekkür ederken, sağ tarafında Başbakan'ın eşi memnuniyetini gösteren gülümsemesiyle, sağ alt köşede "halkı" selamlarken Cumhurbaşkanı Abdullah Gül ve bir adım arkasına yerleştirilmiş eşi Hayrünnissa Gül bulunmaktadır. Bilindiği gibi Hayrünnisa Gül, ilk İslami kıyafet kullanan/başörtülü Cumhurbaşkanı eşi olarak uzun bir müddet gündem oluşturmuştur. Hukuksal olarak değerlendirildiğinde bu durum cumhurbaşkanının evrensel bir duruşu olması gerektiği yani etnik ya da dinsel bir gruba gönderme yapmasının doğru olmadığı gerekçesiyle tartışma yaratmasına rağmen bu durumun aksi yönünde herhangi bir gelişme sağlanamamıştır.
Dolayısıyla kompozisyonda yer alan hiçbir figür, kesit ya da detay rastgele yerleştirilmemiş, haber programları ile olağanlaştırılan gerçekliğini kaybeden (istenildiği gibi kesilen, montajlanan) sıradanlaşıp günlük yaşamın içinde eriyip giden olaylar ikonları ile verilmiştir.
Baykam, Rüya Sahneleri: 4-D çalışmalarında Türkiye'de mevcut durumu postmodern biçim dili ile ele almış, "rantable" olmak yerine entellektüel açılımlar yapmıştır. Baykam'ın çağcıl yaklaşımım hem çalışmaların üslubunda (kullanılan teknikler, dijital baskılar, çizimler, lens teknolojisi vs.) hem de kavramsal alt yapılarmda görmek mümkündür. Kısaca Edward Lucie-Smith'in de katalog yazısında belirttiği gibi Rüya Sahneleri: 4-D çalışmaları, çağdaş sanat yapıtı olacak ölçütlere sahiptir yani yeni ve orijinaldir.

KAYNAKÇA
Donald Kuspit (2006) Sanatın Sonu (Çev: Yasemin Tezgiden), İstanbul
Edward Lucie-Smith (2008) Bedri Baykam 'ın Rüya Sahneleri: 4-D Çalışmaları Sergi Katalogu, İstanbul
F. J Lyotard (1994), Postmodern Durum, (Çev: Ahmet Çiğdem), Ankara Perry Anderson (2002) Postmodernitenin Kökleri (Çev: Elçin Gen), tstanbul
Georges Corm (2008) 21 Yüzyılda Din Sorunu (Çev: Şule Sönmez), İstanbul
Jean Baudrillard (2005) Şeyatana Satılan Ruh ya da Kötülüğün Egemenliği (Çev: Oğuz Adanır) Ankara
Orhan Koçak (2007) Modern ve Ötesi, İstanbul
Richard Leppert (1996) Sanatta Anlamın Görüntüsü (Çev: İsmail Türkmen), İstanbul

 

PETER SELZ

In 1987-six years after Douglas Crimp resoundingly announced that with the advent of postmodernism, painting had reached its endpoint-Bedri Baykam exhibited a painting that read, “This Has Been Done Before.” In addition to this preemptive strike against his medium’s critics, Baykam protested curatorial biases against non-Western art in an article entitled, “Modern Art is a Western Fait Accompli” (1984). But Baykam, a Turkish artist born in 1957 in Ankara, has exhibited widely and often since 1963, when, hailed as a prodigy, he was given shows in several cities in Europe and the U.S.
Having worked in many mediums, including painting, collage and performance, Baykam has turned in his new “4-D” works to “lenticular” technology. Familiar from postcards and even billboards, it allows him to incorporate time into his narrative tableaux: using computer software, he layers imagery in such a way that a parallax shift occurs, causing illusions of depth and motion as the viewer moves from one position to another. In the 1980’s, Baykam juxtaposed elements of painting and collage in continuous surfaces; now he is able to float images on top of each other. If modernist painting affirmed the support’s two-dimensionality, these kinetic pictures are indeed postmodern.
Some of them previously seen in Istanbul and Monaco, the “Paintings in the 4th Dimension” include “The Harem Now and Then (2)”, 2008, which depicts, among its several female subjects, the Venus de Milo as painted by Dali, a detail from Picasso’s “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon” and a scene amalgamating the exotic erotic paintings of Ingres and Gerome. “The Ultimate Dejeuner” (2008) is a grand appropriation of Manet’s painting. In the foreground, Picasso, dressed in Manet’s suit, sits beside a photograph of the Italian movie star Monica Belluci with a tiger whose mournful expression seems to bemoan the potential extinction of its species. There are also images from Gauguin, Dali and van Gogh, the last itself based on a painting by Millet, all made to interlace and overlap. In the background, against the night sky, we see an ominous image of the World Trade Center towers with an airplane nearby. “Obama: History Will Judge” (2009) depicts the president as orator, with likenesses of Kemal Atatürk, Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., in the foreground, and the heads of Che and JFK in the clouds, all witnesses of putative change. Interwoven are details of paintings by Delacroix, Magritte and others, including several portentous scenes from Picasso’s Guernica.

 

MAMMADE KADREEBUX
A BEWILDERING VOCABULARY...

“A NEW PAGE: BEDRI’S ART WILL IRREVOCABLY TRANSFORM THE WAY WE LOOK AT ART, THE WAY WE LOOK AT LIFE, THE WAY WE PERCEIVE THE WORLD… SO THE PAINTER, THE POET, THE PHILOSOPHER HAS ATTAINED A CERTAIN LEVEL IN HIS WORK WHERE WE WILL NO LONGER BE ABLE TO LOOK AT ART IN THE SAME WAY AS WE HAVE BEEN LOOKING FOR THE LAST DECADES OR SO…”

The humanity will have to deal with a perception delivered by Bedri. It is difficult to say whether if Picasso came here, Picasso would then paint like Picasso or whether Picasso would paint like Bedri. This is a question which is not given to anyone to answer. But one can have an intuition, because the work of Bedri has taken all the various characters that has created a certain fascination upon him and upon humanity and assemble them in a theatrical form. Here the art of painting, the visual art has been converted, metamorphosed into theater, a theater of silence. But in front of every single image one can stand for hours and the characters, the mutes, speak about the relationship and the interrelationship of man and mortality.
The destiny of some of the great artists has been to take humanity to a certain stage while Bedri has accepted the presence of Picasso in this work, “The Ultimate Dejeuner”. He also states softly that human contradictions can not be illuminated by timelessness. Because, having acknowledged the presence of great masters and found great pleasure in them, he also knows that he himself has gone on a journey of a search. That search has taken place in another episode of time. And in that different sequence of time, he realizes characters, in a way in which one becomes aware of a historical consciousness, in which art becomes an intervention between man and mortality, between man and his place in the universe and this expression is left aside; because as Valery suggests, “no work of art is ever completed, but abandoned”. So what Bedri does here is a mastery of his paint brushes and the ability to set forms and characters in a concept where they echo in the thoughts of each other. One may ask oneself: Is it a dream or is it reality? Is it like a story of Borges when Borges names himself and does not know which Borges he is? Is it the past or is it the present? Or is it, like T.S. Elliott describes in his poem, that the present and the past are both the same? So Bedri, the philosopher becomes transparent and his awareness of the world is incredibly enormous. This awareness of the world becomes materially significant in the dimension he sets here. What is time? Is time a dream or is time real? Those characters that have laid their marks upon the world and gone, had also a set of obsessions, had a set of passions, that were never completely realized.
All along here, in his work “The Harem Now and Then” there is sort of a search, a search for the “feminin”. Do I have the impression while walking in front of this work that Bedri like Dante was looking for Beatrice? If he was looking for Beatrice then the passion, the search is directed into the forms which is in the dream, as almost the ecstasy of the woman standing. And with the work that one speaks to the other one, like the pages of a long oath in which the history of men and passion and obsession and search, the search of the inner world becomes visible. What is important to understand is a clear effort of the painter who as a child was a prodigy and who spontaneously made drawings that caught the attention of the world, and now this child has become a man. Just as Woodword says, the child is the father of the man. Now in manhood, he accumulates all his experiences but has gone deep into the subconscious not only to relate to his own subconscious but to the subconscious of others, in other words, to penetrate to the impenetrable realm of the self of the mind of this period. Like Pascal he knows that “Le coeur a ses raisons que la raison ne connait pas”, that the heart has a reason which the reason does not know. And that knowledge of reason of the search for what the heart knows is complemented by dialogue with the contemporary history where characters all seem to echo something of themselves that did not finish, something that needs to be completed and in this search of completion there is the poet, philosopher, painter that majestically knows how to set forms and shape together, not in conflict but in a concern that had the power of an image.

 

HASAN BÜLENT KAHRAMAN
The Other Life of the IMAGE

The exhibition of Bedri Baykam is a very extreme, advanced statement in the world about the relations of painting with the canvas, or rather those of the image with its surface. It may be a contribution to the whole art history.
...….We can see in Bedri Baykam’s latest works, his desire to accumulate the different periods of his art as well as the history of Art. Each one of his works, becomes a confrontation as well as a sort of “account settling” with his own past as well as art history. One can still notice words games in his works as we are accustomed to, like in Duchamp’s signature on the pissoir, R.Mutt, becoming “pear” (Armut) when pronounced in his own language, Turkish. (A word game that is quite hard to translate in any other language, referring to a children’s hide and seek saying). The critical and original curve of this exhibition does not however reside in those points but rather in the visual technique used to produce the work.
The depth obtained on the surface of the work by the use of a very special lenticular technique, is a major issue in painting as well as in the history of painting. The discovery of the third dimension brought by Renaissance and its application on the surface of the canvas through the use of perspective, created an obvious illusion. The canvas was bi-dimensional. The third dimension was being treated on the work as an illusion. Cubism, intervened into this perspective illusion, without getting rid of it entirely. Picasso’s major attack carried more of a goal of reaching a point of multi-perspectives rather than a singular one. Obviously at that point there had been a major break with the image’s classical depth, but the real resurfacing of that issue was to be with the post-war American painting.
Now Baykam’s paintings contribute to this dynamic in a whole different way. The abstract and artificial third dimension created by Baykam, is a contemporary problem solving approach to the 600 years old status quo. This third dimension, appears as something belonging to the work, as well as a reality beyond painting. And that’s why it’s tangled up in a point that oscillates between repeating or not its classical artificialness. And anyways, that which lived in the new depth, coincides totally with the visual ideology of the times. On top of this, the surface acquires a “feeling
of space” through this new visual production technique. The surface enlarges itself naturally towards its own interior thereby emphasizing one more time that what we see can not be real. This reminder does not represent an obstacle into the
journey of painting leaving its own entity of what it means regularly for us, in order to produce a filmic
or cinematographic image. On the contrary it
builds the relations of painting, with playfulness on one hand, with the illusion and the motion picture
on the other hand.
We keep talking about contemporary art. However there is also the contemporary sensibility and the novelty of the image that we never remember. The exhibition of Bedri Baykam is a very extreme, advanced statement in the world about the relations of painting with its surface. It may be a contribution to the whole art history.
(Excerpts from his article about Bedri Baykam’s exhibition “Time Bridges” published in the SABAH / ISTANBUL newspaper on February 14, 2010)
About the Author
Hasan Bülent Kahraman is a major Turkish art critic and writer. He teaches at the Sabanci University in Istanbul and is the author of several books on art, philosophy and politics.

 

HARRY KAMPIANNE
THE VOICE OF MUNCH, AS HEARD BY BEDRİ BAYKAM

To give “freehand” (Carte Blanche) to an artist, it is to grant him any creative power and freedom. That goes without saying. One can even add that it is the slightest of freedom to which he can aspire as a creator anxious to approach a truth over the course of its impulses and its experimental reflexions punctuating his career. But when this approach shows through behind the work of another artist, moreover of another century, we attend a game of tracing papers and transfers at least disturbing. The case had already come with Maurice Utrillo and the Carte Blanche offered to Herve di Rosa. The co-founder of the “Free Figuration” movement impregnated himself in the contemporaneousness of his famous precursor, pioneer according to him of pop art and painting from postcards. He worked from shots of numerical view and he offered a rereading of the Montmartrean painter’s key paintings. The alchemy worked. Today, it is the turn of Bedri Baykam to regulate its steps to those of Edvard Munch. Bedri is Turkish, native of Ankara, a celebrity in his country, known also for his writings and his active political activism within the kemalist party, named after its founder Mustafa Kemal said Atatürk (Father of Turks), first President of the secular Turkish Republic. He is also acknowledged for its polemical books against a more and more showy Islamization and radicalism within the government and the boarder Turkish population. Beyond its inseparable political activities of his artistic career, many in the United States or several European countries acknowledge him as one of the originators of the new expressionism of the eighties. A general recognition perhaps a little less obvious in France in spite of several exhibitions. Misunderstanding? Error of judgement? Or simply lack of opportunities? Or rather a neglect due to Baykam’s so often cited pioneering discourses against the hegemony of Western Art, as he so thoroughly explained it in his Manifestos since 1984 (“Modern Art History is a Western fait Accompli”) or his famous book that digs in depth that issue, through his reflexions and activism “Monkeys' Right to Paint” (1994) Today, Pinacothèque of Paris uses its entire strength regarding offering him a window made to order. A screen on which the transposition of his 4D on the traces of Munch will come to cast in time.
A new dimension: the 4D
It has nothing virtual. It is emotional therefore very real since her name is TİME. The factor TİME, father of the truth (François Rabelais) or invention of the movement (Amélie Nothomb), comes to be added to the three other dimensions, namely the height, the width and the depth. As proof, his “The Ultimate Déjeuner”, largely inspired by Manet, turns into a soft head to head between Monica Belluci and Picasso. While in another of its projections, Basquiat will go to merge into a Van Gogh painting. Let us go back up six or seven decades behind, a time when to entertain the onlookers some shopkeepers sold relief postcards, understand sequences of mobile pictures in three dimensions depending on the chosen angle of vision. In turn appeared the Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower, the Sacré-Cœur and vice versa. The origin of this optical magic is fond of a lenticular sheet composed of parallel lenses, principle allowing to release a stream of overlapping images. Today, the format postcard was multiplied by one hundred thanks to a more and more refined leading-edge technology. By re-appropriating on big dimensions a technology somewhat fallen into disuse, Bedri Baykam  re-injects it a new light and above all a new spatiotemporal space in which he inserts with a certain delight painting and existent collages of his ancient series such as “The Transparent Layers” (1997/99), “Girly Plots” (2000/02), “Chevaux et Icones” (2003/05), “Lolitarte” (2007), but also references to the history of art or to the Turkish popular cinema confronted with icons pop stars such as James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, Rimbaud or Coca Cola. Such as Le Bateau Ivre or the Noah’s Ark, Bedri Baykam world pitches today on much more engaging new visual perception regarding timelessness and fluidity of spaces. “With the 4D”, he adds, “I can make succeed sometimes ten -fifteen or twenty plans while creating footbridges between the 20th and the 21th century”. A melting-pot of parallel worlds that he makes such a intimate museum in transit between “Les Dormeuses” by Courbet, “Les Champs Tourmentés” by Van Gogh, the legends of Istanbul, carnal and transgressif eroticism of its harems, football flights of fancy of Fenerbahçe (his favourite team), the charismatic figures of Kemal Atatürk, Martin Luther King, John Kennedy, Che Guevara, Obama or even that of Deniz  Gezmiş, leader of the “Turkish people’s Liberation Army” (THKO) executed on May 6th, 1972 by an interim Government which was at the head of the country after the Ultimatum given by the army on 12 March 1971 that had caused the resignation of the Demirel’s government. An attempt of revolution forgotten in the eyes of the world according to Bedri “ For the Turkish youth, Deniz became a symbol as well as the “Che” especially for 20 years.” One feels there the seed of anti­authoritarianism that grows, not for the pleasure of demanding but to update a genuineness of what may be the Turkish contemporary art in 2010, an incandescent hearth of creativity far from still recurrent orientalists clichés to certain critics and western conservatives. Here is a work guided by the sense of pictorial investigation, and this from his early childhood on. Certainly, a not premeditated approach which was rather trying to target on the very beginning on an effectiveness of line and colour. The exceptionally gifted child of the sixties crowned with success (he is born in 1957) has turned, having putting down tubes and palette, into a young student attending the amphitheatres of the Sorbonne University in Paris. An ellipse allowing him from 1980 to start from scratch, once installed in California. He will remain there for seven years. This stay is to see as a catalyst for years to come. His American period gave him the opportunity of undertaking a work in constant search. Because according to the writer Roger Vailland “the particular commitment of an artist, it is to go down to the entrails of things and account exactly what it discovered” » And Bedri Baykam does not deprive it. We can even say that he carries in him the deep belief of an archeologist in the field. He is an “experimenter” of the depth of field. He puts down, overlays, re-transposes, glues, peels off skin after skin, layer after layer his cleavages, during his back and forth between sex, art, politics and the imperturbable fluidity of passing time. To his art, he imposes hard-core “strong medicine” (Traitement de Cheval) just as the Norwegian artist imposed on his vibrating canvases the hard treatment of the bad weather of the Big North.
On the traces of Munch
First observation: the thirteen large formats of Bedri Baykam delivered as “Carte Blanche” make all references, in varying degrees, in the flaws and injuries of the one that they consider rightfully as one of the keystones of the expressionism at the same level as Van Gogh. Torn beings by an insurmountable existential anxiety, the heart caught by constant doubt to get lost on the way of the traps of easyness. Edvard Munch is a natural born introspective, rolled by the loss of his mother from the early age of five, then nine years later by the one of Sophie, his elder sister, who was also affected by tuberculosis. Ferments catalysts of an internal scream which will not cease to torment him throughout his career. A scream deafening by its silence and the dark depression which surrounds him. Marc Restellini focused on a “Screamless” Munch, one that lets us concentrate over the experimenter and not over the single tree that hides the forest. “The Anti-scream” that he proposes us is a persistent wave or even shock wave echoing in all his work. “The Scream”, a major piece often seen as the first expressionist painting, paradigm as it is said of the « soul painting », remains for Bedri also, inevitable of a certain awareness of the human condition. He knows, however, that this painting does not sum up in itself the whole of Munch, it gives him nevertheless a new existentialist coloring tinted with his “Internal Landscapes” a series accomplished in 1987 during his late american period. He adds to his referring composition a naked girl lying on a wild beach, a photograph which he took in 1986, then infiltrates in thin layers the masterpiece of Munch with this insurmountable wish to throw a scream, as a bottle thrown into the sea. Cry of despair, frightening, solitary to infinity. Shouting with unfolded throat where the expressionist vein draws all its strength, moving between the auras of the inevitable Van Gogh but also Van Dongen, Gauguin or the “Die Brücke” painters, such as Heckel, Kirchner, Schmidt-Rottluff… More than a century separates these two artists. We are in the presence of two philosophies in different tonalities but in the end disabused and introspective. They underlie a fecund erotic load but introvert in one of them and rather extrovert in the younger one. Munch nourishes his phobia of women through a fear of love. He maintains them remote. Remember Tulla Larsen, a young Norwegian girl mad of passion to the point of harassing him night and day. Their relationship was tumultuous; for him to the point of going as far as getting shot with a gun in the hand. Pure tragedy only accentuating his old demons. Bedri Baykam is, as for him, an instinctive, intuitive endowed with a hypersensitive sensuality. The woman becomes a shelter, a matrix in which he removes creativity and he loads it with the necessary adrenalin for his energy. Nevertheless, and in it the second observation dwells, that both of them are fascinated by the trinomial: LOVE, DEATH, SEDUCTION. A somewhat taciturn equation and exacerbated at the Norwegian artist, and all just the opposite, blazing and explosive as regards to our Turkish one. His “Orgasmic Death” refers to a mental crucifixion at Munch. We have on both sides the symbolic figure of Madonna completely lascivious in the foreground which joins down left to the painting his hidden face of vampire woman sucking the blood of his lover greedily; and on the other the photo of a bared heart recalling a question of life and death through a tormented relation or even a sadomasochistic one. Munch is crushed, choked by the vampire woman who is destructive and castrating of him and his art. “Love, women, blood, death, uncertainty, everything works together for him”, underlines Bedri Baykam, “he is very similar to Van Gogh in his personal commitment”. Somewhere, Munch thought he was doomed, surrounded by insurmountable barriers to the point of believing that illness and madness watched over his cradle since his birth. He tried unsuccessfully to feel perpetually a hair’s breadth away from a bottomless precipice (except perhaps at the end of his life), his self-control quickly regains the upper hand: “ My art is a personal confession, it is like a telegraph SOS of a boat that sinks. But this anguish and this illness are necessary for me.” He considers them with good reason as essential oils to impel the mechanics of his creation. He goes to the point of conceiving them as a fate: “ What is art? Art is born of joy and sorrow. But especially from sorrow. It is born from human life.” Are they also vital for Bedri Baykam? In his own way yes. The emotional load is probably less dark but just as exalted. Doesn’t he transcribe again in “Puberty 1” and “Puberty 2” a little of his own sexual tensions through those of Munch? There are certainly no issues of mental disturbances in the true sense of the term but soul remains a powerful emotional reservoir capable of fireworks as violent storms. And Bedri is aware of it. In “Olympia” by Manet, Emile Zola saw “the flesh and the blood of the painter “. Transparency can be found in one and the other without this talk of alter ego. Both of them are linked to an expressionist brushwork without concession. Colours are brutal, the paintbrush sweeps the painting with big lines. “The Mermaid”, seen by Baykam, sums up the zones of influence of each. The women sat in the foreground are from Heckel. We know that Munch has had a big influence on the “Die Brücke” group. To the right, a photograph of the artist in loincloth painting on the beach, the mermaid of Bedri facing him up to left of the painting. Into the background , they find “Orpheus” a painting of the German symbolist painter Franz Von Stuck, while the eyes of Van Gogh weigh the stage top left.
Bedri Baykam goes back patiently, step by step, in the intimacy of Munch to the point of visiting his home in Aasgärdstrand, a small village of fishermen near Horten on the shores of the fjord of Oslo, going until Ekely, where he had his studio constructed so “willingly” vulnerable to bad weather and thus inflicting the worst abuses to his paintings. Baykam immerses himself in Munch’s loneliness, in his isolation, takes numerous pictures of the masters furniture, the whole environment in which he took refuge, visits the archives of the Munch Museum, reads his original writings with a lot of attention. Many snapshots taken live during his Norwegian escapade plunge us into an archeological research formed by various footbridges between his work and that of his precursor. Munch broke away in 1885 from French realism. The cutoff is net, without a hitch. He uses a rough canvas, paints without any alteration the face of his sister Sophie, forever recurrent in what will be called “The Sick Child”. The picture will cause a huge scandal. Bedri Baykam takes back the subject by installing in the foreground the small Edvard sat on his mother’s lap. In fact, we are in the presence of a photomontage. Behind, we can notice the original painted between 1885 and 1886 which caused a scandal, to the right a drawing called “Childhood Memory” (1892) while the grim reaper hurtling down a rocky and abrupt slope glides above. We share the obsessional memory of a sister haunting most of his works. Kind of tabernacle in which he made macerate slightly later his frenzies of persecution, his fear of women, his alcoholism and a chronic uneasiness, pushing him to stay during eight months (1908) in a psychiatric clinic in Copenhagen.
Human too human?
By erasing the question mark, we find ourselves face to face face with the famous aphorism of Nietzsche, title of his first book published in 1878. We can attempt to draw some similarities between both men. A fragile health, crises of paranoia, two tormented minds delivered to the torture of the human condition. But Munch is not cynical enough to adopt a nihilist attitude, not even just to adhere to the theories of the German philosopher, even if by curiosity these attracted his attention. From his standpoint, Bedri Baykam only confirms across the reinterpretation of certain masterpieces of Munch, the gap between being overwhelmed by a tsunami of scattered feelings and the metaphysical conception of the “superman”. He becomes the revealing of his deepest flaws, captures his contradictions and this surplus full of lucidity pushing him near the doors of madness. Besides the true empathy he dedicates to him, he voluntarily thinks forward certain periods, and even sees there similarities. A misunderstood young man at the beginning of his career. He wants « to paint his life », try hard to give a true picture of the sufferings and frustrations of the modern man. The ghostly nature of his characters, the frontal violence of his colours or the impression of “unfinishedness”(scraps, stains, spatters) in his works, cause a scandal and incomprehension to the general public and the old guard during his exhibition in autumn of 1892 in Berlin. They denounced out loud the provocation, the anarchy! A rejection which Bedri Baykam could feel when himself in his own country as early as 1983, he shows his graffitis, his “dirty drips” according to his own expression, to the Turkish intelligentsia. It is obvious that in clearing Munch remains a pioneer, the one by whom (with Van Gogh, let us not forge thim) expressionism became a generational phenomenon untill the end of the 20th century, even if just through “Bad Painting”. We think of Julian Schnabel, Georg Baselitz, Basquiat, Martin Kippenberger, Jonathan Meese… The time allows to establish spheres of influence. It is the vector of thoughts but also of political convictions. At the age of 21, Munch wanders frequently in the anarchist circles and meets Hans Jæger, an eccentric and complex figure, considered to be the spiritual father of the Christiania-Boheme (former name of the Norwegian capital). Still that does not make him feel the soul of an activist unlike who is rather in constant confrontation with the omniscience of western thought in art. His long Parisian and American stays gave him subject to cogitation, in particular through his series “This Has Been Done Before” designed as a mockery faced with the obscurantism of certain institutions. His kemalists beliefs also impact the range of its work. He gets involved, writes, criticizes, becomes polemicist even if it means taking risks with the government and sometimes pipes down his job of artist (never for a long time). His star’s term among his is not too much. The Turkish people worship him. He is before everything a man of dialogue. He cannot do without contact with the other, his brother, his enemy, his rival, it makes no odds, provided that there is opportunity to exchange. All opposite of Munch if we rely on the appearances . He lives as a recluse, ruminates, affords himself overwhelmed by the perpetual gust of his torments. Which leaves not much room to apolitical consciousness you will think. And yet… wrongly considered for a while as a nazi sympathizer, his work is at odds with the Aryan artistic archetypes, if only for his rather dark topics and the unfinished brushwork of his paintings which made his success with the cosmopolitan intellectuals. It is even certified that Goebbels experienced a certain admiration for his painting, a feeling that he should quickly curb following his appointment to the post of Minister of the Propaganda of the Reich in 1933. An unhealthy, tubercular artist, subject to menta disturbance could hardlybe representative of this new Germany. On order of Hitler indeed, Munch was labeled also with the term Degenerate Art, the tragic exhibition of 1937 organized by the Führer himself. His opposition to Nazism was proved many times. He will offer his financial assistance to German artists persecuted by the Nazis, will accept financial responsibility for the exile in Norway of the German painter Ernst Wilhem Nay (included in the list of the degenerate artists) and above all will avoid any contact with the members or affiliated sympathizers to the nazi party.    For Bedri Baykam, Munch is first of all a romantic “expressionist”, a painter of soul whom we find in The Ambiguious Resurrection of Mad Love, a very sensual interpretation of his exacerbated sensibility. It is a life tossed around by waters of uncertainty and love. Made Bedri of his painting-homages Munch, A Life, a kind of epitaph enlightening the memories of an old man: “On the central plan, towards the end of his life, Munch sees himself sitting in the gallery Kunstlerverein, where he had exposed in 1892 in Berlin as a young “ struggling “ artist. He seems to assess his life. Behind him, is the tragic memory of his clash with Tulla Lärsen, seeing himself as “Marat” as he liked to mention it. The small bottles of oil and varnish located in the foreground belong to him and come from his home in Aasgårdstrand. To the left Karl Johan, the main avenue of Oslo, Christiania then… Higher, the woman with the child: This is the nightmare of the woman, the idea of the woman who could be his mother, his aunt or any other one. The woman squatted to the right of Munch represents all his conquests which ended in all in almost “worked and definitely wanted” failures. Fingers to the right belong to me. I hold one tube of paint that belonged to him. For me, it is an instant of grace.”
We would like to say an instant of eternity, a synonymous with footbridge across time which only the fourth dimension can make palbable…

                                                                                                     Paris le 18/03/2010
Harry Kampianne

About the Author
Harry Kampianne contributes regularly to the art review Art Actuel since 2000. Among his other contributions one can cite Arts Programme and Nos Arts. His main concern is: The artist in situation. This is a central theme that binds successfully most of his articles and books

 

EDWARD LUCIE-SMITH
“These works are novel in every sense of the word. … I think there is no lack of astonishment here”.

The history of contemporary art, especially since the rise of Pop Art at the beginning of the 1960s, is a tale of triumphant thefts and adaptations, nearly always from sources that ‘good taste’ has instructed real art lovers to despise. The ‘4-dimensional’ works by Bedri Baykam that feature in this catalog offer a particularly daring example of this process.

They make use of a lenticular technology that has already been in use since the 1940s, to produce postcards that offer apparently three-dimensional images, or else images that change abruptly from one thing to another, according to the viewing angle. The same effects can be found in certain advertisements, and in related packaging. The online computer dictionary Wikipedia gives a concise explanation of how these effects are achieved:
‘Each image is sliced into strips, which are then interlaced with one or more other images. These are printed on the back of a piece of plastic, with a series of long, thin lenses molded into the other side. The lenses are lined up with each image interlace, so that light reflected off each strip is refracted in a slightly different direction, but the light from all strips of a given image are sent in the same direction (parallel).
The end result is that a single eye or camera looking at the print sees a single whole image, but an eye or camera with a different angle of view will see a different image.’
It has only recently become possible to make images of this kind on a large scale, and Bedri Baykam uses this technological breakthrough with reckless imagination. Images float one in front of the other, are apparently 3-dimensional, or are transformed into something else as we shift our angle of vision.. Some of the images are ‘appropriated’, some derive from photographs made by the artist himself, some are painted or drawn.
The result projects the spectator into a fluid, constantly changing visual universe, which is rooted in a number of very different places. Bedri is obsessed with cave paintings, with the Orientalist prints that illustrate the life of the Sultan’s court in 19th century Istanbul. Also with the history of popular film and especially with the images of certain doomed stars, such as Marilyn Monroe and James Dean. He is fascinated by the heroic years of early Modernism – by Picasso’s life and art in particular. And he loves transgressive eroticism, which always has a special overtone in any society with an Islamist background. In Turkey, to defend erotic images is also to defend the heritage of Kemal Atatürk, who created the country in the form in which we now know it, and insisted that it become a secular democracy.
Modern Turkey is a unique fusion of East and West, and contemporary art in Turkey has sometimes struggled to embrace all the possibilities offered by this. In these new works Bedri takes ideas he has already used in previous series, created using more familiar techniques, such as painting and collage, and takes them to a new level of inventiveness.
He has complained in the past, in some much-read polemical texts, that art from Turkey and from other similar societies, partly Western, partly not, is often greeted with automatic condescension by fully Western critics and curators. It is impossible to take that attitude now. These works are novel in every sense of the word. As everyone knows, genuine novelty is the lifeblood of the contemporary visual arts, and it is something that artists find it increasing hard to achieve I am reminded of a famous story about the Russian impresario Serge Diaghilev, whose Ballets Russes company was taking Paris by storm in the years just before World War I, and the then very young French poet Jean Cocteau. Cocteau longed to be part of Diaghilev’s prestigious team. ‘Serge,’ he said, ‘what do I have to do? What to I have to do?’ Fed up with being importuned, Diaghilev rounded on him: 'Jean, astonish me!'

I think there is no lack of astonishment here.
(The text here in this page by E. Lucie-Smith was written for a catalogue on Bedri Baykam’s 4 D show in Monaco at the "Maison de l'Amérique Latine de Monaco", 2008)
About The Author
Edward Lucie-Smith was born in 1933 at Kingston, Jamaica. He moved to Britain in 1946, and was educated at King’School, Canterbury and Merton College, Oxford, where he studied history. He is an internationally known art critic and historian, who is also a published poet (member of the Académie Européenne de Poésie, winner of the John Llewellyn Rhys Memorial Prize), an anthologist and a practising photographer.
He has authored more than a hundred books in all and more than sixty books about art, chiefly but not exclusively about contemporary work. He is generally regarded as the most widely published writer on art.