Redefining the art form: Five contemporary miniaturists from Türkiye

Turkish miniature paintings reached its peak in the sixteenth century, when they were mostly prepared for sultans.

Islamic miniature painting mean small paintings that were once part of a manuscript. They are often categorised into four regional schools: Arab, Persian, Indian, and Ottoman Turkish. 

The oldest preserved miniature paintings were made around the year 1000 AD.

Turkish miniatures, often known as taswir or nakish, were an art form in the Ottoman Empire, linked to the Persian and Chinese miniature traditions. The word ‘miniature’ first emerged to refer to the use of minimum (red lead pigment), not to their size.

Turkish miniature paintings reached their peak in the sixteenth century when they were mostly prepared for sultans. A distinctive feature of this art usually illustrated political and social events of the time.

Today, many artists continue the tradition of Islamic miniature painting but with a twist.

Here, TRT World takes a look at five Turkish contemporary artists reshaping this art form. 

Murat Palta

The 32-year-old Turkish artist has generated a huge wave of interest in his artwork after he started blending traditional Ottoman art and contemporary western cinema into one miniature painting. 

Introducing a new twist to this classical form of art, Palta has miniaturised famous movies such as Star Wars, Kill Bill and The Godfather. He also had previously designed the album cover of Apple Music’s ‘Top of the Line: Türkiye list. 

Ahmet Faruk Yilmaz

Yilmaz is known for reflecting the heritage from the past with modern buildings in his illustrations, reinterpreting the traditional miniature in a contemporary way. 

According to an interview with Bayt Al Fann, an online and print publication raising the profile of Islamic arts, culture and heritage, Yilmaz is originally from the Fatih district of Istanbul, graduate student at the Department of Modern Turkish Studies at Ibn Haldun University, where he is now a lecturer. 

Islamic architecture and urbanism are central focuses of his artwork.

“I was born and grew up in Fatih, the historical center of Istanbul. I admired the monumental structures as the living witnesses of Ottoman culture and civilization throughout my childhood,” he told Bayt Al Fann.

“In addition to this, I was very interested in the more minor traditional civil architectural elements. Wooden houses, fountains, cemeteries, and historical bazaars became a fairy-tale channel that built my relationship with history.”

He said he prefers more vivid tones in his works as raw colors in miniatures have always attracted him. 

“I also try to create a childlike feeling with my colors. This brings some criticism, but I am not planning to sacrifice my vivid colors to that.”

Onur Hasturk

This visual artist is mostly known for his work where he combines the style of Islamic painting with contemporary art. Concentrating on the traditional expressions of gilding and miniature painting during his university years, Hasturk specialised in classical Ottoman miniature painting. 

“Eastern miniatures made me aware of all forms of sensory perceptions possible for me. With the type of painting used in these miniatures, this art expresses a large and truly unique field. This helped me get rid of the copycat painting,” he told the Yuzu Magazine. 

In 2017, in his “Mythology” themed series, exhibited at London’s Saatchi Gallery, Hasturk applied the Ottoman miniature to a new kind of paper surface, the Starbucks coffee cup.

Gulay Pelin

Award-winning miniature artist Pelin’s contemporary art charmingly bridges Turkish miniatures from past to present.

Her work is classified as traditional and contemporary, inspired by traditional Turkish motifs and Ottoman calligraphy.

“Fusing traditional and contemporary miniature art within its own uniqueness and intricacy offers a delightful experience that is too captivating for viewers to explore further at every look,” she said. 

Alakuş has been practicing with the art of miniature for 35 years
Alakuş has been practicing with the art of miniature for 35 years
(Arif Hudaverdi Yaman / AA)

Taner Alakus

Speaking about his journey to Anadolu Agency (AA), Alakus said he first got interested in traditional arts in 1982 at Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University (MSGSU) where he also works as a lecturer.

“I’ve been making miniatures for 35 years. I still feel like a college student. Since there are figures and freedom in miniature art, it attracts me even more,” he told AA. 

“You can include everything in a miniature, or you can adapt a miniature to everything. I do what I want,” he added.

Alakus said he offers his students a great sense of freedom when he teaches them miniature techniques.

Source: TRT World

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