Art On İstanbul
The distinguishing aesthetic characteristic in the works of street artists is the propensity to draw figures with quickly painted contours. The speed is almost vital because the act of drawing in a public space is illegal most of the time. Olcay Kuş is not a street artist yet he utilizes this aesthetic feature in his graphic representation of the figure. His choice of surface, the canvas rather than the street wall enables him to create sophisticated textures. The backgrounds in his canvases crafted by gluing and ripping newspapers, convey a sense of movement. The torn stripes on the newspaper layers applied over the canvas are mostly organized along either horizontal or vertical axes. As the horizontally arranged stripes deliver a sense of passing by, vertically arranged ones vaguely remind a fall. There is no clear distinction between the figure and background in the canvases of Olcay Kuş; with the sense of movement it carries the background fuses into the figure. This fusion creates an aesthetic correspondence between the hastily painted contours and the movement vectors in the background. Paradoxically this aesthetic fitness would not be possible if he preferred to paint on the street walls since his backgrounds require constant reworking and retouching. Olcay Kuş solidifies the transitory feeling inherent in street art on his canvases. This transitory feeling is enhanced with the inclusion of newspaper as the primary material in his practice.
When the relation between painting and newspaper is considered a well-known work by conceptual artist Mel Bochner comes into mind. In “The Theory of Painting” (1969-1970) Bochner applies blue spray paint on newspaper surfaces laid on the ground. The inspiration for this work was a photograph of Matisse painting in his studio. While he is drawing with the help of a brush attached to a long stick, the floor was neatly covered with newspapers. For Bochner the primary appeal in this photograph was the viewing distance carefully maintained by Matisse between himself and the canvas. For Matisse, this distance was apparently required to achieve the ideal form; while he was painting, he liked to watch his canvases from a similar distance the audience see them. The idea of the audience and their imagined distance from the painted surface was very much solid in Matisse’s mind and these two notions remained attached to the question of painting in the minds of many painters came after him. In Olcay Kuş’s paintings the contrast between large figures and miniscule fonts on the painted newspapers invite the audience to go back and forth between two viewing distances. One should get very close to the canvas to read the newspaper pieces. Alternatively, one should go far from the painting to grasp the compositions with large figures. These two ideal viewing distances do not converge in Olcay Kuş’s paintings; the audience is invited for constant wandering.
The newspaper has an important role in Kuş’s approach towards materiality. Bochner’s Theory of Painting might give us clues in deciphering this evolving approach. In the studio of Matisse newspaper was used to isolate the artistic material: the paint was supposed to be on the canvas, not on the floor. Yet Bochner keeps the newspapers to be disposed off on the ground, transforms them into the main surface the paint is applied and eliminates the canvas. The date of installation is significant since in early 70s the exhaustion of painting as an artistic medium was a serious discussion. Bochner responds to this debate through putting a redundant and seemingly alien material to the painting in the center and reversing its role. Indeed, the overcrowded and dominant visual plane of the newspaper makes it so hard to integrate it into any painting practice. “The Theory of Painting” plays with this paradox. Olcay Kuş is looking for new resolutions in this paradoxical relationship. His obsession with the newspaper is in line with his artistic trajectory distinguished by a desire to derive an aesthetics from daily life. Visible through torn sheets, the random printed words stand out as distinct visual elements and add another layer to his paintings. The newspaper as a material turns into a multifunctional tool in Olcay Kuş’s works.
In the same year Bochner finished “The Theory of Painting” Henri Lefebvre published his book “Urban Revolution” considered as one of the foundational texts in contemporary thinking about the city. Lefebvre claims that society has been completely urbanized. His arguments might be relevant for us in positioning the street as the main source of inspiration in Olcay Kuş’s works:
“The street is a place to play and learn. The street is disorder… This disorder is alive. It informs. It surprises… The urban space of the street is a place for talk, given over as much to the exchange of words and signs as it is to the exchange of things. A place where speech becomes writing. A place where speech can become 'savage' and, by escaping rules and institutions, inscribe itself on walls.”
The link between play and street Lefebvre emphasizes is very much familiar for all of us from our childhood experiences. Citing the street as his main source of inspiration Olcay Kuş is also aware of this relation. The title of his previous exhibition “Game Center” refers to this relation among other things. The wheeled vehicles, main culprit of disorder in İstanbul streets, appear repeatedly in Olcay Kuş’s works in different forms. In his first exhibition, these wheeled vehicles; bicycles, tractors, police cars, bulldozers, the sight of a car accident and an emblematic Turkish car brand Anadol were dominating his canvases. In this exhibition Kuş reformulates his interest in wheeled vehicles through his objects made of newspaper pulp. The oddly shaped toy cars among these objects indicates the continuity of his interest in the car form. He also carries his accord with the newspaper as a material to another intensity.
For the first time in this exhibition Olcay Kuş displays objects intimately connected with his artistic practice if his approach towards materiality is concerned. The presence of toy skeletons under the hardened and painted newspaper pulp reminds transitional objects as Winnicott formulated them. As an influential figure in the British school of psychoanalysis, Donald Winnicott contributed a great deal to the discussion of the “transition space” which can be defined as the link between the inner and outer worlds or the psychic and external reality. The transition space in the childhood manifests itself with myriad different objects infants hold on to during the absence of their mothers to comfort themselves. These transitional objects are mostly toys or some sort of soft material and their relation with play and fetishism is essential. In the light of Winnicott’s observations the artist’s obsession with the newspaper and his continuous interest in different representations of wheeled vehicles hint the aesthetic terrain he is travelling. Although very soft while it is wet the newspaper pulp acquire a stony texture after it hardens. This stony texture, resonating a feeling of outdoors contrasts with the intimate and indoor character of the transitional object. It is no coincidence that Olcay Kuş experiments with new spatial arrangements for the installation of his objects. One may argue that Olcay Kuş aims to discover a transition space ending with adolescence.
Another dominant visual element in the works of Olcay Kuş is the depiction of hand gestures and exaggerated facial mimics. Both are species specific traits conveying meaning in primate societies before the emergence of language. It is not surprising that Edwin Panofksy starts his discussion Iconology with the analysis of a gesture, removal of a hat. Within the context of Panofsky’s iconology, the primary meanings of these hand gestures solely depend upon their configurations of colors and lines. In this exhibition by removing the newspaper from his canvases and using stark colors Olcay Kuş rescues the figure from the crowded background and accentuates the primary meaning of the hand gestures in his painting practice even further. The secondary meaning or the subject matter of the works presented in the exhibition seem much more dispersed compared with his previous solo shows. The criticism of hectic corporate life in his first exhibition and clear references to resistance movements in his second exhibition still resonate with their continuation in the iconography. Male hands and figures, weapons and cars are again present in his canvases. However, in this exhibition Olcay Kuş aims to broaden the horizon of his artistic practice even further. A discussion of content, the third category of meaning in Panofsky’s iconology, might help us to view Olcay Kuş’s practice from another distance.
Can we ascribe an intrinsic meaning to the evolving artistic practice of Olcay Kuş? Among others I would like to discuss his works within the context of a crisis in masculinity. The consistent elements in his iconography, cars, weapons and male figures already refer to the notion of masculine. Olcay Kuş discovers this landscape through allusions to adolescence, physical fights, comradeship and angst. The political citations in his works emphasized by politician, police, journalist and protestor figures also find a common ground within this context. The crisis of masculinity is also a crisis in language and the lack of language only results in eruptions of random violence. As this crisis is getting deeper through draconian censorship practices, Olcay Kuş returns the means of conveying meaning before language and he contrasts them with the physical insertion of text and the presence of newspaper in different forms in his works. The dynamic field in which Olcay Kuş continuously reconstructs his aesthetic tools has the feeling of a busy street, mostly chaotic yet inspirational.
 Lefebvre, Henri, The Urban Revolution, 1970, p.19
«The ruling, individual by using the legitimate, claime to be a legitimate ways to achieve dominance on another individual through violence.» - C.Wright Mills
From the transition period of agriculture which our ancestors found the hunter-gatherer era, through the time when they started riding the soil as rectangular fields ,actually since the day they stepped on the landand create the concept of the ownership... Since then, there is an invisible ball without any ownership, bouncing around inside a geometry with four edges just like those fields.
Todays human being ,who benefits from those four concepts created by the human mind to protect property ,seems more civilized, intellectual, concerned, as political and modern creatures then our ancestors who are unaware of the property which they seem to be two-legged creatures resembling apse in our eyes.
Trying to destroy the community to deceive:
These concepts form the four sides; which are, as "Power", full with envy and resentment embrace, as "Strength", representing the energy of social movements reveals as "capability "and the most popular, unreliables favorite "authoritie" as may be listed... This concept was created by the human mind and in time It again deformed by man. But changing the concept, continued to be called with the old name. Just like a car wreck still be called a car or a civil body riddled by the states bullets still be called as human... Bouncing between the four sides "violence", used as to suit one's interests. Subject is chameleon, the object is dead or behind the bars, violence.
There is a prototype of violence, this represents the highest tool of power
which apply to all the organs and penetrates every cell. This can be indentified by the uniform, the hat, the mask, the jacket ,the tie who whore .It does not require a face...
However the individual who exposed to violence and deposited envy of charge on the society, has an identity. Individual self is original, idea and what they say. This originality and requests to bring them together to express them selfs. Even though every person appears round like stars, when viewed from a far, but everyone has a different story. Individual in the face of bullets and gas capsules. The faces of monkeys resemble same just like we picture our ancestors in our minds. Violence also do the same; transforms people into monkeys. To de-identifies. If it were not, our children were beaten with pink and blue bottoms. The intensity of the power does not treat anyone differently, deletes faces of crowds, identity, visualized every individual the same, because to attack an elderly woman who has a tragic story behind, to attack the cursing crowd, is not the same thing. Screams of the crowd who rush in the middle of the fire, it gradually turned into a whisper until all the voices pile up on top and become a flat ride. Such as stacked glued coated paper torn from the walls and worn ads. Olcay Kuş work in this "Masterless Tranquility" exhibition, his works seems as depicted on the walls of ads. Kuş, has transformed the voice of the crowds into his painting by using specific techniques of Street Art, he illustrates the concepts ,community who can not express their individuality as long as exposure to difficulties and depicts those commit violence.
Here in "Masterless Tranquility", violence is the subject and object, resembles a show on deindividuation. All the concepts meaning be ravished, like hand in hand and dancing in a dark carnival.
Ozan Can Özübal
Art On İstanbul
Sound of the Street
Olcay Kuş creates a new world through walls. The dynamism of walls, which are undergoing a change in every moment of each day, catches his eyes. In today’s hustle and bustle, he reads life through these walls. Due to the busy agenda of the recent times, walls came into prominence by narrating the happenings in the country, directly or indirectly, through blending humor and irony. Olcay Kuş conveys the sound of walls into the gallery space. He prefers, however, to build his own walls on canvases rather than the walls he has seen, took a look at and got inspired from. Fed by the sound of streets, the artist, this time, depicts ‘games’ in “Game Center”, his second solo exhibition at artON Istanbul. He recounts that we’re a part of the game; for him, his new works are an expression of the conflicts, the protests and the difficult times we’re going through. Inspired by the agenda, he sets his own game. Yet, you cannot think, produce any ideas or argue against anything in this game. You’re only a pawn! Indeed, Olcay Kuş ‘plays’ with those who play with us.
On another level, all the works in this exhibition indicate “violence”. Nonetheless, it is not easy to notice the violence we come across every day in these artworks. At first sight, what you see might look nice, funny and enjoyable. However, once you peer into the works, you come face to face with the reality. No matter how colorful these works are the invisible subject of each work is ‘violence’ in this exhibition. The artist makes fun of the violence that unfortunately does not astonish us in today’s world. He responds to this violence by laughing; in fact he plays an incisive game.
At the same time this is a political exhibition; he doesn’t pull any punches. He fits irony into each of his sentences. We’re familiar with this irony he adds to his art as his previous works were also adorned the same way. His words, gained strength by the force of his irony, come into our lives through the canvases… The works in the exhibition are strong in terms of their context. Furthermore, the level of irony he uses is as it should be. These are though but fun works. They impress you as soon as you have a look at them and what is more is that their titles are very funny. For example, the picture portraying a cowboy is titled as “President”! His other work titled “Toy” is also significant; there is a political figure whose head is replaced by the head of a toy figure. Upon seeing this work, you smile; shortly afterwards, you grasp the essence of this work. A political figure, with the head of a toy, standing on a jet-black ground says a lot. The artist loves cutting, pasting, differentiating and playing with the language of the pictures. For example, you can see this figure as the leading actor of a scene in which members of the parliament are fighting! Violence also shows its face on the work titled “National Defense Vehicle”. In this work, we see a huge vehicle with nine wheels; like a tank, like TOMA (Intervention Vehicle to Social Events)… And also like a toy. At first you smile again but then, you realize how serious this work is when you take its title into consideration. Among children who pose in “Street Team”, you easily notice that there are a few that wear police helmets. These pictures don’t favor making direct interpretations or justifications; hence, viewers find them much closer to their delights and hearts. As Olcay Kuş doesn’t use didactic language in his pictures, his works immediately touch you and prove that it is possible to express a lot without talking big.
Olcay Kuş bases his works on street art and builds his canvas by using templates, newspapers and sprays. At this point, it is crucial to make it clear that Olcay Kuş underlines that he is not a street artist. Yes, in the world he creates he is fed by the street art; yet, street art is only his inspiration source. The way he proceeds on his canvas is not similar to that of a street artist. Layering the newspapers over each other, he offers to viewers a natural wall texture. This feeling, profundity and effect all consolidate day by day. In the future we might come across with works in which he only focuses on wall texture.
He paints pictures of what he lives, reads and sees. And we read the pictures through his eyes. Olcay Kuş is an artist who is always up to date and so his pictures are doors opening to streets. As we go through these doors, we begin to see many things we’ve failed to notice; we pick out the life, the events we witness, and all goings-on. We realize life more profoundly.
When compared to the works in his previous solo exhibition titled “An Ordinary Day” hosted by artON Istanbul two years ago, his art has undergone a change. First of all, the wall image in his pictures had a technical transformation. Olcay Kuş realized that while using newspapers he did not focus on the surface of the canvas as much. In his recent works, however, this feeling, this touch, this texture grew much stronger. Besides, the templates Olcay Kuş used in his previous works included everything; he could have carried anything from life to his works by using templates. But now, he wants to create a context in which the templates will be placed accordingly. Unlike the works in which we see the pop art effect because of the reproduced patterns on the surface and their colors (this reproduction and reduplication resulted from the fact that the artist who works on large scale canvases previously used little patterns.), his recent works are going beyond being aesthetically beautiful. In his recent exhibition, he contextualizes the templates; hence, his works rest on a sound ground. This exhibition, on the other hand, makes much more powerful statements than the previous one. As we’ve mentioned above, this exhibition is both more political and topical.
In this exhibition, we also see Olcay Kuş’ drawings. The artist who seeks innovation in his works does not like to stay stagnant. He plays with his pictures and enjoys this game. In his large-scale drawings that we also saw in Contemporary Istanbul, we feel the effect of the wall texture. But this time, he doesn’t use newspapers to give this impression; he prefers lead pencil and charcoal pencil to create this texture. From the technical aspect, Olcay Kuş puts the clock back with these drawings; yet these are not ‘drawings’ in the strict sense. They are different from classical drawings. Just like the drawings that were exhibited in Contemporary Istanbul, which he made on transparent paper with lead pencil and charcoal pencil… He doesn’t create a drawing or scratch; again he makes the scratch by using templates. And again these are large-scale drawings as it is in most of his canvases.
The artist needs large-scale surfaces because we come across huge walls on streets. Walls that at times separate us from others and at times confine us… Just like the walls we see outside, Olcay Kuş prefers to make his point on the surfaces of big canvases. He of course has small canvases as well. These small sized ones, on the other hand, leave the impression that the artist has selected a tiny image from a wall and wanted to focus on it.
In his solo exhibition titled “Game Center”, Olcay Kuş succeeds in fitting a big street with its feelings, past, witnesses, experiences and memories into the gallery. The sound and the silence of the street, the violence we have recently witnessed and the ‘games’… The real life…