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Blue's infinite inspiration
2002 / FEBRUARY

The Aegean and Mediterranean coasts of Turkey are adorned with works of art that are impressive in their simplicity and warmth. Glass, metal, clay and marble were worked by craftsmen into abstract renderings of nature. A meander motif on an Aeolian or Ionian column capital is an expression of infinity. No element is exaggerated. The marble decoration is like particles of sand on a beach whose origin is unknown. These were civilisations of wisdom and common sense. Herodotus declared, 'The Ionians built their cities beneath the most beautiful skies we know on the earth, and in the most beautiful climes.'
These lands watered by the Hermos (today the Gediz) and Meander (Büyük Menderes) rivers were home to many city states, such as Smyrna (Izmir), Erythrai, Teos, Priene and Didyma. The tall, often fluted, columns of temples dedicated to Athena, Apollo, Artemis, Zeus, Aphrodite and Dionysus reach into the sky. The temples of Athena in Priene and Apollo in Didyma were built 2300-2400 years ago.

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Blue's infinite inspiration
2002 / FEBRUARY

The columns of the temple of Apollo appear in all their magnificence before my eyes, seeming to symbolise power and infinity. The complex curves of geometry which shapes these columns challenge the draughtsman to reproduce them on paper, despite their apparent simplicity. Their craftsmen must have sought to lift their renown to ever fresh heights, bequeathing to their sons and daughters a heritage whose fame would spread by word of mouth. The temple in Didyma dedicated to Apollo, the god of crops, the future, power, cities and art, reveals how Aegean craftsmen skilfully expressed the sacred, taking their inspiration from the power of myths. The sea seen on those long hot days must also have inspired them, like the spring setting the heart aquiver. Just as the meander motif creates a sense of infinity, so do Ionian columns and the stylised plants encircling the base.

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Blue's infinite inspiration
2002 / FEBRUARY
Infinity is similarly expressed in the marble grilles and floral decorations on the walls of the 15th century Ilyas Bey Mosque near to the amphitheatre at Miletus, showing that the Seljuks, too, were in search of infinity when they developed their own unique style. Undoubtedly the Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Seljuk and Ottoman civilisations were all aware of those which preceded them in the same lands. Civilisation followed civilisation on the sites of Troy and other Aegean cities. At Troy no less than nine superimposed levels represent different cultures that came and went here. Of course art was not the only concern of these peoples. War and peace, life and death, happiness and unhappiness, fear and joy were intertwined, as they were everywhere else. Yet the thread of continuity was not broken. The details of the art of the Aegean and Mediterranean are so expressive that a single symbol can tell the story of thousands of years.
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Blue's infinite inspiration
2002 / FEBRUARY

Alexander the Great, who loved the stories of Homer so much that he collected his manuscripts and even took them to war with him, left an indelible mark on the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts. Anthony's impassioned love of Cleopatra led him to give the entire Pergamum library, no less than two hundred thousand books, to the library of Alexandria. So runs the inextricable story of passion and art.
Among the pantheon of gods, let us choose Dionysus, who was beloved by so many that we can never come to the end of describing the festivals held in his name. If we attempted to do so, we would fall exhausted in the wind of exuberance. But still we can listen for the strains of his music heard in the distance of time on a lonely shore.
The waters are darkening as the day draws in beneath the weary clouds. No one is in sight apart from the god Apollo, whose robe has slipped from his naked agile body, catching only on his left foot.

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Blue's infinite inspiration
2002 / FEBRUARY
His wavy hair is lifted by breezes left behind by the Storm of the Passage of Cranes over the Aegean. It must be September. The pair of lions protecting the port city of Miletus look out into the distance. Who knows where Aiskhines of Miletus, who was exiled for speaking without leave in the presence of Pompey, is now? He cannot hear the melodies of Apollo in the city of his birth. Only the leaves of the poplars accompany these tunes with their gentle fluttering. Soon the nightwatchmen will come to light the lamps of the harbour and mistake the melodies of Apollo's lyre for the ancient music of nature. I had no idea that Apollo was so sensitive! Who knows what troubles the poor god of cities and the harvest suffered at the hands of mankind. Or do gods never feel sorrow? Without emotions how could he be a patron of the arts?
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Blue's infinite inspiration
2002 / FEBRUARY

Best cling to a rock and fall asleep listening to the music of Apollo without making our presence felt. Art on the edge of water was a story to which as yet unknown people would add their voice. If I had been one of the wise men of Didyma I might have predicted the Byzantines, the Seljuks and the Ottomans. How wonderful it would have been to know the future in that time of many gods. Water causes men to speak, like the sky with its occasional clouds whose clear blue brings the dark blue of night in its wake.

* Gürol Sözen is an author and painter.

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