Mustafa Ayaz was born as the fourth child of a family living in the village of Kabataş, located in the district of Çaykara of Trabzon province in August 1938. His childhood was spent among economical hardships of the Second World War. Those warring years of deprivation, lacking in health care and full with diseases, which was the common fate of almost every child in rural areas, was his fate too. He recovered from a grave illness that progressed with high fever for days without medical help. On the ninth day when he opened his eyes – as if to make up for the days when he could not eat- he ate twelve times during one day, as his mother told later.
By the time he had reached ten years of age, child Mustafa Ayaz fighting deprivation and diseases has not yet had a chance to be introduced to school.
His paternal home located just outside the village would frequently serve as a refuge for school children to rest and warm up as they walked daily to the district school located at one hour walking distance.
With an awkwardly sharpened half a pencil borrowed from his school mates whom he looked upon with a saddening longing, did Mustafa Ayaz quench his thirst for writing or drawing after having found the opportunity to go to school at the age of ten only.
Having graduated from primary school in 1953 ayaz would only be able to continue school if he could enter a boarding school as did the great majority of village children in those years. Pulur Teacher’s School in Erzurum Province where he was enrolled as a boarding student upon passing an entrance examination, would be the first place here he would be introduced to a box of water colors. His interest in math weighed heavier than his interest in art. While in the eighth grade, a reading piece titled “Captain Osman” was the important cause that by coincidence involved him in art. In that piece Captain Osman’s face was described and for homework the student was asked to draw his portrait. Having drawn the portrait on a piece of cardboard as required in the homework, Ayaz hung the drawing in front of the book case where the teacher would be able to see it. Being impressed by his drawing the teacher said, “we should send you to the Art Seminar at Çapa teacher’s School in Istanbul.”
From then on Ayaz, with the dream of going to Istanbul, started drawing night and day and he arrived at the entrance examination with a suitcase full of drawings.
In 1960 he entered the Art department of Gazi Teacher’s Training College which constitutes an important phase of his artistic career. Here he studied under a young teacher recently returned from Europe –the esteemed artist Adnan Turanî- and graduated from the art department following a passionate period of study. The years between 1963–1966 when he taught art at Çorum Teacher’s School is described as follows by his colleague Adnan Binyazar:
“The canvas, here on the steppes of Çorum, was loaded with colors from Paris, Rome and the Çaykara district of Trabzon, of Kandinsky and Dufy. When he did not read he would be painting and if he did not paint he would be reading. It was as if he was conducting a symphony of life with the baton in his hand.”
In 1966 he joined the Art Department of Gazi Teacher’s Training College as assistant and taught art here, later at the Faculty of Fine Arts of Hacettepe University until he finally retired from the teaching post at Faculty of Fine Arts of Bilkent University.
With this article it was intended to present Ayaz as a prototype, rather than to evaluate him from an artistic/scientific perspective.
I have known and observed Ayaz since 1962. We have worked under the same roof from 1978 onward. More importantly, I have read Ayaz’s notes which he had written down during times of seclusion, when drunk, when sober, ill or working. These are the expression of his most plain, unpretentious thoughts far from external influences, conceived during moments of utmost sincerity, revealing his inner self: Expression of his understanding of art, his sufferings, his discontentment, longings, hatred, his swearing, views on sex and view of life. I trust I know him to some degree since I know his ecstasies, childlike delights, his rages when he snorts like a bull, moments when he is driven mad, his seemingly unnecessary escapes, his fears, his turning red up to his ears like demure young girl in shyness, his running out of breath when about to go before an audience, his restless nature, his unease due to which he never finds a moment to rest.
Upon viewing the paintings of this vigorous and restless Black Sea lad, just like the folk dances of his native province –who is nourished, among many elements, starting with the natural environment of the region he was brought up in, all the way to the region’s social and cultural values- it is immediately evident that the theme of woman dominates.
The life style of the migratory people of Black Sea did earn women the status of the most important figure within the family structure. The woman -who embodies the contradictions of the former medium in which she grew up and the contradictions of urban life that she has joined- is a symbol created by the artist’s own reality. Although the topic of women is a device for an arrangement of plastic elements with due concern for content; it is simultaneously a realization of the conversation he holds with himself or with the society, a realization of fighting it out in the artistic sense leading to reconciliation. Below this delicateness which makes one feel refined transitions between light and dark blots and line intensities, the whole colorfulness and textural tenderness of femininity, lies the charm of the inaccessibility to the woman’s secret universe and the respect felt for it. The grandeur of the pure and clean eroticism in the women whom he has mythicized constitute the uniqueness of Ayaz’s figures. It is an important and powerful motive that is the driving power behind his art. The choice of the concept of figurative interpretation as a simple means of expression for those dominant erotic sensations is related with the artist’s preference for a language of form suiting himself.
Ayaz is an artist who has attained his present status without adhering to any vogue art movement and arguing for the incompatibility of art with any doctrine or manifesto, and for the imperative to create of unique language of expression. Like an abstinent ascetic secluded to his convent, he owes his power to his personal experience and to his diligence and sincerity driving from his inexhaustible energy. His introvert personality is to such extent as to prevent him from outside contact. His extreme shyness prevents him from relating to, beyond a limited circle of close friends. However, such behavior does not mean that he is devoid of joy of life or that he is tired of life, in the least. He is reputed to be a person who has chosen incessant painting as a life style and one who gets pleasure in working. This is undoubtedly one of the reasons for his ability to produce such great number of works not containable in a single life. It is important for an artist to sense creativity and to arrive at such a stage of contentment where one is able to direct his wealth of life experiences towards artistic creation. Ayaz has had to endure all sorts of hardships due to economical circumstances and as a consequence of his upbringing so that he could paint. It is possible to observe the fate of an enduring type of artist in him. He is a productive artist in spite of all the odd conditions. His oil and water color works, drawings and engravings can be counted up in the thousands.
The human figures, still-life and landscape paintings which, generally treated thematically by the artist frequently emphasizing the importance of form in art, appear in his drawings not only in the geometric plane to compose the substructure, but also organized with a concept of composition recalling chaos. In some drawings, one or a multitude of figures occur adjacently or in tandem, in the form of a assembled blob or a silhouette or a plain drawing. In this understanding of arrangement, several figures combine to bring about a motive made up of a mass of figures. Occasionally the motive can constitute the general composition where as at other times it can appear as the main motive supported by auxiliary motives in various forms. While the main motive is generally made up of assembled nudes or images of concrete objects, complementary motives are composed of designs of human or animal figures or of symbolic forms. These designs drawn in fluent style, occasionally carry a humoristic aspect.
Ayaz’s drawings may be conceived as “repetitive” both in terms of style as well as form; however, when carefully studied they will be seen to be multifarious in type spreading out over the canvas in busy linear movement. These are not customary “stereotypes.” All the elements that that take place in the painting, -depending upon their functions as to form or content- combine into an artistic whole created by lines of varying sensitivity, just like the individual trees constituting a forest. Even irrelevant forms taking place inside a array of hundreds of figures, are an integral part of the whole. The fact that the artist has repeatedly worked on certain topics ( for instance, dancing, artist and the model, inhabitants of the suburbs, portraits etc.) leaves the impression of being repetitive. Not only is reiteration of the same topic only natural for an artist; it must at the same time be praised, if he is able to turn the same topic or the same motive into an work of art through a wealth of differentiation. The calligraphic designs spread out over the whole canvas, resembling cuneiform tablets, are his notes regarding all that was meant to be experienced in life as well as all that one has failed to experience: In saying, “I wish to paint not only the stationary form of the object, but life in total,” he is reflecting his own psychic universe shaped by the economical, social and cultural value judgments, rather than the imagery of the outside world. The chief actor of the life he is reflecting is he himself in general. In the majority of his paintings he and his model are already present. These are not topics that entail preparation or design. According to him, the canvas is not an area where preconceived topics are organized, but a “game field.” The drawing activity which he identifies with existence itself starts with a point, a line, a nude of his self-portrait eventually developing to finally reach the topic. That is the topic is always available: A nude a dressed up person, a semi-nude, a painter (himself) and his model or a woman in veil. . . In this universe including himself too, the topic which concerns him most is the human. He is in a pure-hearted disposition desiring to express the whole beauty, the contradictions, the fears, the escapes, the desires of the humankind and the social life on a panoramic scale; so much so that, he exhibits the haste of a speaker short of time, trying to include everything in his speech. In conclusion, the artist’s accomplishments, -whether it be in voicing the society’s dilemma of having created “a culture of sin and shame” from the phenomenon of “sexual reality” which is a part of the human nature; or his personal fears and reactions resulting from his life style or rearing- can never the less, be depicted as reflection of his personality and as a lead to his inner universe. When working he is sometimes like an uncontainable joyous kid; and at other times he is bewildered as if struck by an obstruction, or so distressed with a confused face as if he were devouring himself. The more he draws the more frantic he becomes and one experiences an intimidating psychological tension in him such that it could be described as “art insanity.” There have been many times when I have wondered what this man who incessantly works as if he had borrowed time would do if he did not paint.
Adam Art / October 2002
Having come across the words, “beauty becomes visible to anyone searching passionately for it,” while reading the nearly four thousand pages long One Thousand and One Nights I realized that I came a bit closer to the art world of Mustafa Ayaz. To paint is to define an object in close-up. And it is true that one can feel devotion only for something defined closely. Having seen thousands of paintings, drawings and sketches by Ayaz I believe that the phenomenon of defining in close-up is an artistic endeavor for him; not forgetting that he conceives ‘beauty’ as boundless eroticism to be arrived at by means of art. Those who view his paintings as an element of “creation” beyond that which exists in nature, will come across deep traces of the non-eroding drive of erotic sensation. Who knows with what passion, Ayaz never lets go of any of his figures; by hook or crook, even if it is with a line, he will place himself inside the painting so that the main theme of the paintings is fused with that guardian of beauty named Ayaz. Those who interpret his work in depth may also see on the canvas the reflection of a lover immovable like a god, caressing or reproaching, in almost every painting, even if faintly visible. Whether it is due to jealousy or due to pity or due to fear of loosing beauty that a secret deal is made between the “Ayaz drawing” and the “painting” specifying the theme, just like the unwritten deal between God and the subject. This can be construed as the artist’s fear of loosing his creation or artist’s passionate display of possessiveness for his creation; so much so that, while others try thousand different means of selling their painting, Ayaz is overgrown by fear of loosing it and he says that his best work is to be found among those which he has not delivered to competitions. Since art is creation of beauty in giving life to what already exists in nature, it is a requisite of artistic existence that the creator should hold onto her creation. Viewed from another perspective, art is the artist’s dream of continuing to exist in that which she created. The artist realizes this dream by leaving traces of his intellectual and visual energy on every point of her work. The halt of many a work at the “painting” stage is explained by the lack of this energy. That is why there is an abundance of those who do painting, but little painting comes out.
John Berger has the following to say on art: “Every means of expression used by art is an endeavor to immortalize the momentary excitement felt before nature. Art assumes that beauty is not something out of the ordinary. In terms of art, beauty is not something that exists regardless of general order; on the contrary, it is the very self of order. . . Art does merely not imitate nature; art imitates a creation. . . . Art is an attempt to turn the already existing potential of recognition in us, into a permanent power.”
For the artist the world is chaos of lines and colors. The artist, by creating an artistic order from this chaos, turns the potential of acknowledging existence, into a permanent power. Everything outside of art, as in practical skill, is a deed of amalgamation, a replacement. The artist is in pursuit of ‘immortality.’ And immortality is the feeling to perceive beauty brought about by artistic creativity.
Berger who considers art as ‘a consequence of the endeavor to immortalize’ reaches the following conclusion while studying the women Modigliani painted: “Modigliani wished his paintings to touch both the human soul and the human complexion. And he realized this in his best works, not through an intensity of longing, but through artistic skill. The reason behind the appeal which his paintings have stimulated is because they speak of love. It is sexual love about which they speak overtly in general, and in disguise occasionally. Many a painter has painted his/her lover. Some like Picasso have drawn images of their lover as guided by the vibrations of their desires. Where as Modigliani’s paintings are by someone who is in love, creating his lover. (At times when there was no emotional bond between himself and his model, his paintings were unsuccessful and the result was merely some sketches.)”
Ayaz, whose world of creation I compare with Modigliani’s is the painter of not the model, but of the beauty he has created in his mind. Therefore, the covered legs of the village women which were captured by his mind in childhood would be reflected on his canvas as nudes with black tights over their bodies. At whatever age the artist may be, he views the objects with eyes nourished by his heart. In defining the area covered by his art Ayaz says the following: “The optical vision of nature I leave to nature. What I need is nature’s essence, its reminiscences in my life and general laws to transform it into artistic motives.” If ‘any one remembrance in his life’ were to eventually develop, to be drawn into hundred thousand women and if these hundred thousand women were to have the same face, what he would wish to inspire through the painting would be a perception of the unique reflection of artistic creation. Ayaz did all throughout his life try to further beautify anything beautiful, which came his way and as Berger said, to turn potential power into permanent power; however, he believed that this could only be done by an artist ‘ who senses beauty inside himself/herself.’
One day I witnessed how my above ideas in the abstraction stage became realized as I watched Ayaz paint.
Ayaz -whose atelier I visit each time I come to Ankara- was, on this last visit, flying with joy on the happy bounds of ecstasy. The bright sunlight of Ankara was as if enlivening his paintings which he had lined along the walls of his atelier. I too sensed that it was the same sun invigorating us both and was happy for it. On that day, Ayaz did not mention at all, any of his illnesses and stresses which he generally pins on himself. He came in and out of the room and was absorbed in offering me things to eat and drink. His eyes which fit into their sockets like a piece of radium ore, were not looking out, but looking at somewhere inside him. He had called me in Istanbul a few days ago and had asked me to come a bit earlier. To see myself through the creative eyes of my forty year old friend and to exist through his lines and colors was a dream I had cherished for years.
That dream was about to come true.
Here I was sitting before him while he made my painting and I was observing his behavior. The difference between us was that he kept moving his body, hands and eyes all the time while I was stuck in my seat like a line!
The brush of the painter who had treated contemporary eroticism in its ‘love’ dimension moved between the canvas and the palette too fast for the eye to follow with brush strokes sometimes light as a feather and at others heavy as if to take revenge. I felt the ecstasy of legendary creatures that moved between the land of the mortals and the universe of immortals. “Don Quixote,” “Hamlet,” “Madame Bovary,” “Rembrandt,” “Van Gogh,” “Picasso”. . .were all moving about me. The bright sunlight of the steppe, the artist’s creative colors, the artist’s hands. . .In my ear melodies of Beethoven, Mozart, and Chaikovsky paraded. . .
Think of the delight of someone like me who considers existing even in the faintest drawing by the Artist as immortality!
Ayaz who had said many years ago that art lies in that which is ‘simple’; yet not in that which is ‘easy,’ was in action now. This was taking on the struggle to realize ‘that which is not easy.’ Paint-canvas-brush were ‘simple’ tools available to him. I remembered Michelangelo who had first carved life into a piece of stone and than sank into exalted delight before it. It was Vincent van Gogh who said: “The artist completes what God has left unfinished.” Like all other true artists Ayaz too was trying to complete with the ‘simple’ tools available to him what God had left unfinished. What was ‘not easy’ was the ‘face’ before him. He was to impress that ‘face’ up to the most distant points of his brain, taking it as a drop of paint on his brush and transferring it unto the canvas. He was deeply engaged in the search to decide which colors to bring in touch on the hundreds of bristles of his brush. Now this was what was ‘not easy’ ! Think of the self-portraits of van Gogh. You see there the process of his self-exhaustion with every brush stroke and the simultaneous creation of his being while becoming exhausted. As the artist spreads on his canvas -with the droplets of paint on the bristles of his brush- the traces of individual sufferings of the human, he equally impresses the beauty of the real unto the realm of human existence.
The artist’s power lies at the tip of his brush.
In Ayaz’s eyes I was imagining my face as engraved unto his realm of creation and remembering his words when he started to paint my portrait: “People say that my paintings are based on spontaneity… Oh how I wish they knew the pangs of pain in my brain up to the point I start painting.” In trying to grasp the meaning on my face the signals from his brain flashed in his eyes as his brush cast my face unto the canvas. Ayaz would not be content solely with the model seated before him; he was drawing the portrait in accordance with the concentrically related concepts of “human-reality-beauty” as arranged in his mind. What stood before was not simply a woman, a man, an animal or a plant. . . It was the real and the beautiful in existence. He was employing his brush with a similar passion as was Vincent van Gogh in trying to capture the reality of the burnt yellow colored wheat fields. The hand that commuted between the canvas and the palette was a vehicle of the creative skill with a triggered artistic mechanism. The grand feeling which Rodin created in his “Peasants from Calais” was a product of that masterful hand.
I was not able to see what was cast unto the canvas; however, I could follow up by the twitches on his face if he had been able to find the form, reach the beauty of the real. Ayaz was not after what he saw, but what he thought. On my sixty seven year old face he was searching for something not everyone that looked on could see. As he stood up and sat down without taking his eyes of me, I sensed that for a moment he felt lonely. His total power had been concentrated at the tip of his fingers. His teeth were drawn in as his lower lip opened up; and in his own words, he was imparting energy to the paint as he tightened his grip with his teeth on the brush to the utmost. This was the moment when paint no longer existed as paint but turned into energy; the painting had taken on its final form. The suffering of search had turned into serenity. Who could tell? None can tell when the pangs of sensibility of a creative person would start. He was uttering murmur not to be understood, as if speaking a language other than his mother tongue. He was wandering inside the concrete world of his notion: “In order to be able to reflect sensitively, one has to be able to perceive sensibly.” The completion of the painting could be told by the serenity in his eyes; however, a feeling of doubt about its completion still dominated. Our eyes caught each other at this very phase of doubt. The reflection of artistic beauty was apparent in his eyes. I was trying to shape myself into a ‘form’ as if I stood before a photographer. I was sure that he did not see me, his ‘model.’ From the quickly moving smile that ran across his face I could guess that he had had been caught in a new spell of emotion.
Ayaz had me under his spell. While observing him I had lost all measure of time. He rose and asked me to come and see. These words did not carry any askance seeking approval as to how he had done. I rose up and looked, even though I knew that my saying “well done” would not mean a thing. Who else, other than the artist, could decide as to whether a work of art had been completed or not? . .
Saying “Come and see,” was another way of postponement. Either he would embark on a new expedition, or he would rest the nerves that went from his brain to his eyes. As for me, the moment I looked at the painting I had been met with a festivity of colors that transcended my limits of imagination. I would only wish that he should lay aside the brush and not change any bit of the painting. Observing my reaction indifferently, he kept moving his look between me and the painting. The brush kept moving like a shuttle between the palette and the canvas. Rules of art had come on stream now. We had arrived at the point where the person doing the modeling had no say other than remaining silent. Choosing the shortest words he said, “Come, sit down.” “Is it not done?” I asked him. He laughed as if to say, “ a painting starts as soon as it is completed.” He did not to miss a second. I returned to my place. His hand moved over the palette more so than over the canvas. The paints which he touched with the tip of his brush combined into colors which only he could discover. When judging to use how much of each color, it was not the brush but the single bristles that did the weighing. I glanced onto his palette. Every painter is known to have his own unique colors. It was those colors he was after. He would apply the paint he had achieved on the palette, onto his canvas and he would wipe it off with the piece of cloth in his hand because he was not satisfied with what he found. The painting had reached the stage of thinking in terms of color, lines and forms. The process of working with details had started. He could see the deficiencies and would frantically apply colors he had obtained ranging from red to gray, yellow to reddish black.
He finally completed the painting and signed it. He applied his face on it with a movement of his finger, not using the brush. When this faded face reminiscent of a peaceful soul, at a loss for smiles was placed at its designated place, he moved back from the canvas to look at it as such. This was not “me” as people would want to see me painted; it was ‘me’ as seen through the eyes of Ayaz who knew me with my sufferings and my storming emotions! I had been confronted with my face which I had not seen in my sixty seven year long life, with the real me. Picasso said, “Painting is not what you asked of me, but what I give to you.” Ayaz’s brush, had delivered a ‘me’ whose deficiencies of creation had been completed.
When I left his atelier I was a totally new person made up of a handful of paint.
I am probably the first person to see Mustafa Ayaz’s first collection of paintings exhibited ever. When he arrived at Çorum Teacher’s School, the first thing was to turn the storehouse into a workshop. Having replaced the goods abandoned to decay in the storehouse by easels and canvases, he had already started to experience timelessness as he painted. I was the daily viewer of those paintings.
Art is timelessness.
In the hall to which he had imparted his own style, he was animating inanimate objects. He was the sole citizen of an art realm where the atelier, gallery and the artist were all interacting. Students were going around the school with painted hands and faces. Ayaz would not only choose those with skilled fingers, he would also look into their eyes. As he applied through much labor the principle of educating people so that they could be creative, he was giving life to both himself and his students. In a few months he had found the opportunity to apply his extraordinary drawing skill, and had passed on to his students the courage to apply paint. “His life moved on in preparing for that big campaign.”
He continually painted without any feeling of weariness or boredom. He was, at the same time tempted to reflect in his paintings the stories of the people around him; but, due to lack of time like Prometheus he was after the flame that would fire man. There was no man around. Man was artist’s own creation. Ayaz opened the door to a new realm of beauty through drawing, color and form, feeling inside him the breath of a god from distant ages in trying to access the secrets of his creation. His art is the symbol of artistic existence.
Ayaz was searching for the drawing made only by his own fingers, the color created only by his own eyes, the form invented by his own brain. Upon being commented as to how successfully he had expressed the perfume of the native girl Gauguin responded by saying, “That is the subject, but what I wanted to do in that painting was to reconcile the blue and the green.” Ayaz, similar to Gauguin, wished to create the consistency nourished by his own taste; “he was continually exploring his own power, his own reality.”
Ayaz -born in the Çaykara district of Trabzon province,- drawing ballerinas in the windy steppe atmosphere of Çorum, surprised me. The twisting bodily movements evolved from observations of internal concentration were Ayaz’s first quivers in trying to arrive at mental eroticism. The triangle of drawing-color-form are the vibrational points of Ayaz’ s painting. Ayaz is the artist of finesse evolving compatibility out of contradictions, particularly through colors. In his drawings of women ( is there any other male but himself ?) the dominant colors (the Ayaz red, the Ayaz white, the Ayaz black) are at the same time, the source of his artistic eroticism. This eroticism which creates an audio vibration in the eye results from the reconciliatory balance he has fabricated. The taste in Ayaz’s art is built with this fine balance between the entity created and the artist creating it. That is why Ayaz, like a concealed god who would not want anyone to touch his creation even visually, comes into vision in almost every painting. This image is faded both in line and color, but it is distinct. It does not exist as an entity; but exists as a creation solely in that human latitude of an artist’s creation. . . In every one of his paintings is this man in the background who senses nonexistence, yet does not deny that he is there. . . This is what he tries to emphasize in saying that “all his works are stories of loves held in captivity.”
Whatever an artists draws, he turns it into symbol. He freezes it in color and form. Subconsciously he experiences the fear of his drawing separating from himself. In this context, Ayaz is seeking refuge in his own creation through his figure which he includes in his paintings. The Ayaz figure envisaged as a symbol of masculinity in the form of a rooster does in fact reflect an introversive chaos between his painting and himself. Even if it appears in faded lines and in smeared paint, Ayaz’s figure is in motion where as all other figures are stationary. The Ayaz figure is protective power getting ready for fight to protect his creation, a harbor for refuge, a feeling of providing shelter for his creation.
I keep thinking whether art consists of simply images, or if it is a chaos of associations; whether art is approachable, or it is art that allows us to approach itself? Does not art also contain the power to overwhelm us the nearer we come to it and to alienate those who are distant to it?
Never short for words and colors, maestro Mustafa Ayaz is an artist and educator with 49 years of art experience behind him, employing his brush. Mustafa Ayaz Museum and Cultural Center under construction in the Balgat neighborhood of Ankara, -the most important dream of maestro Mustafa Ayaz- is about to come true in the near future. . .and I believe the art fans in Ankara will be greatly pleased to get together under the roof of a center bearing his name. The architects who designed the Museum and Cultural Center are Kadri Atabaş and Ufuk Ertem. The construction of the Museum was undertaken by his son-in-law and nephew Sinan Ayaz.
We interviewed maestro Mustafa Ayaz specially for the readers of Ancyra.
—Let’s talk about museum management. Why did you undertake such a project?
—I have had this project in my mind since twenty years. I have achieved everything materially speaking. I suffered many hardships in my childhood. Eventually I came to possess everything and spared the extra income for building a Museum and Cultural Center to my name; I planned it and finally realized it three years ago. I am very happy for this. One must always put a target before him. I do not believe that someone without a target could achieve anything. When I have completed this project I shall target another one. So far, I do not know what that next project is going to be. But I must definitely have a target. That target may perhaps be doing bigger, monumental paintings. It may be working on sculpture or ceramics. But my immediate task is to complete this one.
Sema Öztoprak reporting
An artist must be self-supporting. I would like to discuss with you private collecting. Take for instance, Istanbul Modern which is a highly known venue and is getting much publicity. Interest in private collecting is gradually increasing, don’t’ you think so?
I have not seen Istanbul Modern unfortunately. It is nice that there is such a museum. They will increase in number gradually. Mustafa Ayaz Museum and Cultural Center is one which was designed for one particular goal and it is going to be the first of its kind in Turkey. In Ankara there is the Art Museum of Şefik Bursalı it is not as comprehensive. As far as I know, Istanbul does not have a similar one either. All are buildings which have been purchased and accommodated to serve as a museum. But ours is going be designed for this purpose solely. In that sense I can say that it is the first of its kind in Turkey. Recently maestro Adnan Turanî, his son Can and gallery proprietor Mehmet Kıyat were in Europe. On their return they told me that in Austria the State supported even third class artists and built museums for them, not to mention provision of other benefits. Since the founding of the Turkish Republic we have not been able to do much in the area of art museums. We have expected the State to do everything for us. Private institutions and painters who can afford it should, as in my case, undertake such projects. Investment in hotels would not suffice, neither would investment in tourism. There needs to be some investment in art as well. Turkey is a big and wealthy country. Some of that money –even if little- some of that power should be directed to the field of artistic activity. It should not be all commercial. People should serve in all branches of art. Many years ago I had jotted down something like the following in my notebook: If the State does not protect the artist, the artist must support himself. That is, if we wait for the State to protect us, build museums for us, build art galleries for us, it will never get done and we shall continue sitting around lazily.
We should take care of ourselves. For instance, there are artists who sell more paintings than I do; but, they waste that money, where as I saved mine very calculatingly.
Should one calculate the returns on art?
Definitely. . .As I said, you do not need much money for a museum like this. It is a big amount for an artist, a teacher or a government employee. It is a sum which an artist could presently save, not in a year, but in 30–40 years perhaps; that is if he spends his money wisely.
Can you give some technical information about the building. What activities shall take place in the Cultural Center?
This plot has 4600 square meters of useful area. If you add to this the space on the front it totals nearly 5000 square meters. Three stories will be allocated to my paintings. At the top floor there will be my private atelier plus another atelier. It is not certain yet how that atelier will be used. On the ground floor there is an Art Café. There could also be the library, archive, and a gallery-perhaps two galleries-plus a souvenir shop on the ground floor. On the basement there will be three ateliers. They will also serve as an art gallery as well. I think of sparing the three ateliers for painting, ceramics and sculpture. The building has been designed to hold a total of six floors including the parking lot and is under construction as such. My purpose to create income for this center and let it survive following my decease. But how is it going to survive? It should continue to survive on art. When the construction of the Museum is completed, surely a foundation will have to be formed to support the Mustafa Ayaz Museum and Cultural Center. That is certain. We could have considered financing this place by other means; but, that would be non-artistic. For instance we could have rented the free space to several entrepreneurs and they could have easily paid for the expenses. But I did not wish it to be that way.
I think you consider this as a debt to the public to be paid back through labor. . .
I wanted the expenses of this place to be covered through art. We collected the cost of this investment from my sales partly to the public and partly to the foreigners. I did not spend it up. That sum, I am spending on this place. I believe it is going to be completed in 2007. I do not wish to get financial aid. The inauguration may be delayed because of financing shortage. What I plan is to complete the building; hang up the paintings and then turn it into a foundation. I want to do it with my own means only. Huge amounts of money are being offered for it. But I answer them by saying, “I can not abandon a dream which I have had since my youth.”
As our interview with Ayaz ends, I would like to note the following: As Ankara rocks with rumors that Atatürk Cultural Center project undertaken by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism and the Municipality of the great Ankara metropolis is going to be crowded with income producing installations, we wish to take this opportunity to express our gratitude to maestro Mustafa Ayaz for reminding us to respect art and the artist.
(From the book, Zafer Gençaydın wrote about Mustafa Ayaz’s personality as an artist and his museum…)
With this book it was intended to present Ayaz - whom I have known since 1962 and with whom I have worked under the same roof from 1978 onward- as a particular prototype, rather than evaluate his art from an artistic/scientific perspective. More importantly, I have read Ayaz’s notes which he had written down during times of seclusion, as it occurred to him. These are the expression of his most plain, unpretentious thoughts far from external influences, conceived during moments of utmost sincerity; revealing his inner self; expressing his understanding of art, his sufferings, discontentment, longings, hates, view of life. I trust that I know him to some degree; since I know of his ecstasies, childlike delights, flights into rage, moments of exuberance, his seemingly unnecessary escapes, his fears, his turning red up to his ears like a demure young girl in shyness, his running short of breath when about to go before an audience, his worries, his fury at self-interest and primitiveness, his restless nature, his unease with which he never manages to find a moment to rest. Further still, I know of his occasionally soft as silk, caring behavior, yet on other occasions the resolute behavior, hard as granite; of his cynicism that spots the contradictions in life and his humorist temper as well as his anxieties which mistake gas congestions in his stomach as heart attack. . .
As a result of having known Mustafa Ayaz since our school years at the art department of the Gazi Teachers’ Training College and having later worked with him in the same institutions, resulting in ties of friendship based on mutual respect and affection that goes beyond the association of colleagues, it is only natural that I must have been acquainted with his personality as an artist and educator. I further believe that the nature and art of an artist can be best understood by another artist only. For acquiring knowledge on art or some other field is not the same thing as having an understanding of it. That is, collecting the already available knowledge is not the same thing as the discovery of that knowledge. Collecting the already discovered knowledge can be sufficient to make one learned, but feelings can not be known, unless they are experienced. For instance, no mother could know about child birth as well as a gynecologist; yet, one who has not given birth has no idea about the maternal feeling. Therefore, the feelings and problems experienced by an artist during the process of creation can only be known to another artist.
You sure remember it!.. . As in Nasreddin Hodja’s response to those trying to help him upon having rolled down from the roof, to call in somebody who had already fallen down a roof, Ayaz might have perhaps had the idea of asking me to write this book about himself in similar fashion. I am not sure as to how appropriate his choice was, but I hope neither of us are wrong. Whatever the outcome, I must say that I have enjoyed writing it. And that reminds me: I wonder what would have become of a talent like Ayaz -the only child among five whom the family could provide with schooling- had it not been for the short lived – lasting only ten years in the history of Turkish education- village teacher’s schools where poor village children could find the opportunity to go to school? There was perhaps a good possibility that he would become a very good carpenter; but, would he turn out to be an artist? I doubt it.
FROM THE VILLAGE OF KABATAŞ TO THE PULUR VILLAGE TEACHER’S SCHOOL
Mustafa Ayaz was born as the forth child of a family living in the village of Kabataş, located in the district of Çaykara of Trabzon province, in August 1938. His childhood was spent among economical hardships of the Second World War which invaded Europe with a deluge of blood and fire. Those warring years of deprivation lacking in health care and full with diseases, which was the common fate of almost every child in the rural areas, was his fate too. He recovered from a grave illness that progressed with high fever for days without medical help. On the ninth day, when he opened his eyes, -as if to make up for the days during which he could not eat- he ate twelve times during one day, as his mother told later. By the time he had reached ten years of age, child Mustafa Ayaz, fighting deprivation and diseases has not yet had a chance to be introduced to school. Like all other resilient village lads who had to lead a life in hardships, he too would have to get up very early to be a helping hand on the fields, staying alone at the far away brushwood huts when required and even cooking his own bread on a heated stone to make a bread called “kızdırma” similar to a pancake. Such experiences that seem like ordinary events of rural life and are kept as harsh remembrances of childhood do affect the individual’s future intellectual world and shape her personality, enriching the meaning of human existence. What makes him say that “the artist must avoid shortcuts,” and determines his attitude towards life, making life difficult for himself, is a trait that must have been probably acquired as a result of the responsibility he has had to bear in the face of hardships during his childhood. Although he is the only child among five, whom the family could afford to send to school, the responsibility of work borne since early childhood in support of the family prevented him from living his childhood properly and matured him early -let alone being spoiled by this privilege- and rendered him a shy character quality. His paternal home located just outside the village, would frequently serve as a refuge for school children to rest and warm up as they walked daily to the district school located at one hour walking distance. With an awkwardly sharpened half a pencil borrowed from his school mates whom he recalls with a saddening longing, did Mustafa Ayaz quench his thirst for writing and drawing, after having found the opportunity to go to school at the age of ten, only. His younger brother and his older sister and two older brothers would not enjoy this privilege. Saying, “let at least one in the family go to school,” it is his older brother who had him enrolled. Having graduated from primary school in 1953 Ayaz would only be able to continue school if he could enter a boarding school, as did the great majority of village children in those years.
SCHOOLING YEARS AT THE ÇAPA ART SEMINAR
Being able to study with art educators such as Ä°lhan Demirci and Malik Aksel who continually motivated their students to keep their enthusiasm to create live, Ayaz had found precisely the medium that he was seeking at Çapa Art Seminar.
Coming from a village teacher’s school which, -in compliance with the founding goals were distanced to towns and later, were allocated solely to boys- to a city like Istanbul with a very different social life, Ayaz committed himself to working feverishly in this cultural medium where he was caught between his passion for studying art and the feeling of abstaining from the joyous life among the adolescent boys and girls. For instance, while his friends spared part of their time, even if occasionally, to go dancing, he would be trying to compensate the feeling of being unable to participate, by painting in the atelier. Although he was popular among his friends and he himself was an affectionate person, he commensurately preferred to remain alone. His preference for solitude is not comparable to that of Van Gogh saying, “the reason for my escape from humans is not lack of affection, but their pettiness and indignity,” either; on the contrary, it is full of affection. However, we understand it better now, that his solitude was “not one that was allocated for boredom; but, it was one that was spared for creativity.” For it is true that those who are attracted to the merry side of social life will not be able to spare time for creativity. He does already give us clues to his conscious choice of solitude in order to create.
SCHOOL YEARS AT GAZI TEACHER’S TRAINING COLLEGE
Following the one year teaching experience in a primary school, Ayaz passed this time, the entrance examination to study at the Art Department of Gazi Teacher’s Training College where he started to weave and shape his artistic future under a young teacher recently returned from Europe. This educator with whom I too, had the privilege and pleasure of working together was Prof. Dr. Adnan Turanî.
During his education at the Art Department of the Gazi Teacher’s Training College, as it had been at the Çapa Educational Seminar, Ayaz stood out not only due to his fecundity as an industrious student envied by friends; but also, due to his interesting and respectable personality as a role model for the posterity. During those years when it would not be possible to have a catalog published for even the State exhibitions –not to mention books or similar publications about artists- the fact that their drawings could be published in a literary periodical such as Varlık, was a factor motivating the students. As a student personifying the prototype of an artist Ayaz was able to become the center of attention not only with his drawings, but also with his abstract paintings displaying a highly refined taste of color and brush technique. During those years when simple deformations were considered abstraction and commonplace arrangements of geometrical forms were considered “modern art,” it would not be exaggeration to say that Ayaz, -deserving the praise of not only his teachers but also of the art circles for his beyond student-level works with which he also participated in the State Art and Sculpture Exhibitions- possessed the identity of an artist that stirred interest about himself.
AYAZ’S PERSONALITY AS AN EDUCATOR
Being simultaneously a good educator in art, alongside being an artist, Ayaz also owes his educationist personality to his artistic identity. The ability of an educator in art to influence his students is related to a great extent to his artistic creativity. Having risen to prominence in this Country’s art with his artistic personality, as well as having been recognized –due to the many artists and educators he has brought forth- to be a highly qualified educator in art, whose species is growing extinct, he is doubtlessly a value to be commemorated. Be it at the Gazi Teacher’s Training College where he has worked for many years since his assistantship, or be it at the faculty of fine arts of the University of Hacettepe, Ayaz has acquired an esteemed place among both his colleagues and his students while bringing forth artists.
AYAZ’S PERSONALITY AS AN ARTIST
He deplores the celestial measurement of time with reference to Earth, saying, “ 240 hours instead of 24 hours are needed per day. Only then shall be able to find the opportunity to realize my ideas, aspirations.”
For Ayaz; painting is something like, coping with himself and that which he had failed to experience in the past; it is getting back the past which he had suppressed, orcompensating for it. This is what he says: “I am a silent person; but I always have the urge to shout.” The reason for his silence is his inability to shout. Had he been able to shout he might not have even felt the need to paint, perhaps. Had this man,- who can be satisfied with the most modest of contentment and who seems to be indifferent to any degree of wealth or poverty- not lost himself in the magic of art, he might have perhaps become insane. He can save himself from the distress of his inner world lying dormant like a volcano, only by finding refuge in the world of ecstasy he has created, taming it through his paintings. When he comes out from his inner world, to the outside world he is overwhelmed.
Already during his schooling years at the Gazi teacher’s Training College Ayaz was known as a master of drawing for his ability to draw just as rapidly as he could write. His drawings were not merely sketches for painting compositions or studies in nature or objects meant for exercise required as the ABC of art for the beginners; but the examples of highly elevated artistic taste.
Former artists have considered drawing as a technique designed to prepare the sketches of the composition they were going to paint. Therefore, painting has remained as a secondary means of plastic expression subordinate to the picture. Consequent to this understanding, it was not common for former masters to hold an independent exhibition of drawings only. In view of having said that, “Drawing is the roof, the skeleton of the painting,” and even considered to be its mother, and that this opinion has always found favor, paint was unable to free itself from submission to the picture and remained as its subordinate or servant unable prove itself insubordinate for ages until Picasso’s idea of “there exists no noble or base material in artistic creation,” came to be grasped by the beginning of the twentieth century.
That the great majority of the artists emerge in public with paintings can not be explained by the fact that drawings are vulnerable to time and external effects or by the fact that drawings are artistically shallow. To the contrary, due to fact that drawing is a technique that reflects best the artist’s power of perception and analysis of nature in a most plain manner, it possesses the property of revealing the artist’s personality with rapidity.
The fact that a book comprising Mustafa Ayaz’s drawings, -an artist of undeniable renown in Turkish art- was formerly published, is important in setting an example for the future generations of artists. “Those who wish to feign artistry should continually paint; however, those who wish to become real artists should continually draw,” says the master of drawing Ayaz from whom the young students of art have much to learn.
THE 1973–1980 PERIOD
Although venues and museum-homes have been designed by individuals or various institutions to honor and to commemorate artists, Ayaz pioneered in this area too, by having a building designed as a museum and art center built without any outside support or help. Thus, he has had his name written down in history not only as an artist; but also because of a communal service for culture.
EIGHTIES AND THE POSTERIOR YEARS
It is known that like many artists in our country Ayaz too, has shown interest in other branches of art from engraving to ceramics. However, we know that he predominantly takes interest in sculpture and he has produced successful statues that few sculptors would dare. For instance, the metal statues in front of the Mustafa Ayaz Museum and Contemporary Arts Center which he had built to his name, have been designed by him, specially for that building.
It certainly is beyond the scope of this short text to cover both Ayaz’s interesting personality in all its aspects as well as his art in detail.
I believe that it would be hard to find an artist who in spite of having remained so distant to the public and yet rendered his art popular. However, you would not be able to see him pursuing some fashionable art trend which has lost touch with the people or a “bohemian” type of artist in him. Taking no heed of the words passing around, just like a contemporary troubadour rooted in this land and as part of the society, he is a poet of visual expression conveying his sensations through the language of art.
“Mustafa Ayaz’s art is of such a nature that even in the periods that he most approaches abstraction he establishes a natural relation with the viewer and imparts a feeling of familiarity. This comfortable relation which Mustafa Ayaz’s paintings establish with the viewer and their naturalness in creating a unique universe of their own, may cause many of us to forget Ayaz’s distinction in Turkish art. In the components of Ayaz’s art we can discover many basic motifs of Twentieth Century art and of Turkish culture. However, the synthesis that finally engenders is a unique style all by itself, the Ayaz style.” (Jale N. Erzen )
Just as naturally as the words, the structures of thought and symbols of ideas emerge from a person’s mouth, so do Ayaz’s drawings emerge as the pictorial words from his psychic universe. When he works, he is sometimes like a child with uncontainable ecstasy; and at other times bewildered as if beaten by the bush; at times so distressed as if he were devouring himself, with an utterly confused face. The more he draws the more frantic he becomes and one experiences an intimidating psychological tension in him, such that it could be described as “art insanity.” There have been many times when I have wondered what this man who incessantly works as if he had borrowed time, would do if he did not paint?