“Aldous in Istanbul” at Marlusse et Lapin, 14 Rue Germain Pilon, Paris, 18eme (from 13 November to 10 December 2008) is an exhibition of 29 of the 36 paintings on photographs I have made so far for a film in collaboration with two young, French film-maker friends of mine, Gilles Blaize and Julien Tréfouël. The film is called “Dreaming Istanbul” and is to be shown in Istanbul, Turkey in 2010 when Istanbul has been nominated as European City of Culture.
Gilles and Julien have almost finished the editing of the film and are waiting for me to paint the last 15 images before handing the film over to the fourth member of our team, the composer Dryden Hawkins, for the soundtrack.
A cinematic montage in seven movements weaving a narrative out of several storylines, “Dreaming Istanbul” effortlessly integrates different realities, perceptions and genres into its flow. As a travelogue, it is a richly illuminating, visual essay on Istanbul. At the same time, it looks behind the scenes to show the making of the film itself, bringing the crew into the picture, while also being a documentary showing my practice as an artist – to explore a city on foot, drawing and sketching constantly, and afterwards to paint what I call “dubbed photographs” onto the background of still photographs of the places I have visited.
The half-hour film shows a picture of the city from the points of view of both the documentary makers and the artist. From time to time the frame freezes and the still photograph becomes the ground for an oil painting. Recorded stroke by stroke in stop-motion, the painting dubbed over the scene evolves into an image very different from the one it started with; the witty optical illusion that effects the transformation is matched by a psychological dimension revealed in a look or a gesture, materialising out of a combination of paint and photograph to resonate in the memory.
The still photograph, viewed as texture and drained of meaning, is reworked and embodied into a painting inspired by life in the city. Drawing for hours out on the street, day after day, means that the sounds, shapes and action all around me enter my consciousness unmediated and when I look at the photograph in the way I describe, as if it were an ink blot, a damp-stained wall or an abstract pattern, then what comes to mind and what I glimpse there are traces and associations coming from all around me while I was drawing. With paint applied with a deliberate crudeness to contrast with the print surface, not in opposition to but maintaining a strange alliance with the photographic image, I bring out the unbidden images from my sub-conscious, to turn the pictures of places into paintings about people. So the paintings interspersed among the different narratives are part of the film; this is the artist’s vision alongside the documentary-makers’ fantasy. Dark, turbulent currents below the luminous, polished surface of the film describing the character and psychology of an ancient city on the water, at the crossroads of the old and the new – in a dream of Istanbul.
23 November 2008