Prof. ERİCH F. REUTER
Erdinç Bakla is one of the interesting personalities of a generation that could be considered youthful in comparison to ours. His Stel-like idols each carries a strong expression. Ali of them have the attributes of a different search as they should very well have. I have not yet to encountered objects similar to his vvorks. it may be said that, in the types he creates by stepping back from their natural characteristics, he reminds the vievver ancient mythical symbols.
BASTİA ET LA HAUTE-CORSE
Ceramics signed by Erdinç Bakla invite man to a mysterious voyage towards civilisations yet to be discovered. Time and memory are up-staged towards interesting faces as vvitnesses of a social residue of the dawn of time from Hitites to Greeks ali the way to our day.
YVES-LOİC GİRARD BASTİA
Erdinç Bakla's vvorks transport us to an archaic and contemporary vvorld that resembles volcanic figures stili smouldering. These ceramics, for the last remaining romantics, constitute a meeting point for persons coming out of a mythological theatre. Rather than excitement, they represent the chaos of a mystery that rises above a realism vvhich in some may cause anxiety.
PROF. DR. İSMAİL TUNALI
Generally speaking, an exodus may be observed today from ceramics tovvards sculpture ör smaller functional vvorks. Erdinç Bakla, standing aside both these tendencies, has reached for nevv dimensions in artistic ceramics through his research of ali possibilities in the ceramic art. These are ceramics ali right, but they are also genuine vvorks of art carrying ali elements, say, of a sculpture ör a painting. in the meantime, I vvould like to assert another of my observations. This is the first time I have ever observed such a povverful figurative expression in ceramic art. I wish to thank and congratulate Erdinç Bakla, vvhom I am proud to cali my friend, for presenting us this exhibition (*) so vvell-vvorth a visit.
PROF.DR. BÜLENT ÖZER
To instill shape into olay is a handicraft that has started with the existence of man. Evolution of a figüre into art is a creative privilege given to mankind. The most important and favorable center in history where examples of earthen artifacts created by men who convey the sensitivity of an artist to give form to olay have originally emerged is Anatolia.
The earth was initially formed into pots and pans in Anatolia. Those pots and pans later attained diversified forms. Stili later, their surfaces were given motifs and lustre. The forms thus created assumed the function of a guideline towards searches for more original forms, motifs, and for emergence of figures that are repeatedly born within themselves. Observation of nature acquire a ne w poignancy by blending with sensitivity of the artist.
The most privileged form in nature, namely, "man", by a touch of his hand, transforms earth into its most privileged form. Art ist iç hands give form to the Mother Goddess in Çatalhöyük and to rhytons in Hacılar. Mother Goddess in her diverse forms sheds light to artistic periods, and consequently to the ever-lasting flow of history. The light emanating from this culture, with examples that have extended to our day, is mirrored by artists who give shape to clay.
Erdinç Bakla infuses this approach to the essence of the shape he imparts to clay. Bakla's memory is nourished with data flow from the civilizations of Anatolia.
Bakla founds his textual approach on portraits. These are materialized by observation based on the reflection of symbols on clay. Symbols retained in memory of thousands of faces observed in the environment stripped of their süper f içe are transformed into form. Suddenly, faces appear through the complex texture of kneaded earth. Their screams frozen in air, signifying their ideas and dignity, woman faces evolve into a unique transparency. With their smooth, crystal appearance, they settle into the spirit of the form adopted by the earth. They strikingly present their existence with clarity in contrast to the intricate texture of the surrounding medium.
The great art historian and man of culture Heinrich Wölfflin has önce remarked, "VVhatever sought by the artists is the truth he observes. Nevertheless, it is also a fact that he seeks whatever he observes". We may contend that with these words, light has been shed on the two conflicting processes in the creation of art. in fact, during certain epochs ör personalities in the history of art, the artvvork recedes f r om being a synthesis of the visual. However, in our age of extreme intensity of both international communication and consolidation, and emergence in full detail before our eyes of documents of past cultures, the importance of the visual aspect in the creation of art has considerably been increased. in our day, not only the artist as an individual may not disregard what is being created outside his domain ör objects that have been engendered in the past, but also the preference of the contemporary society has a natural inclination towards artworks resultant of a synthesis. in such an environment, the crucial task that burdens the artist is to transform the messages he is addressed with into contemporary symbols that represent an original character.Faithful to a positive development course in the ceramic figures he has kept producing for years, Erdinç Bakla has masterfully achieved this elusive synthesis. Means of expression of entirely diverse cultures, regions and eras in his works have reached a uncompromising contemporaneity that is often also non-repetitive. in the figures that remind us the universal expressionist ör sürrealist language of our day, powerful combinations of many diverse cultures through assimilation arrive at a synthesis that may not be distinguished f rom öne another. Contribution of abstract art is generally felt glistening in the background. it is in such a way that in Erdinç Bakla's ali works, each figüre in öne aspect reflects an expressionist ör sürrealist approach while from another point of view, it represents a highly püre conductor for the abstract form. in this last exhibition (*) prepared by the artist at Hidiv Pavillion, his works from our viewpoint of artistic value are again weighted with the types of work we have mentioned above. in the works we could qualify as recent Art Nouveau, as if to accentuate the character of the space where the exhibition is held, we see a skilful retrospect representing the world of a lost era. Ali in ali, it may be said that the artist has captured in an interesting manner the opportunity to prove his technical skill and power to adapt.
DR. KIYMET GİRAY
in Bakla's ceramics, woman is molded in an idealized proud beauty with the sanctity and dignified immunity derived from her matriarchal status in Anatolia.
With detailed formative values that emerge in the center of the irregular background texture, female face on which the expression is focused is often transmuted into a relief effect. Faces are presented in a contrast that emphasize material-figure t o figure-material transpositions. Striking textural variations are strained to the limit in these expressions. Faces sometimes carry the form that faintly remind öne the body underneath. Ceramics are formed with an appearance that resemble monuments supported on a pedestal. Like the forms of muit iple headed Kybele figures that have been unearthed at Kültepe-Kaniş water marbles, in the sub-conscious of figurative aspects of the works lies emphatically the traces of past Anatolian Civilizations.
Erdinç Bakla, in his efforts to shape the clay, with the inspiration he has received from the statues of Henry Moore, attempts to combine those works of art with an extension that goes back to the tradition of textural selections of Çanakkale ceramics. in pursuing those lines, he approaches his works in the light of an individual sensitivity that seeks the structure of the dream through which Civilizations of Anatolia have given shape to clay. He adds ali these values to clay by synthesizing them in the crucible of his sensitivity. As a result, by eluding being merely earth, his vvorks become Erdinç Bakla ceramics.
PROF. KAYA ÖZSEZGİN
Whatever the genre or purpose of an art object may be, among the shared characteristics of works of art, perhaps the primary one, is that of their unique and independent existence. This very fact has been analyzed on a theoretical basis by Henri Focillon, and he notes that to produce a work of art is to bring forth a "unique" object: A work of art seems to prove itself as a thing "absolute", but at the same time exposes itself to an ambiguous system of relationships. It is the outcome of an independent action, and reflects an unfettered and superior imagination. On the other hand, a work of art combines itself with the power that spawns great civilizations.
In short, it is material, imbued with spirit, it is form and content (1). Proceeding along the same line of thought as Focillon, René Huyghe views this harmonious totality inherent in a work of art as an effort to lend form to human thought; he compares a work of art to any instrument making up an orchestra: In terms of its coming together to form a totality, every piece bears characteristics related to another one, and while taking its place within this orchestra does not refrain from performing its own unique function.
It does not simply perform the part it has been allotted, a work of art is a living organism: It follows the conditions predicated by its internal imperatives; it evolves, transforms according to necessity; it provides the possibility for the creation of its "similar".
According to Huyghe, there are three components in a work of art which has a life of its own: The visible real world, the plastic world and the world of ideas (2).
One of these components may be more prevalent than the others, but all are present, all the time, everywhere.
Ceramics is an art of objects that exhibits a magnificent evolution from the dawn of history up until the present. On considering that ceramics is inseparably wedded to human kind, it asserts itself by embracing a ceramic piece, where the fine pores are diffused amongst its tissue. Whether the object is merely a bowl or fine piece of pottery makes no difference. Its being a functional object means that it reflects this reality of nature in an abstract manner, yet this reality is truly apparent.
With the pieces's basic material of clay or soil, upon combining with water and fire - that is, from the moment it takes on its transformation into its true identity - the object's ceramic form, those natural elements unique to nature (a part of nature) are formed through the agency of the human hand and the piece starts to become "an object" that takes on the character of a work of art. In other words, its plastic value becomes fixed. Without a doubt this fixity is achieved by the human hand that forms it and places it in the kiln, and the creative process that stems from the world of the mind.
The interesting history of ceramics which begins with primitive man, in its essence partakes of an anonymous value. In this situation the functional aspect of ceramics is explicit and its artistic feature remains somewhat hidden, and for this reason ceramics as an art is often viewed somewhat askance. Yet this form of production's homeland is Anatolia and it exemplifies the most ancient to the most contemporary of forms. However, and not merely in the sense of function, the placing or filling of objects in ceramic vessels can be done without neglecting structural consciousness and the sense of form which is seemingly reflected.
Leaving this historical functionalism behind, "form" succeeds and, like any other art object, contemporary ceramics takes on an independent character that has turned its back on the traditional structure of ceramics. As technology has begun to introduce new materials, thus distancing itself from being an object formed from clay and water, baked in a kiln, and most often glazed, can it be said that the boundaries of ceramics have begun to blur with neighboring branches of art ?
In the eyes of the ancients, the potter was no ordinary person in that he produced goods that had benefit to society as a whole. The pot thrown on a wheel was no doubt perceived by its user as no run-of-the-mill article. The potter must have been looked upon as a skillful individual. Ahmet Hamdi Tanpınar (3) wrote that if Omar Khayyam had been raised in a culture that produced sculpture "the bitter face of human fate" would have been expressed on the potter's wheel. According to Tanpınar this poet, who spent endless nights watching "obstructed space", found that either broken or whole the clay water jug and pitcher were the best "allegory" of human fate.
Even though the objects were the most simple and common ones fashioned by the hands of people, it is human thought and traces of mystery from the emotional state that give them their form. If touched by human hand, the thing becomes particular to humanity, thus reflecting either openly or secretly a person's perspective.
As for artistic ceramics, these traces become more profound, the reflections more concrete, the touch of the hand gains a new system of meaning.
As for porcelain wall tiles, they enrich the interior space. As a functional article they add color to interior life with the layers of Anatolian culture having been kneaded together in a rich historical accumulation. In the 1930's ceramics takes on a modern character through a contemporary evolutionary process lead by a generation of vigorous artists. This process emerged in a brief span and today it is no surprise that a rich movement has come to the fore. Of course such a development has roots extending back to the first settlers of Anatolia and the traditional cultures that have subsequently flourished. From neolithic cultures up until the Seljuk and Ottoman, ceramics partakes of a perspective that spans the centuries. Even the etymological sources of this branch of art are sought in Turkish (4) and, as a developmental phenomena of modernization as defined by the Republic, has with great rapidity given form to the art of ceramics.
It is of course necessary to regard this as natural. Such centers as Iznik, Kütahya and Çanakkale today rest over the foundations of a great tradition, and may be the stage for this art of the soil's quest for the new. The art form's development, if it can preserve its tradition of passing on the skills from the master to the apprentice, can be said to be closely linked to its original values.
The artistic career of Erdinç Bakla which started in the 1960's and continued up to the present cannot be seen independent from the development of the ceramic arts within the last 70 years in Turkey. It is in this time period that ceramics as a subject of art was incorporated into university programs and ceramics education became institutionalized. Later on the graduates of these faculties were in turn becoming actively engaged in promoting the arts of ceramics and educating young artists.
In the 1930's the Minister of Education, Mustafa Necati, instructed Ismail Hakkı Oygar to set up a ceramics atelier within the Academy of Fine Arts. Oygar was at that time a close friend and colleague of Namık Ismail, the Director of the Academy of Fine Arts. During this time period the Academy was going through an extensive process of reorganization: the Department of Decorative Arts as well as the Department of Ceramics had just been established. One of the leading mentors of Erdinç Bakla, Hakkı Izet, first studied architecture and then graphic arts at the Academy during these years. After graduating in 1929 he got a scholarship from Germany and studied ceramics at the "Staatliche Keramische Fachschule in Bunzlau" for two years, where he worked with Prof. Berdel, Prof. Waldeyer and Prof. Henning. In 1931 Hakkı Izet went to Berlin to acquire some additional experience in a sculpture atelier.
After his return to Turkey Hakkı Izet started to teach modelling at the Ankara Gazi Education Institute Department of Painting and Handicrafts. In 1940 Hakkı Izet was appointed to set up a Department of Ceramics at the Institute of Chemistry and Art in Ankara in order to educate ceramic technicians, a milestone in the history of ceramic arts in Turkey. This department of ceramics was the driving force for the development of this branch of art in the capital of the country at a time when the technical equipment was still very poor. The abandoned atelier of the Gazi Education Institute in a suburb of Ankara was vested with great hopes. Given the same commitment this atelier could turn out to become the Yıldız Porcelain Factory of the future. (5).
The main goal in founding this atelier was to develop the chemicals necessary in producing high quality ceramics, porcelain and tiles.
In 1953 Hakkı Izet organized an exhibition at Ankara Helikon which on the one hand emphasized the development of a branch of art fostering great hopes for the ceramic industry of Turkey. On the other hand the exhibition was also striking in terms of the works of art which were inspired by ancient handicrafts. The pitcher-style water jugs were especially impressive.
The Internatıonal Ceramics Academy in Geneva evaluated the works of Hakkı İzet and game an honorary diploma.Following this recognition İzet was invited on behalf of Turkey to participate at the International Ceramics Congreee in Cannes in 1955.
Hakkı Izet was interpreting the ancient works of ceramics and wall tiles in a modern way, trying to combine them with contemporary design. One of his outstanding works of art was the interior wall tiles for a mosque built in the 1950s in Washington with contributions from different Islamic countries. Izet used Iznik wall tiles which were formed according to new concepts of design.
Hakkı Izet's pioneering work was in the field of porcelain production. According to Malik Aksel, Izet's works are characterized "by a perfect technique which is particular to himself, substantial and cognizant, resulting in a delightfully high quality of expression (6).
By now sculptors and painters could make use of the technical and aesthetic studies carried out in Istanbul and Ankara and thus produce artistic ceramics. The interest these artists were showing in ceramics was going to have a positive effect on the acknowledgement of modern painting as well as on reviving an ancient branch of art dating back thousands of years (7). The Department of Ceramics at the Institute of Chemistry and Art in Ankara was open to anyone who wanted to benefit from its facilities. The atelier was serving as a research center. Soil samples were analyzed for their use in ceramics and the best formulae for ceramic pastes, glazes and paints were investigated.
One of the characteristics of Hakkı Izet's work was that he integrated the forms of Hitite pottery into contemporary design. For example, in his sheep and buffalo forms as well as in his water jugs in bird's form, there was a striking stylization of Hitite tradition.
At the time Hakkı Izet was given the task of founding the Department of Ceramics at the School of Applied Fine Arts in Istanbul in 1957, he was an experienced and acknowledged artist and technician of ceramics - qualities he would from then on convey to his students.
After finishing secondary school in Mersin and Çanakkale Erdinç Bakla, who always was highly interested in arts and especially ceramics, enrolled at the Faculty of Applied Fine Arts in 1958.
Thus he became the student (and apprentice) of the head of the Department of Ceramics, Hakkı Izet. Today Bakla thinks he had a lucky start in entering this faculty. But later on his education in ceramics became one of conscious choice. He considered art as being a general activity deriving its strength from establishing relationships with the common sources. Regardless of the specific branch of art, unless these relationships are established, there can be no way to succeed. During his years in high school Erdinç Bakla copied the paintings of famous artists, an endeavor which facilitated his connection to the common sources.
His path was set: in the years to come his passion for ceramics was going to be all-prevailing. At the time when Erdinç Bakla enrolled at the School of Applied Fine Arts, which was founded in 1957 in accordance with the "Bauhaus" school, it had been about a year since Hakkı Izet was appointed head of Department of Ceramics (6.8.1957).
Erdinç Bakla's mentor soon realized the talent and skills of the young student and future artist and supported him all the way through his education.
As part of his formal education Bakla went to Germany for an apprenticeship at the Krautheim Porcelain Manufactory. Later on he also worked at the pottery ateliers in Çanakkale. He always made use of the rich history of Anatolian pottery as a vivid point of reference in his works; going through the periods of pre-Hitite and late-Hitite all the way until the 19th century. He did this with Çanakkale ceramics to fashion bowls, jars and pitchers. As a teacher and a theorist who has done extensive research in respect to the classical and modern Turkish art of tile-making, as well as the traditional Anatolian pottery forms, Hakkı Izet (8) had a deep influence on canalizing his students into the art of ceramics.
In an interview Erdinç Bakla once said(9) that he was very interested in Iznik tiles and traditional ceramics and that he was the first artist to investigate Tophane meerschaum (10). This in turn evoked his interest in the ceramics of Çanakkale, were he worked for a couple of months in the summer at an atelier equipped with modern technical facilities. At this atelier in Çanakkale he learned the secrets of using the potter's wheel and finally received an "icazet" (a diploma or certificate) from one of the old masters. Captured by the fascination of the arts he decided to move his own atelier to a farmhouse at Iznik lake. According to Erdinç Bakla, it took a long time with hard work to fully master the techniques and aesthetic secrets of the old tile and pottery masters. . But without such a meticulous training there would be no chance to reach the essence of the tradition at all. At one time, for example, there were ceramic masters from Kütahya who claimed to have discovered the techniques used in manufacturing Iznik tiles,especially the coral red.
This is nothing but wishful thinking, because even today the techniques of Iznik tiles have not adequately been analyzed. These works of art which have survived over 500 years without any damage and without loosing their characteristics, must first be subjected to an extensive scientific research which would include the values of color and style used in their local techniques. Any assertion prior to this process could well be misleading.
His interest and curiosity lead Erdinç Bakla to research going way back in history. As a result he has today a comprehensive archive containing thousands of slides and typical examples of Çanakkale ceramics.
Hakkı Izet had noted the passion his student dad for ceramics at a very early stage and always backed him throughout his education. Erdinç Bakla started to work as Hakkı Izet's assistant who encouraged him to engage himself with the affairs and the development of the Department of Ceramics after his graduation in 1962.
Comparing Erdinç Bakla's early works with his later sculptures it can be easily seen that over the years he changed considerably and developed a distinctive form and a mature style recognized as the particular Erdinç Bakla style. The artist was trying on the one hand to open the way for his particular ceramic form and on the other hand to capture and manifest the originality of these forms in all their different phases. Looking at his line of development, one can say that he managed to capture these dimensions within a relatively short period of time. The 1960s, the years Erdinç Bakla started to work as an artist, were the formative years of the Turkish ceramic industry. Until the 60's the ceramic ateliers in Turkey were usually confined to local pottery ateliers. The sites of traditional ceramics like Kütahya and Iznik were trying to survive by producing for the domestic market. The concept of artistic ceramics, however, could only establish itself as an independent branch of art, regardless of its local forms and activities, after the University of Applied Fine Arts in Istanbul had been founded and a formal education on ceramics was introduced.
This was the period in the 1950s when the Institute of Chemistry and Art in Ankara, and the ceramic atelier attached to it, would start educating ceramic artists and conducting research on production techniques. In the following years numerous factories manufacturing tiles and ceramics started to operate, and institutions producing raw materials for ceramics like clay, glaze and paint came into existence.
Thus an important barrier in educating a generation of artists who would play a major role in acknowledging modern ceramics as a branch of art was overcome. Considering the difficulties the pioneers of ceramics like Ismail Hakkı Oygar, Füreyya Koral and Sadi Diren met in securing the necessary conditions to produce modern ceramics, such as special ateliers and kilns, the generations to follow were relatively privileged. The Fifth International Ceramics Exhibition in Istanbul in 1967 provided an opportunity to compare and contrast the works of the Turkish artists with their counterparts abroad. This exhibition clearly proved that the works of modern Turkish ceramics were in fact not behind in terms of techniques with the ones of their Western colleagues.
Even if only for functional purposes like wall tiles and articles for daily use, the rich tradition of Anatolian earthenware is a vast source the artists can tap into. Furthermore, the consistency and quality of the clay in Turkey is, for ceramic artists inexhaustible source of raw material. While kaolin and feldspar were formerly imported, technical research proved them to be found in local soil.
The development of ceramic technologies and adequate conditions for ceramic industry had a positive influence on modern ceramic arts. Some artists used raw materials manufactured with new technology whereas others preferred to produce their own clay and glaze.
The main issue for artists of the second generation, like Erdinç Bakla, was to convince the people, who viewed ceramics as a branch of handicrafts, that it may well be recognized as a branch of art, i.e. sculpture, expressing itself in modern aesthetic values using three-dimensional forms and volumes in space. Although technically speaking the boarder-line between ceramics and sculpture was becoming more pronounced, in terms of the "mass" form ceramics was approaching sculpture. As a matter of fact, the originality and creativity of ceramics would increase to the extent it could integrate the ideas and sensitivity of the artist in its form. The developments abroad were along the same lines: Ceramics was seen as a dynamic part of the cultural identity of the land on which it flourished, reflecting at the same time the identity of the artist in his work. In his universal approach Picasso was a typical example of this. He was not a ceramic artist but together with his paintings he also produced works of art applying the technology of ceramics. And what's more, he was not alienating himself from the traditions from which he came. He was going back to the sources of folk art. In his works stressing simplicity and roughness he obviously was inspired by Mediterranean culture, Cretan and Mycenaean art and especially the pottery of "Madoura". The ceramic objects he created in the warm climate on the Southern coast of France, in Vallauris, reflected the artists' identity as well as the modern extensions of a deep rooted tradition.
He alternates between sclupture and ceramics:This alternation is an indispensable feature of being a modernartist.
According to this approach it is only natural that Erdinç Bakla has used the concept of "ceramic-sculptures" for some of his work exhibited since the 1960s. Furthermore, he abstains from using glaze on his ceramic figures and hence abandons the ceramic form as well as the contrast between natural-transparent surfaces and tissue-like surfaces. His work appears to be more sculpture than ceramics. Usually within the scope of an average dimension the figures seem to be an abstract-amorphous mass whereas looking from the opposite side they give the impression of a bust. This duel appearance gives the forms and figures an extraordinarily rich content, creating a "retro-verso" transition from the abstract to the concrete.
The second group of works are knows as "plate ceramics". Here there is a pair of ceramic plates, one of them being concave and the other convex, both oppose each other so that there is an artistic focus of communication between the abstract surface texture of one plate and the portrait applied on the surface of the other plate. The artist thus tries to establish an interpretation of a material illusion. According to Read, art is a "material indecision" searching for harmony in life (11).
The concept of indecision in this context should rather be seen as the capability to reach two different narrations, while making use of the same material - than as an indecision concerning the choices on how to mold the material at hand. With his ceramic forms Erdinç Bakla wants the viewer to catch different effects while looking from different perspectives. Erdinç Bakla wants his ceramic forms to evoke different effects on the viewer according to the positioning of the object and the perspective of the onlooker and thus to reach a harmony that results from the contrast between the real and unreal, the portrait and the non-portrait.
He aims to question traditional measure of value associated with the concept of ceramic forms. While going to the limit of traditional harmony criteria, he proposes a new harmony in disharmony. Evaluating it from a narrow point of view, it is the search for new harmonies through contrasting elements. Whether clay or soil, ceramic material forms such a contrast and therefore provides infinite possibilities for art. A molded form contrasts with its shape when modeled by hand and natural forms are added to this shape; a rough surface contrasts when put next to a smooth surface; an oval or round-shape forms a wholeness based on the harmony of contrasts when composed with its opposite.
Erdinç Bakla shares the same views as Herbert Read on ceramic art: Ceramics is both the most simple and the most difficult of arts. It is the most simple because it is the most "primitive". It is the most difficult because it is the most "abstract". In history it is the oldest of arts. The first vessels have been made by mud extracted from the soil, formed by hand and dried by sun and wind (12).
Many of Bakla's bust-ceramics follow this path of abstraction: At first sight these bust-ceramics appear rather as abstract forms shaped into a bust. Some pieces have human portraits added in the process of sculpturing an amorphous mass which are seemingly unimportant details. But looking at it from a closer distance, these details integrate into a human message that fits perfectly together as parts of a greater whole.
But this is not true for all of Bakla's busts. Other examples have vivid facial expression with eyes, eye-brows and lips molded in distinct forms and with hair encircling the face. The neck is unusually slender, the curly hair falls unto the shoulders and the naked breasts give the bust an erotic expression, all encompassing the torso to evoke a universality.
The common feature of both groups of busts is reflected in a primitive style, characteristic of Anatolian Hitite or Phrygian figures, this being reflected by a contemporary artist in a cryptic manner. In a group of work the figure of the Mother Goddess (Kybele) is sitting cross-legged, while the interpretation of the figure itself is in line with that of the young female busts: Thus the figure of the Mother Goddess and the figure of the modern young woman are identical in the context of interpretation.
Busts with a strong abstract impact usually consist of two figures, either next to each other or opposite each other. These figures pertaining to the image of young women are reflected in an inconspicuous manner of expression: Without idealizing in the classical sense and without diverting to a natural perfection, Erdinç Bakla wants to reflect the impressions of ceramic material which he considers as having a valuable impact on the viewer.
Bakla diligently avoids unnecessary ostentation. He does not want to change the natural impact of ceramic materials by using glaze or making them shine.
Clay enriched with kaolin is shaped by hand and, as an expression of naturalness is left to itself without any further intervention. After firing in the kiln, the details left in the mold will form a soft transition towards the darker areas like concentrations of dots, the face and hair are in contrast to the white surface of the figure. These are details similar to those tissue-like traces found in rocks formed by wind, rain and other external forces. This leads the viewer to make associations with nature. The direct relationship established between the material and nature leads the viewer to make the association that reality should be seen as something material. Everything develops along this analogy: Similarities create new similarities; the relationship between structural elements is a chain of interaction reached by transformation. Hence, creativity is based on the constant interaction between objects and concepts. In the present work there is not a direct analogy, but a phantasmagoric one.
As the metaphorical transformations unfold on themselves, the object becomes appearance and appearance becomes object, whereby the image becomes more and more singular.
The young female image in Erdinç Bakla's works is an example of such an interaction resulting in singularity.
The young female portraits of Bakla's busts are not masks reduced to a monolithic monotony. They therefore also are in harmony with the outward expressions of their inner reactions. At some point they are constricted in perplexity, some are focused on a distant point, some are experiencing the feeling of their inner reality. By looking at these busts we experience different expressions of human emotions and reactions on a wide-scale of physiognomic forms. The face or the physiognomy of the human is a mirror of the soul. Structural differences therefore pertain to different human temperaments.
. According to the old renaissance painters, the eyes were the windows opening up to the interior world of the human being. It is as if Erdinç Bakla is referring to this analogy when he leaves a hole in place of an eye in some of his figures. As a result, in opposition to the uneven structure of the ceramic plate, a harmonic structurality between the full and the empty spaces is obtained. The empty space in place of the eye is at the same time a reference to our faculty of seeing as the primary organ in perceiving facts and phenomena.
Erdinç Bakla's busts are usually average in size. In an interview Bakla once said that in his art the concept of size has no predominant function (13).
Objects on a larger scale may have a stronger impact on people, but it would be a mistake to assume that every object of art must have a monumental presentation. Usually it is more difficult to reach the same effect on a smaller scale than on a larger scale, notwithstanding technical "impossibilities" as an excuse.
This perspective calls to attention the fact that the real quality of an art object lies not in its dimensions but in its capacity to externalize its hidden meaning. With respect to Erdinç Bakla's figures we have to recall that their concrete meaning manifests by exhibiting the figures in a group and thus creating a pluralistic impression rather than exhibiting the figures on their own and creating a singular impact of figures which seem to have been molded with similar forms. The concrete meaning in Bakla's figures manifest themselves through differences in movement reflected on different forms of expression in the women's faces.
By avoiding traditional ceramic forms, Bakla's work seems more sculpture-like. Some objects which are exhibited rarely are even regarded as sculptures by the artist. But nevertheless his main subjects are humans. According to Erdinç Bakla the world of the artist is based on an ongoing process of research. This research should comprise thematic interpretations as well as technical details. In any moment of the artist's life the "constructs" of his works will be present; the artist lives together with these constructs and his creativity is channeled into his work. At the same time he examines his environment as well as the traditional forms of art and is inspired by them. It is therefore not surprising that the human figures are sometimes associated with the fairy chimneys in Cappadocia and with Hitite figures. Objects we meet daily in nature, landscapes and people, are all sources of inspiration for the artist. Bakla's "people" are like real people living in unity with the land. Like these people, they have drawn the earth upon themselves and have built shelters. Like real people, they move in slow motion; like people living in Anatolia their garments are determined by nature. . These characteristics may be observed in Bakla's figures that he created in the 70s: the figures are like surreal creatures coming back in our time from the ancient past. The only details pertaining to them as living creatures are their tiny heads on fractured torsos
The heads being small, and the torsos being huge, with concave and convex ceramic plates stacked in layers on top of each other in abstract forms, evoke the impression that the image of these figures has deliberately been placed under camouflage. They appear as surrealistic creatures coming from a far distant galaxy rather than living creatures.
Whether designed as busts or as surrealistic figures, these works are the "muses", the sources of inspiration of Erdinç Bakla - just like any other artist whose subject matter is the human being. Their serial characteristics and their original forms and interpretations, ranging from the singular to the plural, is another characteristic feature of a modern artist: Modern artists usually take up a specific subject and elaborate on it while partaking of the unchanging essence of the pure working framework which is held in common and as a result is broadened by the said effort.
The inspiration and impression present on the faces of the young women is turned into composite in Erdinç Bakla's works. This is exactly what a sculptor does: When not having chosen a specific model, they turn to a singular or anonymous form and try to transform their visual components into a common character or style. They recede from the first impression or otherwise they wouldn't be able to turn it into a pluralistic fashion. Each sculpture derived from the common form sustains its ties with the original roots. These ties help us to understand the artist's identity and personality. The aim is not to develop similarities or concepts of belonging. However, the necessity of art is to focus on universal ideas and feelings common to all humans rather than to dwell on singular identities. Faces with a smiling or thoughtful expression, faces hiding or showing their feelings, reveal to the viewer the universal dimensions of human beings.
This is exactly what Erdinç Bakla is doing with his busts and young female figures. In the Old Testament, the Book of Genesis, it is written that God created all animals living on the earth and presented them to man to be named. Man named these creatures as he named any other living creatures. "In every place where a definite number of singulars are given a specific name, it should be assumed that they have a reciprocally inherent form. Thus the essence of the common name will be, according to Plato, not the singularity of it but the form itself.
While the names of the singulars are only self-reflecting words (in this context the portraits), the common name is the name of the form which the singulars belong to" (14). According to Hobbes names are not the imagery of objects but that of our thoughts. In that case, each object or living creature which is transferred from nature or from the world of outer realities, in order to be turned into a work of art, cannot be anything but the images of the thoughts of the artist who shapes them. The name of the object or the living creature in the work of art are these images. In this sense, Erdinç Bakla's figures are not busts of a known person or persons, but they are anonymous and plural indicators of images of the young female. The artist does not name these models, in other words, he does not disclose who they belong to.
This is because these busts are a cast of the female image. The beholder encounters a different face of the image of womanhood. Each face exhibits the different expressions. The summation of these expressions is of course the image of the female itself. Female feelings, thoughts, view points and interpretations are the extensions of a "general" form whereby these are expressed. According to Locke, these reflections are "general ideas" that we see in female faces. Even though these reflections are shaped in the form of young women's faces, they are not particular to that female face, but also to all creatures of the same kind. Locke also interprets abstraction as the discarding of non-mutual characteristics or qualities(15). In the same vein, according to supporters of the macrocosm theory, human existence is nothing but a piece of the complete life in the universe. The only difference is one of proportions. In the singular it is possible to see the reflections of the total.
Thus, Erdinç Bakla's young female figures have been designed according to the reflections of this reality.
When considered from a technical view point, the works of Erdinç Bakla have been designed in terra-cotta single firing. These characteristics make them part of the traditional ceramics. Koalin and feldspar, which he included in his clay mix, make his works closer to porcelainat least visually. More correctly, in their unglazed shape these works of art are perceived as porcelain objects. But they are not exactly porcelain, because they have not been subject to high-firing. They were not meant to be anyway. As mentioned above, the fact that Erdinç Bakla works with mineral oxides adds a natural structure characteristic to his art. The black or gray tones that the mineral oxides add to the surface texture of ceramic objects, cause the work to have the simple look of antique ceramic objects. The artist carefully avoids using color.
On the other hand, at some exhibitions, the artist himself was not reluctant about using the term "sculpture" for the works that were created using ceramic technology. Erdinç Bakla's objects are very close to the concept of "sculpture." This comes not only from the concern that ceramics should remain outside the scope of useful daily objects, but also from the figurative approach that he uses in his work. In other words, his objects are "ceramicscupltures." The fact that these are unglazed, brings these objectswhich are someplace between sculpture and ceramicscloser to being sculptures. The fact that they have been fired, makes the same objects ceramics because of the technology that was used.
If technique is not considered as a determining characteristic, it would not be wrong to think of Erdinç Bakla's work as sculpture. This is because is has been shaped by hand rather than by mold, and because his pieces strongly emphasize humanoid shapes, which are the basic concerns of sculptors.
At a stage where there is a tendency to keep art genres or art branches outside of classical categorization, it may not be important to think about how these works of art are classified. In the end, whatever their technical contexts are, Erdinç Bakla's figurines works of art because of their conceptual values. They have been produced to be interpreted underneath this category and this name.
Despite the fact that Erdinç Bakla comes from the discipline of ceramics, he has never broken ties with other branches of art. The School of Applied Fine Arts in Istanbul had not neglected interdisciplinary connections, because of its endeavor to join the Bauhaus tradition.
The philosophy that Hakkı Izet was trying to teach his students in his atelier emphasized that one should keep an open mind towards other artistic disciplines. The tight connections between art and life required students to develop such an understanding (16).
On the other hand, Erdinç Bakla is still proud to pronounce that he is a ceramic artist and proud to be regarded as one. He believes that the art of ceramics provides immense opportunities for the modern artist; ranging from craftsmanship to production, from searching out new materials to other surprises. But these opportunities are not readily available to the modern artist; finding them is only possible through long research and through being open to certain surprises. This is because art has the capacity to provide myriad opportunities to the artist who is willing to discover it.
It has already been mentioned that Erdinç Bakla is passionate for his craft and his art. This is the driving force which enables him to use modern techniques in order to interpret 9000-year-old Anatolian pottery, to create immensely beautiful earthen objects of various sizes. Even today his interest in the archaeological findings of the Çatalhöyük and Hacılar regions continue (17).
Among todays ceramic artists there are people who - with the intuition of their interests - challenge the three-dimensional figurative designs of ceramics. The art of ceramics had kept its artisanal characteristic until the 1940's. For the artists who are producing work within the framework of todays art, material is the basic element which by itself accounts for the quality and expression of the art object. Any material added to the object or any new material created by using the former one leads to the creation of a new work of art or a series of objects.
As a result of the developing ceramic industry in Turkey, material its inherent characteristics determining future work has effected in a positive manner the way the artists look at things, the way they perceive and interpret art.
Consequently, the variety of material has enabled the Turkish ceramic artists to catch the novel and thus to give meaning to a relevant relationship. (18)
On the other hand, the issue of material should just be dealt with on an instrumental level. Any kind of traditional production, even artifacts which later on become a part of a collection in a museum, elicits new fields of imagination for the artist. In this respect, Erdinç Bakla prefers not to be conservative. According to him, the effects of inspiration and influences by objects created in former times, should not be considered as repeating a pattern in a passive way.
For example, the Çanakkale ceramics, the oldest of which date back to the 18th century, are works which have highly influenced Erdinç Bakla's observations and interests. Erdinç Bakla came across the Çanakkale pottery - a school by itself - during his years in secondary school in Çanakkale. According to the artist, the Çanakkale ceramics, of which he has a small collection at home, reflect the "enthusiastic expression" of the people "in the most noble forms of a creative genius". This "sincere" production of a folk artist who does not have a formal education, comprises a wide range of objects ranging from plates to pitchers (19).
Next to the ceramic artists who interpret traditional ceramic forms as designs of modern art and who produce works of art along this line, or ceramic artists who produce completely abstract forms, artists like Erdinç Bakla, who concentrate on figures, form a separate group of artists in Turkey.
Although there may be different factors why ceramic artists (in Turkey) turn towards human figures, the uniting factor in all artists is to do away with the boarder-lines between ceramics and sculpture, and thus reach a freer way of expression.
One of the first artists producing ceramic objects of art, Füreyya Koral, for example, said that she was producing ceramic forms in order to "share the feelings of her inner world, her way of looking at things, and her dreams". In other words, she saw expression as of utmost importance for her work. She was very interested in people with their lives at home. Füreyya Koral's (20) group of figures appear to the beholder as having no inner feelings and as looking into empty space, whereas Erdinç Bakla's figures always seem to tell us something. They look upon us with an intuitive expression trying to project their inner feelings to the outside world.
Candeğer Furtun, another contemporary artist, for his part usually positions similar figures next to each other. The works of Candeğer Furtun express a body of art composed of philosophy, psychology and the human phenomenon. He also differs in this respect from Erdinç Bakla's busts.
Some artists, among them Erdinç Bakla, try to change the functionality of ceramics in favor of a functionalism which is more abstract than those of sculptures, and thus to find ways to make the image of modern artists more effective there is a strong relationship with figures in this approach. The artists mentioned above try to scrutinize this relationship and find different ways to reach common results.
Erdinç Bakla, however, has an independent identity within this context. Therefore, he does not like to produce for the market and he usually is hesitant to sell his works of art during exhibitions.(21)
Examining Erdinç Bakla's ceramic-sculptures with respect to their inherent meaning, which is merely reflected on the outside, we witness an "art nouveau" intuition that can be observed in the structural details of some busts. The wall covered with ceramics in a decorative fantasy-style at Bakla's house, reveals this intuitive bent all the more.
The hair structure, which is adorned with thin and curved lines, is congruent with the affective and dreamy facial expression of some busts. The young female types of Erdinç Bakla's busts usually have this slightly exaggerated puffy hair-style. This ornamentation, which is obtained by scratching on the ceramic material with a hard rod, stresses the mystic expression on the face of the young woman. The "art nouveau" message of Erdinç Bakla's figures draws the viewer from the outside world to the world of inner feelings, giving them thereby a nostalgic meaning. The reference to the aesthetics in this context is not a re-construction of human reality, but rather a reflection of universal feelings onto these busts. The prominent eyes, the oval face, the lips half parted and the naked breasts express an innocent eroticism particular to "art nouveau". Hidden or suppressed passions are just intuitively perceived behind a veiled look in the eyes.
Whereas until the beginning of the 1980's Erdinç Bakla was making whole human sculptures abstracted from their natural structures, he started concentrating on busts after an Anatolian safari with the photographer Gültekin Çizgen - a passion which was to grow in time. During their safari trip, Bakla and Çizgen also went to Mount Nemrut and were deeply touched when, at the top of the mountain in a deserted landscape, for the first time they saw the monumental busts of the Commagene Kingdom. It is therefore no surprize that the monumental sculptures at the top of Mount Nemrut turned out to become an ongoing source of inspiration for Bakla's concern with the human being. This influence, as it turned out, lead to a process whereby the body - in his former works a huge body combined with a miniature head - became less dominant, but instead the busts as independent objects became prevalent.
The monumental busts at Mount Nemrut attract our attention at first sight by their monumental size. The busts of Erdinç Bakla bring to mind the concern of reducing the monumental size of the busts to room-size as a prerequisite to the specific techniques of ceramics; the size is adapted to room-size, which is maintained throughout all the other works as well.
Bakla's busts give the impression that they are created to decorate an interior rather than an open space. He does not convert to a size which would not fit into a corner of a room where there is a place reserved for a bust. The functionality of the busts is therefore naturally seen on the basis of a day-to-day relationship. Even if in some busts the necks seem unusually slender, this serves the purpose of a stand at the same time. A head formed on a slender neck emphasizes the narrative aspects of the bust and ensures that the face itself is lifted to eye-level. The groupings of two or three busts at the same time evokes the impression of an expanding horizontal range, stressing the image of plurality.
The perspective, which seeks to see Anatolian culture as a whole - from the monumental sculptures at Mount Nemrut to the archaeological findings in Çatalhöyük, from Hacılar to the Çanakkale ceramics - is important within the framework of analyzing the problems of modern ceramics or sculpture-ceramics in consciously relating them to indigenous sources.
The abundance of examples in archaeological museums is a proof to artists, who are living and creating in Turkey, that there is a catalogue of forms. Erdinç Bakla had stated on several occasions that he considered it to be very important to use this catalogue as a frame of reference. Personality and identity is a necessity for ceramics, as it is for all the other branches of art. According to Bakla, the ceramic artist will not succeed in moving to "noble" solutions, unless he knows the richness of the culture very well.
It has already been said that Erdinç Bakla had realized a synthesis in his ceramic-sculptures (22). According to Bülent Özer, the foremost reason leading the artist to produce such a synthesis, lies, on the one hand, in the fact that the artist should not disregard the artifacts of the past, and on the other hand, that he should consider the priorities of modern societyapproaches which lead the artist to a synthesis. It is the artist's task to choose the messages which appeal to him the most from among these objects and to render these into "modern symbols" with specific characters. According to Bülent Özer, Erdinç Bakla has succeeded in achieving this synthesis in a masterly fashion. Styles of expression pertaining to different cultures, places and times have been rendered into an "uncompromising modernity", even without looking much alike.
According to Bülent Özer, the synthesis which Bakla reaches with his expressionist and surrealist figures, is bearing in itself different components of different cultures, thereby creating a living bridge among the indigenous culture and Western culture. We encounter surrealist elements more frequently in Bakla's pre-bust phase: For example, his shepherds playing the flute are scenes from real life. But the proportions between the figure's head and its body are not with the classical style, hence the figures seem to have a fantastic air.
Although there is a continuity with respect to native values used in ceramics, a quantitative change - and related to that a qualitative change- is to be observed in graphics, which accounts for the existence of a spiral evolution. This change depends very much on the environment the artist lives in as well as his search for a common quality. Quality apprehended as a result of constant observation, leads to the acceptance of average size ceramic-sculptures. A gradual change focuses on details or just one specific point. Erdinç Bakla looks, sees and sets up an inventory of the things he assesses, as if wants to measure the coordinates of the space in which he is moving. With a clear-minded approach he wants to sort out which belongs where.
A ceramic object is a three-dimensional solid object which exists in space and is to be touched by our hands and to be perceived by looking at it. As long as we approach it or as long as it is within our range of interest, the ceramic object, like any other object, will interfere with our lives and - as a detail of the space we are living in - will be drawn to our level of perception. It will fascinate and affect us to the extent it establishes a link with our senses and our way of living: To the extent that this relation penetrates into our being, the ceramic object will accrue a concrete meaning and will mutate from a coincidental object into an indicator defining the space it is in: From this an electrical current mingling with our lives will generate, a current which will grasp us and will unite with our being.
This unchanging principle relevant to all works of art, is at the same time an expression of a strong bundle of ties between human beings and the world of objects in the space we are living in.
The ceramic objects of Erdinç Bakla, which are adapted to the forms of the interior space and therefore reflect an "intimate" world, have the warm radiation of functional ceramics, like pottery, made of clay.
These types of pottery are usually not just limited to daily usage; beyond that they become part of the decoration and thus have an abstract function. In this case, they are no longer pottery for daily use, but turn into objects of art giving visual satisfaction. Looking at their forms, one may feel delight or may derive sensations of beauty in grasping their colourful glazes - if they have any - which smoothly cover the objects.
In this respect, Erdinç Bakla's ceramic busts are like objets d'art. They are in the search for places reserved for them in interior space. They are produced to establish sensory ties with people sharing the same space. From this point of view, this is their functionality.
Together with other artists of his generation, Erdinç Bakla and his art, are part of the concept of modernity, expressing themselves in concrete works of art in Turkey since the foundation of the Republic. The search for originality and their qualitative values are without a doubt relevant for Erdinç Bakla's works as well. This consideration of tradition is an effort not to be neglected in this search for originality - a stance Erdinç Bakla bases his works on - has secured him an outstanding position among contemporary artists of his generation.
The problematic of development is a never ending one; it always moves further away from the starting point. The phases to be passed predicate the life of the artist.
The ceramic-sculpture of Erdinç Bakla will, with a doubt, also surpass the stage it has reached today. But at any stage the artist reaches, the values obtained as a result of experience and work will be a source for new impetus, thus effecting his future work.
Vie des formes, Quadrige/PUF, Paris 1943.
Sens et destin de l'art, T. 1, Flammarion, Paris 1967
Füreyya'nın seramik sergisi", Cumhuriyet, 14 Kasım 1958.(A.H. Tanpınar, Yaşadığım gibi, Haz. Dr. B. Emil, Dergah Yay. 22 Tarihsiz, s. 428).
"Türkiye'de seramiğin geleneksel ve çağdaş temelleri üzerine gözlemler", K. Özengin, Türkiye'de Sanat, s. 33, Mart - Nisan 1998.
Hakkı İzet, ar,s.5, Mayıs 1938
Seramikçilik ve Hakkı İzetin, B. Ecevit, Ulus, 21 Nisan 1953
Hakkı Izet's state exhibitions and his works along this line at the so called 'halk evleri' (people's house), have been exhibited all together at the American News Center (Ankara Haberler Merkezi) under the title "Classical and Modern Turkish Tiles" in Ankara in 1957. Besides his qualities as an artist, the paper he presented at the I. International Congress of Turkish Art, "Unknown Characteristics of Handicraft and Techniques of Anatolian Tile-Making" as well as his publications,prove his profound theoretical background on the subject under consideration.
Seramik kesinlikle sanattır, Tercüman, 11 Mayıs 1993
There is a publication of Erdinç Bakla relating to this subject: "Tophane lüleciliği", Dışbank Yay. Istanbul, 1993.
Sanatın anlamı, Çev: G. İnal, N. Asgari, T. İş Bankası Kültür Yay., s. 46, Ankara, 1960.
Sanatın anlamı, Çev: G. İnal, N. Asgari, T. İş Bankası Kültür Yay., s. 45, Ankara, 1960.
Anlamın Kökenleri, A. Denkel, Metis Yay. S. 22, İstanbul 1984
Anlamın Kökenleri, A. Denkel, Metis Yay. S. 26, İstanbul 1984
Some of the artists coming from the applied arts, also produce in areas other than their formal education.
The excavations started at the end of the 1950's under the supervision of James Malleart brought to daylight one part of the ancient Çatalhöyük city. In the 1990's they continue under the guidance of the American archaeologist Ian Hodder.
When Bülent Özer saw Erdinç Bakla's busts-figures for the
first time, he emphasized that these pieces had a special place among Turkish works of art. He always supported Bakla in his progress. Prof. Erich Reuter, guest professor of the Istanbul Technical University in the 1970's, used the following words to describe Bakla's figures: "An interesting personality among the younger generation.... His stele-like idols have a strong expression. Each one of them is representing a different quality, and this is absolutely correct. I haven't anywhere come across works similar to those ones yet. In the types he creates by receding into a distance from natural qualities he brings to mind early mythological symbols."
With the initiative of Erdinç Bakla, the State University of Applied Fine Arts organized in 1973 an exhibition called "19th and 20th Century Çanakkale Ceramics", including objects from private collections. The Çanakkale Ceramics Factory founded in 1957 strongly supported the idea of continuing this exhibition (See. Türk devri Çanakkale Seramikleri, Gönül Öney, Ankara 1971).
Füreya, Ateş ve Sır, F. Edgü, İstanbul 1992
One of the works not complying to this generalization is the large-sized bust, designed for decorating the garden of the Platin Konutlar in Istanbul.
Prof. Dr. Bülent Özer (Brochure of an Erdinç Bakla-Exhibition held from 15 - 30 May 1985 at the Hıdıv Palace in Istanbul).