Interview with Prof.Dr. İsmail Tunalı, 2008

İ.T: - Humankind losing all its values, actually all that it has… and all those old values and everything that’s been lived fluttering in a storm, the storm of time… with a feeling of nostalgia… fluttering to exist in some way. These are my impressions.
I told Nazan my thoughts downstairs but she made the mistake of not bringing a voice recorder with her.
N.A: -You’re right.
İ.T.: -Write down what I’m saying, go on.
N.A: -Yes but I may not be able to articulate what you're saying in exactly the same way.
İ.T: -Write it down because I may forget what I said after I leave your workshop.
N.A: -Yes but downstairs…
İ.T:  -We’ll articulate it, don’t worry… that’s because we share the same themes. That’s the issue that I’m handling in all my books and writings. You’re painting and I’m contemplating on the same subject.
N:A: -But I’m not making these works with philosophizing on them and taking a predetermined thought as my starting point. It's just that a thunderous voice roars in my ears and carries away everything.
İ.T: -You’re feeling it… living in that storm. Your video is really good, I really like it.
N.A: -These are the paintings of that storm.
İ.T: - You’re right. It is a different reflection of that same feeling. Nowadays people go to courses that last 20 days and see themselves fit to establish museums and give their names to them. They want the conveniences provided to them by the free market in other areas to be provided in the field of art as well. People want to acquire everything instantly and with ease. The free market economy has also penetrated into art in our day.
N.A: - Some artist claim that art is all about satisfying one’s ego and that they’re making art for that purpose. I don’t agree with this point of view. I don’t believe that one can do art in order to satisfy his/her ego.
İ.T: - That’s no way to make art. This is actually the core and hypothesis of my art. It is a way to come to terms with existence in a similar fashion to a philosopher… and that process of coming to terms takes place within the soul of the artist… What can be seen in Nazan’s paintings? Humankind is thrown into this world. Its life and death is meaningless.
And god has played a game by throwing humankind into this world. For what purpose? We do not know. It is meaningless. It is meaningless that humankind has come to this world. Our lives and deaths are meaningless.
God has played a game by just throwing us into this world like that, creating an incomplete creation. In return, humankind found and created things to console itself but in the end, time is such a great storm that it comes and takes away many things, positioning humankind face to face with corrosion and a journey into nothingness. Even the works of art created by the humankind can not resist this journey into nothingness which results in a deep sorrow. The philosophy of the 20th century is a reflection of this sorrow and so are your doings.
If we’d like to express it with a single word, we can say that these are existential outlooks and the expression of the pain and sorrow humankind feels in relation to existence.
I mean, a person can not be glad to have seen these paintings. That’s not the way to look at a work of art. These works of art have to be viewed by people who can contemplate on them. One shouldn’t just say, “I’ve seen the paintings, they’re so nice.” That’s not the way to look at a painting. These paintings evoke sorrow. They all contain a sorrow and tragedy… the tragedy of the humankind.
N.A: -In the catalogue of one of my previous exhibitions, I had written a text resembling what you’ve just said: “We are playing house with god, the photographs are his, the dolls are ours, the dolls are for playing.” What you said has reminded me of that.
İ.T: -That’s exactly right, a very fine discovery indeed. God is playing all by itself, gets bored and thus wants to play a game…
N.A: -While we were talking downstairs, you had said that in our day, the future just could not be stipulated and that philosophy had become pessimistic since the 20th century.
İ.T: -The age we live in is a pessimistic one. This started with existentialism… these paintings are also pessimistic. That’s because, today, people are arguing that the world was created by god but Nietzsche had already claimed in the beginning of the 20th century that “God is dead!” These words of his shook the 20th century.
The western civilization was founded upon the existence of god, the idea that god is a perfect being but then Nietzsche claimed that god was dead, the civilization collapsed... Why did Habermas come up with the idea of quantum? Why did Newton reject this and that? It was all because of this sorrow and this tragedy…
The Renaissance is optimistic. Everything seems nice in that era... the world is beautiful... everything, all paintings are beautiful. It is a happy life. This reflects optimism in terms of world view. However the 20th century turns the renaissance upside down. This age is a pessimistic one with its philosophy, thought and art. If we all just look inside a bit, we can see right away that we are pessimists deep within.
N.A: -While we were talking downstairs, you claimed that the world was sliding under the feet of the humankind and that there’s no stable ground left for the humankind to solidly stand upon. That’s very interesting. I’ve never thought about it in a philosophical sense but my paintings also do not contain the ground. All clothes are hung up in the air.
İ.T: -You just wait for my article on it... of course you’re right. They’re in nothingness. The most important concept of the age is nothingness. Existentialism is also based upon nothingness. Malevich also made paintings of nothingness.
When I look back at the last 75 years, I can see it consciously both in Turkey and the world. Life is a paradox. I have seen everywhere and know what humankind is about. Now, I see that humankind is lonely and so am I. First of all, I've lost all my peers of the same age. I have no friends to talk to. What do I have? I have young people but they aren't the people of that world I'm familiar with. They are living happily in a digital world. They push one button and transfer the money while we count the money over and over again and still can not count it right.
N.A: - Not having peers of the same age is also not having people who share the same ideas regarding the world…
İ.T: - The new people aren’t the people of the world I know of anymore. They are living in a digital world.
Ernst Bloch, the great thinker of our age, had to escape from Russia. The poor fellow was a great philosopher. It took forever for the Americans to get an appointment with him. In those years, I was in Tubingen, working as a professor. Ernst Bloch had invited me for tea in order to listen to these ideas of mine and had praised my innovative ideas in the long conversation we had. This is a thing of importance. He invited me for a tea while Germans, Americans and English could only get appointments for a year later. What was the reason? The reason was a conference I gave there. Everyone in Tubingen told him about this conference and what I said there and Bloch decided that he should listen to my ideas for himself. However such things aren’t important in Turkey. Nobody cares…
N.A: - Thank you so much signing your book for me (Modern Painting in the Light of Philosophy)
One last note... while talking in front of my paintings downstairs, you had also mentioned that these aren’t clothes but human bodies and that this shattering reflected to contemporary state of the humankind.