Today’s Zaman’s H. Ahsen Utku on Residue


Artist Tunca Subaşı brings historical remnants into light in new show

Do the images and scenes we look at really reflect pure reality? Do things really represent what they seem to be representing? Answering these questions requires a process of questioning.
Such questioning requires possessing a consciousness of the historical context of the image but separating the context at the same time.

Artist Tunca Subaşı invites the audience to this questioning process in his latest solo exhibition, “Kalıntı” (Residue). The exhibition comprises Subaşı’s works since 2010 and makes the audience confront a contradiction and the irony of reality, historical context and representation. Displayed at Pi Artworks Tophane, the exhibition can be visited until Feb. 25 every day except Sundays and Mondays.

“The idea behind the name ‘residue’ lies in the distance that I’ve created between my point of view and the visual documents of certain historical events,” explains Subaşı in an interview with Today’s Zaman. “In this way, I emphasize my personal approach in selecting the photographs. Thus, the remnants appears in the distance, which I have created between my works and the original documents. For me, these visuals were like historical remnants.”

“I wanted to create a feeling that would dominate all the works in the exhibition,” says Subaşı. “I had this idea of creating the feeling in my mind when I first began working on the exhibition, and I chose the visual documents in compliance with this idea. I interpreted visual documents according to the reference they bear to art history; these visuals from specific historical periods actually reflect this feeling.”

“I also have works which make reference to the structure of photography,” Subaşı says. “For instance, the images are framed within fabric or in one work, the figure appears in a repetitive way. This is actually related to the logic of photography and the formal structure of the work.”

So, Subaşı chooses the visuals according to the feeling it creates without being interested in the event that the photograph represents. “I chose the feeling and wanted to convey the feeling itself to the audience. That’s why there is this landscape painting where there are two SS soldiers in a field. The structure of the landscape is reminiscent of the works of the Impressionists, but we are so distanced from the original event that we look at the landscape there the same way as we look at a Van Gogh painting.

Yet, the irony lies just at this point: The more we are distanced from reality, the more reality is emphasized. “Under the influence of the landscape, the shadow of the clouds and other things, it looks as if one of the soldiers is telling an emotional secret to his friend.” In this respect, the audience’s perspective changes according to the perspective of the painting. “In this one, there is this soldier with his arm behind his back, watching the landscape,” Subaşı says, indicating another painting. “When you take the soldier out of the picture, it’s a very peaceful landscape. But the soldier is watching the landscape with the same feelings we do, and it becomes an obstacle between us and the landscape.”

Subaşı’s works bear many other artistic and historical elements waiting to be discovered. “The effort of creating a certain feeling exists in Gerhard Richter’s works as well. For instance, there is a beautiful woman going down the steps. Her appearance is blurred so that the work reflects not directly her beauty but the feeling that it arouses. The chemistry of the painting changes, and this change refers to the structure of the painting.”

The power of materials

Subaşı’s use of historical documents reflects the historical memory of a certain period. “How do I make socio-political references?” asks Subaşı. “We could say that the people we see in the landscape are SS soldiers or those people gazing at us are Bolsheviks. Besides different historical traditions, different philosophies and sociological approaches exist in the same exhibition. I also left an open door for the audience; that is, everyone has only a very general idea about these visuals, the events or the people in these paintings. All the visuals here are indeed representations, and the audience has the opportunity to come to their own conclusions despite the fact that they are representations.”

Another feature of the work is that the image is focused in the center while it blurs towards the edges, and the paintings are framed within canvas, which Subaşı explains through the chemistry of the photograph. “While this feature refers to the contrast structure of the photographs of those times, I use a technique which has a formal relation with the structure of the photographs,” says Subaşı. “Actually, the paintings are the outcomes of the harmony between the structure of the visual and my materials. I occasionally exaggerate this technique in order to emphasize this relationship. For instance, the reason for framing the visual in fabric is to draw attention to the fact that my main concern is with the image. Through those drawings left on the borders, we can conceive that the image continues but that we have framed it.”

Subaşı uses various types of plaster in his work to achieve a historical appearance in his paintings. “I use the external plaster to render the material into a more flexible and permanent form,” says Subaşı. “Then I paint it with an airbrush. Later, I design the frames of the photographs and paint the image on the fabric. The materials I use combined with the influence of the images create the effect of Latin American street art.”

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