One begins to understand things with the first step. The stomach aches and questions appear.
Then one starts asking.
We meet Erdoğan Zümrütoğlu while he’s cleaning his workshop located in an industrial district – an unexpected location for some and a very predictable one for him.
He begins by talking how much he dislikes talking about himself. Then, we start discussing why people are always smiling in photographs if they are as happy as they seem – with unrealized smiles that have been chasing after a non-existent feeling, wealth and pretense.
What makes Zümrütoğlu’s workshop, art and personality so unique is that you cannot see a trace of this pretense in his works; they all are portrayals of natural spontaneity.
When I ask him how he makes these paintings, he replies with a brief and self-confident answer, “By tapping into the ache that began in your stomach the moment you entered.” He releases the indigestion caused by the rottenness of the society – a feeling directly experienced by (and maybe embodied in) the onlooker. Those who look at his works start thinking, questioning, and feeling the same ache as much as they can. “What if they can’t see it?” I think. Facing the fact that art is, after all, a meta for the sake of sustainability, I ask him: “What happens to the concepts and opinions that led you to paint this work when one doesn’t perceive the source of this rebellion on canvas and tries to own it?” He replies with a reproachful smile, “These things happen, you cannot prevent that. But what’s beautiful is that the work can still implicitly mock this controversy.” (We sigh.)
“Do you reveal this inner turmoil to raise awareness or to solve a conflict with the self?” I ask, and he replies with a naive response. “It’s a band aid just for myself.” Listening to him, I ask to myself, “Why painting and not some other discipline?” “If I could compose, I would,” he says, drawing a similarity between music and painting, notes and colors.
The fact that the desolates in Ottoman culture ended up in “Çürüklük Mezarlığı” is the most obvious interpretation of humanity that came from nothing and will end up in nothing. The exhibition Kutsal Pazarlık exposes the guests to a spectacular strain with the right questions at Pilevneli Gallery as of November 30. Although you don’t know the subtext, an indescribable chaos, trouble, call-to-account, face-off, and sadness is born from this encounter. As we face the violence we put each other through, the traces of the rotten splashes onto the canvas – a cemetery where the desolates were buried in Ottoman times. To describe in Zümrütoğlu’s words, they come alive in our minds as “people who occasionally lit fireworks on their way from nothing to nothing.”