Monday, May 25, 2015

Spring Fever

Yet again it's election season here in Istanbul. Last summer there was the Presidential election and the local government elections, this year it's the what I suppose we'd call the national assembly elections. The streets are adorned with bunting and huge flags are hanging everywhere. There are the big parties, just a few, and then a multitude of smaller ones all competing for our attention. 

The lavishly amplified marshall sounding music and the rousing emotional appeals to patriotism blaring out of  various election leafleting tents make a simple trip to the ferry a memorable event. The  flyers are beginning to appear on our doorsteps and I expect we'll get a visit from local parties canvassing for support soon. This is always a trifle embarrassing as although we speak the language it's fairly obvious we're foreigners and as a result are not going to win them any votes I hate wasting people's time!

It will be all over in June, summer's coming. My artists friends are already beginning to drift away for the holiday months. Ramadam will fall in June this year and will be a trial for my devout friends, the days will be long and hot. Kolay Gelsin (may it come easy) !

Watercolour on Paper, Joseph's Tools II

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Istanbul through Young Eyes - in the steps of Ara G├╝ler

Cleaning shoes in Election season - by a young Turkish photographer
How can we affirm the delicate buds of artistic invention as they emerge in young people? 

How can we provide a platform for the sometimes startling perspectives of unknown kids in unknown places?

For the last three years we’ve been working to bring young people on the Asian side of Istanbul together with international kids from very different backgrounds and get them working together. We’ve painted walls, we’ve created sculptures from waste products, the kids have learnt some English, added to all this every year we hold our Inter Schools Photography Competition. 

For the Competition we hand out disposable Kodak cameras (the ones with film) to students from a few different schools in the area and give the kids three weeks to go off and use up the film on a particular theme. 

We have to explain repeatedly (in two languages!) to the puzzled kids that there are only 28 chances to get a shot from a film camera, and that no, you can't think of it as a camera on your phone that gives you limitless opportunities to take photos.

We also have to emphasise that it's important to avoid putting one's finger over the small lens. No doubt we'll get the usual crop of potentially great shots with huge blurry fingers obscuring things, but thankfully they are in a minority.

We then have to explain, what for modern kids must be the strangest thing of all, that we have to get the films developed!! How weird is that? After holding a small exhibition we have our annual prize giving. I'm pleased to say that over the years this activity has really encouraged some young people to pursue their creative side.

The results have been amazing over the last three years, in fact they have been so good we decided to publish the best work in a book complete with the reflections of the young artists who took them. Watch this space for more information.

I'm delighted to see some pictures emerge from our kids that reminded me of that genius of Turkish Photography Ara Guler, take a look.

Back to painting for me....

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Axeman

My grandfather was born in 1901. Looking back it seemed to have been an interesting time to have been alive. His was the generation for whom world changing ideologies promised the fulfilment of utopian dreams. He dabbled in communism and had a thirst for adventure.

For me as a child what was most important was that he had a great tool shed. 

By the time my brother and I arrived on the scene my retired grandfather would potter around his garden in a small semi-detached house in Swindon in the south west of the UK, an industrial town he'd moved his family to during World War II.

I remember spending hours in his tool shed where there'd be numerous half completed woodwork projects. They weren't really DIY projects, my grandfather was a man who'd spent his life applying his intellect and creativity to practical engineering projects, he'd worked with iron and steel, for him wood was a soft option! One didn't see mass produced tools in his shed, he'd made most of them with his own hands.

Piles of well used old tools are pregnant with memories for me. I remember aspiring to my grandfather's brand of gentle, patient masculinity. His eyes had seen many things some of which he would never speak.

The picture here is from the workshop of a blacksmith on the Black Sea coast.

The Axeman - Pure watercolour on 600 gm paper - if you like it tell me, or subscribe to my newsletter.
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