I OWE YOU / THE TRUTH IN PAINTING / AND I WILL / TELL IT TO YOU
[Separating wanted elements from unwanted material or for characterizing the particle size distribution of a sample, typically using a woven screen such as a mesh or net or metal.]
Call me İrem. I'm a rather young person - never mind how old precisely. It is as an artist that I'm writing this letter to you. The nature of my work for the last five years has brought me into here, writing to you in the middle of a night (not exactly at ten o'clock, not even at eleven sharp, nor on November eleven as opposed to the tenth or twelfth). This is a long letter, but it's not at all bound to be answered. Possibly, if it's answered and directed to İrem Günaydın, it might be missed.
The other one, the one called Irem, is the one things happen to. She's been working as a front desk clerk, then as a foreign exchange operations specialist, and finally has become a very important person at the foreign exchange office. It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that ours is a bizarre relationship. I live, contrive to make my art, but she's the one who makes a living for us in an office. Don't get me wrong I'm extremely grateful for her job. Our story is not a mix of pulp fiction and tragedy. I must confess that she has achieved a lot, but those things cannot save me. It seems unfair though on her to make her pay for everything. What if she dragged us for a job in an art organization, such as auction houses? I know that she wouldn't do that to us, not in a billion years. But then I remember that we must give up trying to know those to whom we're linked by something essential.
THE PEARS THE PEACHES THE APPLES THE ONIONS PINE ASH OAK WALNUT ACRYLIC
CHARCOAL OIL VAES BOWLS BASKETS BOTTLES CERAMIC METAL ALUMINUM MARBLES
CAST POLYESTER RESIN POWDER-COATED STEEL FIRE CLAY POLYURETHANE RUBBER FIBERGLASS GLASS SILICONE RUBBER ENGRAVED ALUMINUM EPOXY PVC PLYWOOD
C-TYPE PRINT VINYL 16MM FILM WITH SOUND NEON EMBROIDERED FABRIC FORMICA RUBBER ENGRAVED BRASS OIL PAINT ON PAPER TERRACOTTA HAND-THROWN GLAZED CERAMIC
Once upon a time in the ancient world, all the gods were invited to the wedding of Peleus and Thetis except one goddess for her troublesome nature. Upon turning up uninvited, she decided to cause chaos by throwing a golden apple into the midst of the goddesses, with an inscription on it; to the most beautiful...Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite. Once they saw the apple, all three goddesses wanted to know who the apple was for, and ultimately who was the most beautiful of the goddesses. Wisely, the gods decided it was best not to intervene, and instead nominated a human delegate, Paris the Prince of Troy, to choose. Choose the most beautiful. Choose the true owner of the golden apple.
[A process of breaking down and softening various substances.]
"Therefore, the apple draws the Earth, as well as the Earth draws the apple." There's no evidence to suggest an apple actually landed on Newton's head, but (he wondered what force made the apple fall downward instead of simply floating away) his observation inspires him to eventually develop his law of universal gravitation: Every object in the Universe attracts every other object with a force directly proportional to the produce of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them. To put it simply all objects tend to fall towards the Earth's surface. The other İrem is my gravity. She is the one keeping me from falling down perpendicularly towards the Earth's surface. She is pulling me down to the ground, and I launch her high in the sky. Ours is a feet on the ground head in the sky sort of relationship. Besides, considering the fact that writing takes up a lot in my practice I can't imagine writing in a weightless state: for this purpose, I would have to be secured to the tabletop, for example, by means of leather straps in order to remain at the table at all (without having to hold on). I recently went to a gig, and I met with the Disc Jockey there. Disc J. was playing all three records simultaneously. If the beat on the new record hits before the beat on the current record, then the new record is too fast; Choose Hera says DJ to Paris the Prince of Troy. I saw three turntables in front of the Disc Jockey. Disc J. was playing all three records simultaneously. If the beat on the new record hits after the beat on the current record, then the new record is too slow; Choose Aphrodite says DJ to Paris the Prince of Troy.
Somethin's been troubling me about the pill scene since I watched the Matrix. Neo - the protagonist - is offered by Morpheus the choice between the blue pill and to continue to live in a synthesized, fictional world, or taking the red pill and joining the "real world" and to escape the Matrix. And Neo chooses the red pill. He chooses his future. He chooses a purpose. He chooses a love story. I bet you've been just there, on a couch or a chair, maybe with your bosom buddies, cat, or your dog, perhaps drinking coffee or a beer, filled with hope, joy, and curiosity when watching the burned-out asteroid protagonist have to make to with what he's got.
Yes! Disc J. was playing all three records simultaneously. Paris the Prince of Troy asks what if you don't align the beats so the rhythms do clash when played together? You definitely choose Athena answers DJ to Paris the Prince of Troy.
And DJ provided the audience a three-deck ride unrestrained into unknown territories. In one of these territories, the place is unroofed. There are no bodies but draperies, no sumptuous buildings but colonnades, no whole numbers but numbers with decimal values. There is the disparaged 'other hand' that does not write but picking nose, holding a cup, playing with a mobile phone, itching ears, and wiping mouth with a napkin when one squeezes. Because it's the one that does grasp. There are niches, shelves, half-open cupboards but no objects placed within. An elephant, a goat, a reindeer, a donkey, a chamois, a camel, an ox, a bear, a dog cast a light on the wall but we see no hand which makes the shadow. In cutting vegetables the disparaged non-knife hand is the hand that grasps, while knife hand's only job is to keep the tip of the knife down and cut with a circular motion. Up, down, forward, and return. The non-knife hand becomes the brain of the operation. And the knife hand becomes the dumb hand. There is a woman with the laundry, a mountain, the seated man, early morning strollers, the boy leaning over and plunging his two arms in the water as if to wash his hands or pick up a stone, the pedestrian hurrying along the path, trees, and a rock that lies here and there but there's no choreography. Only the landscape is leading the gaze. There is a tabletop but no flowers, no fruits, no hour-glass, no skull, and no other printed ephemera are lying on it.
I've been repeatedly re-enacting the pill scene from the Matrix in my mind with every possibility and something very bizarre emerged from these repetitions: Paul Cézanne; the painter of a painting of a dish of apples, René Magritte; the painter of a painting of This Is Not a Pipe, Nicolas Poussin; the classicist who ended up remembered as the landscapist, and finally the one and only Cornelius Norbertus Gijsbrecths: a Flemish-born painter who makes things that do not exist appear to exist. The reason for this bizarreness was immediately apparent: my work station, my mind, and my heart belong to these guys for a very long time.
[Combining ingredients together gently without stirring and beating.]
In one of my visions, Cézanne is expected to make a choice between the blue pill and the red pill as in the case with Neo from the Matrix. The narration continues like this; Cézanne kindly asks if he's allowed to take both pills and since he is Cézanne, of course, he gets yes as an answer. He blends the red pill with the blue one on his tongue, checking in the mirror if he gets the perfect violet without any gradient. He gets it but the more he looks at it the more he hates it. He remembers how much he hates gradients for a moment of unsettling silence. Then he starts breaking down colours from gradients into their simplest forms. The colours that now come out are not precisely the same that were just mixed on Cézanne's tongue: the blue became cobalt and the red scarlet. The he spits them on a camera and voila! The phrase appears, "With a cobalt next to scarlet I will astonish the Matrix."
In another vision René Magritte appears in a bowler hat - as usual - which explicitly explains the consequences of his action as in the same case with Neo and Cézanne, and finally, when asked which pill he prefers to choose, he takes off his hat and says, "Do not try to convince me. That's impossible. Instead, only realize this is not a pill. Then you will see that it is not the pill that changes the state of the Matrix, it is yourself." And then he pulls a flatly painted bird out of his hat, the bird eats the pills, and transforms into a bird filled with cloud. Meanwhile, Mr. Magritte carves out a space behind the screen and the bird fades into there.
I'd want you to meet with the Flemish painter Cornelius Gijsbrechts, a good friend of mine from 1660. Mr. Gijsbrechts is a guy from two point five dimensions. He lives after the right part of the decimal separator. His relation to the real goes back to the oil on canvas and some odd surfaces. And last but not least he can travel between the dimensions such as one point five or two point nine. And finally, the same blue or red pill question is asked to Mr. Gijsbrechts. "You take the blue pill, the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in wonderland," said Morpheus while Mr. Gijsbrechts was chilling in his cozy atelier. He started to tell of a competition as a response which took place in the second half of the fifth century BC between two famous painters from Ancient Greece, Zeuxis and Parrhasios. Zeuxis painted a bunch of grapes that were so realistic that the birds flew down to peck at them. Parrhasios painted a curtain that was so lifelike that when Zeuxis came to inspect the finished work, he asked Parrhasios to draw the curtain aside and show him the painting hidden behind it! Zeuxis then had to admit defeat: he had fooled the birds, but Parrhasios had fooled him. Then Mr. Gijsbrechts smiles and says, "So you see nothing is what it seems. Now I'd rather you leave me alone and don't forget to take your meds." Morpheus never found his way out. Neither the curtains nor the doors and windows in the atelier were three dimensional. As a last resort, Morpheus took both pills and waited for something to happen. Unfortunately, nothing happened.
Then Nicolas Poussin goes onstage.
Dear reader consider the following passages as a series of zig-zag and curve pathways that gradually lead the eye from foreground to middle ground to background. Stick to the path and try not to go astray.
I want you to imagine a small hillock which slopes sharply to the edge of the painting on the left side of the painting Mr. Poussin says. In front of it, there is a man who is seized by a monstrous snake; the snake binds around his body, and intertwines his arms and legs by several turns, squeezes them, poisons them with its venom. This man is already dead. We see the stiffness of all his limbs. His skin is already greenish-gray.
"The body cannot live without the mind," says Morpheus.
There is another man, the running man. He sees the snake around the dead man, he stops suddenly; one of his feet remains suspended; he raises one arm above as if to make a sign, the other falls below, but both hands open. His gestures and movement show his fear and surprise.
"Welcome to the desert of the real," says Morpheus.
Behind the small hillock, there is a woman with laundry who sees the running man but cannot see the dead man, and the landscape makes kind of a curtain between her and the dead man. The fear of the running man makes him immobile whereas the washerwoman can't hold anything back. She lets herself show what she feels. She's terrified of the running man's gestures.
"You have to let it all go. Fear, doubt, and disbelief. Free your mind," says Morpheus.
There's a group by the shoreline: three men. On the left two men face to face: one sitting, one kneeling, and the other stretched out full length on the grass, his torso propped up left, and two bare feet kicking idly. He's dressed in a blue robe and he's looking back!
"Remember, all I'm offering is the truth. Nothing more," says Morpheus.
Three fishermen in the boat are not far above the running man. One of them leans forward and seems ready to fall, it is because he is drawing a net; two others, leaning back, row with effort. "There's a difference between knowing the path and walking the path," says Morpheus. There is a pair of tiny figures standing at the top of the hill by the farmstead. Over their heads is a clump of dark leaves. The red and blue of what they're wearing are electric.
"You've been living in a dream world," says Morpheus.
[The egg yolk is removed from the egg white.]
This is the moment when the image of the Bugs Bunny on Mr. Poussin's atelier wall occurs accordingly to the light. He looks like an outline trace. Bugs Bunny is wearing a toga, in the manner of the ancients. His whole body centered within a frame, his right arm stretched to one side of the frame with one finger getting to the outside of it. Bugs Bunny looks stern and formidable a figure, one obviously not given to compromise or deviation from his chosen path just like Mr. Cézanne, Mr. Magritte, Mr. Gijsbrechts, and Mr. Poussin. This is apparent in the erect pose of his body, the fixity of his gaze and his finger sticking out from the frame. He looks more like black ink impregnating the surface layer of the wall paint. The slender traces of bits of legs, the head, and the torso would maybe come off in due course, with few strokes of the eraser. But the finger, oh the finger which sticks out of the frame would require a more extensive rubbing. The hard eraser passing back and forth over the outer finger wouldn't have much effect. One must scratch the finger with the corner of a razor blade. Even succeed, the concave shape that the frame took after the finger sticks out of it remains there forever. Bugs Bunny popped into my mind as I was writing this. "What's required to change the world is not choosing one pill over another, but rather being able to say I would prefer not to. Being here no matter how many times we get told we don't belong, and believing in the finger which sticks out of the frame. Because that finger is the one not to budge and fall in line because that finger is the one that will leave a palimpsest of inscriptions even when scratched," said he.
Dearest, I wonder, as an artist dare I manage to build my own game like Mr. Cézanne, Gods in the Troy story, DJ, Mr. Magritte, the other İrem, Mr. Poussin, Bugs Bunny, Mr. Gijsbrechts, and every finger which sticks out of the frame or will I fall into the ocean of infinite mediocrity just like Neo, Hera, Athena, Aphrodite, Morpheus, and the Paris the Prince of Troy. I will tell you that I recognized in myself the right to have this fear and yet my existence is cheered by a naïve hope. Let's discover simple forms behind the glimmering veil of appearances. Let's break down colours from complex gradients into their simplest forms. What if we don't choose to smooth the transition from one song to another. What if we don't bring the beats back in sync again. I suggest we get our priorities right.
First things first; let me astonish myself with an apple.
As this letter is undated and consequently might have been written at any time, it also follows from this that it might be read at any time. As soon as this letter has been put into orbit, none of this will be important.
It's as an artist that I wrote and signed this letter. İrem Günaydın
İrem Günaydın (b. 1989, Istanbul) explores the relationship between text and image, and the ways in which words and images circulate between discursive and pictorial realms, investigating the objecthood of language and the grammar of images. Her practice is often generated through writing and unfolds as installations gathering moving images, print, and sculptural elements while writing functions as a fulcrum. She draws inspiration from art history, literature, film and music, deconstructing the canon with minor narratives and contemporary popular media. İrem holds a Foundation diploma from Chelsea College of Art and Design (2011), and her BA in Fine Art from Central Saint Martins, London (2014). She lives and works in Istanbul.