Twins by Mehmet Yılmaz: Together, The Same But Different / by Cebrail Ötgün

Cebrail Ötgün  (Artist, academics)

Twins –the series which Mehmet Yılmaz has been working for the last two years– refers to many different contexts. The name of the series, Twins, has conceptually come from two different images which are seemingly identical to each other at first glance but substantially different. The diptyches are two canvases hinged to each other; the left canvas is digital print and the right one is oil painting. They accomplish the composition together. The image on the right is not the replica of the left one, but its twin. As Yılmaz expresses it, one of the intent of these works is ‘to question the whatness of painting, to expand the meaning of the concept of painting’ by distinguishing the digital one rather than the painted one. Correspondingly, another intent is oriented to intensify the claim ‘photography is painting’ which he continually utters. All those multiply the meaning layers of the concept of twins.

Yılmaz’s remark “Photography is painting. Any kind of photographical print is a kind of printed painting” indicates to the end of a dissociation. It is known that photography is definitionally a technique and kind of printing or i.e. painting by light. I believe nobody has a contradiction in this regard! Then, what does this expression refer to? […] I guess this expression is such an epilogue that dissolves the borders of art, meaning and technique and presents the interpenetration and the relationship between purpose and means rather than launching a sphere of discussion. This statement marks that the dissociation on fine arts has almost been ceased since 1960. […] Photography has a gradual relation with painting since its discovery in 19th century; first they (as Yılmaz cites, ‘painting made by machine’ and ‘painting made by hand’) have been brought to conflict, then dissociation, and then settlement, and finally engagement on intent. I think that the dispute over dominance and border had been extinguished by the ‘artistic’ condition. […]

Yılmaz contributes the idea that the border and hegemonical course between photography and painting disappeared by bringing the photography and the painting (rather, in his words, painted image and mechanical/digital image) together in the series named Twins. His purpose is to develop a subjective-intellectual context for the concept of twins with a photorealist analysis. Yılmaz equals the situation by presenting the digital image and painted image together, rahter than subordinating one of them. He draws attention to both the similarities and differences of these two species. Well, what is shared in this way then? The concept is Twins. Technically twins, twins as canvases, twins as images on the surface. Yılmaz, staging an attitude of artist-designer, builds a division of labor and renders democratically the manuel effort and intellectual endeavor in the same basket. He states an attitude analogous to John Ruskin’s conclusion that arts and cratfs are equal to each other in 1850’s. According to Ruskin, art should have a seamless and supplementary range enclosing the crafts. By the idea of ‘both telling the truth and embellishing a functional thing’, Ruskin highlights that real art should have both functions. William Morris is also an artist defending the same principles. Morris diligently recalls people to regard the ones who work with their hands. Bauhaus school is also embodied by the same principles. Walter Gropius tells that “every artist has to be proficient in his craft” (1). Benjamin considers photography, cinema and sound recording that reproduce abundantly banal copies as the crucial art forms of 20th century in his essay titled “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” written in 1936. Benjamin believes that those mass communication media will save art from aesthetic isolation and bring a political and communicative function in everday life. Mehmet Yılmaz also emphasizes that the executed work is a subcategory of the same universal, i.e. painting, whether it is made by hand or by a mechanical/digital medium, and engages only the communicative function with his choice in Twins.

What do Yılmaz’s image selections indicate? These images are, first of all, simple objects for they are projected on mundane grounds with their known and ordinary aspects though they lay natural or fictional presence. This is what I think, whether it is digital print or painting by hand. These images are direct and randomly constructed reflections of inner stimuli. Figures are the pictures instantaneously taken by the camera in the sphere of presence or daily activities. Ordinarily chosen objects are alike, too. They are also lightly posed by the artist just like human figures of two different standpoints. The digital one is as a check for the painted one. It is urgent to make a comparison. The figures stand on a background driven left to right. Eyes cannot control the images alone. They have to be counted by their twin. It is not certain that which one is the commodity, which one is the service. They are on the mainspring of time… Each one of the twins invites us to estimate the value of the other one. They point out the one who is right, the one who is worthy from the point you stand and look just as Nazım Hikmet’s verses (2) written on himself and his objects.

When considered alone, each one appropriates the merit it deserves in terms of the power of representation, artifice, technique and idea in its historical context and becoming status. Without tension, absolute, placid, but exquisite when alone. When it is granted that they produce a work together, there occurs a fact that we should scrutinize the artist. Which one is which, which one is digital, which one is made by hand? The digital one is to be the check for the other in the round of persuasion. How much does the painted one look like the digital one? The closer the resemblance, the more persuasive the painting. Which one differs on where from its twin? Detection is to be discovered upon the imperfection or the supremacy of the one made by hand. If it is to be the supremacy, guess how it will multiply our sense of appreciation/astonishment and value judgment… The shiner appreciation and astonishment, the more hopeless to fall deeply into the painting in the process. Nope, if it is to be the imperfection, there comes the complications. Our haven (or Yılmaz’s haven) is the scientific explanation for the twins. The twins are born by the same mother in the same pregnancy. Identical twins (or monozygotic twins) resemble each other so much that they cannot be distinguished for they result from one fecund ovum. Both are always the same sex, i mean, both are either male or female. Not only the appearance, but also all the peculiarities transfered by genetic heritage including blood types are identical (3). Nevermore it is also known that the twins scientifically and socially have many similarities but they are not exactly the same. Mehmet Yılmaz applies this rule of ‘identical, similar but different’ and escapes the complication by changing the angles of the images on the composition. He confuses the spectator who grasps the imperfection and makes him return to the beginning.

He forces us to catch the deeper meaning in the tight space. We confront an even and direct sphere of reality that has no emotional resonances following the method used. Immediate mediocrity and randomness of the apparent throws us into emptiness and evokes the feeling of deficiency. Besides, the value and diversity of a work is its deficiency, is not it? Does not it wait for the spectator to carry it out? Where is the meaning beyond appearance hidden if the appearances make themselves so palpable? Apparent is not just apparent, of course. It is better here to remember Roland Barthes’s double concepts of Studium-Punctum focusing on photography (4). Although there is no connection between these concepts, they are opposite and constituent to each other. According to Barthes, the concern for something could only occurs by Studium, but Studium refers to the common. We usually give meaning to the realities that have an apparent form and are known easily. They have common codes. This is house, this is table, this is road. Studium is a ground of a mutual contract for other meanings. When this is over, Punctum steps in. Punctum busts, corrupts or drills Studium. Punctum is introvert, referring to the concept of drilling. It gets noticed a detail that is not taken in at first glance because of its publicity. It searches the reality in the intangible and potential meanings of details, rather than the apparent common. Punctum requires a new addition, the one uncoded. It is a kind of hidden beyond, an attempt to behold the potential, the suppressed. Punctum refers to the private sphere. At first sight, this sphere of reality which is revealed totally in Yılmaz’s paintings points out the thing it represents. The adherence to the thing it represents drifts us into the hollowness in meaning. Here is the difficulty: Do these paintings have punctum? If yes, what are they? Where is the thing (punctum) that drills, torments, embraces me? I believe that the punctum of these paintings is just this in-between.





(1) Larry Shiner, Sanatın İcadı [The Invention of Art], Ayrıntı Yayınevi, 2004, pp: 357 -359, 386.


(2) […bir kurşun kalemim vardı, ben içeri düştüğüm sene. Bir haftada yaza yaza tükeniverdi. Ona sorarsanız: “Bütün bir hayat.” Bana sorarsanız: “Adam sen de, bir iki hafta” / “… I had one pencil when I went to prison. It ran out as I wrote. If you ask it: “The whole life.” If you ask me: “Never mind, a couple of weeks.”], S. Göksu-E. Tims, Romantik Komünist, YKY, 2011, pp: 227


(3) Non-identical twins (or dizygotic twins) usually occur when two eggs are independently fertilized by two different sperm cells. The genetic structure of the eggs are different from each other. The siblings are born at the same time. Like any other siblings, dizygotic twins may look similar, particularly given that they are the same age. However, dizygotic twins may also look very different from each other.


(4) Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida, Fotoğraf Üzerine Düşünceler [Camera Lucida: Reflection of Photography], Altıkırkbeş Yayınları, 2008.


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