One Sees Miniatures, The Other Dinosaurs

MAKING HIS DEBUT AS AN ARTIST, MUSICIAN MERCAN DEDE IS EXHIBITING THE FRUITS OF FIVE YEARS OF LABOR AT EKAVART GALLERY THROUGH JUNE 26TH.

When the DJ at the venue where he worked as a university student didn’t show up one night, Mercan Dede (Arkın Ilıcalı) stepped in for him. Attracting attention when he added a ney (traditional Turkish flute) piece to a techno song performance at a festival in Toronto in 1992, he pursued a career in music.

But the artist, who divides his time between Montreal and Istanbul, has a rigorous training in painting and photography as well, a training whose fruits he waited 15 years to begin reaping.

His works, which incorporate such techniques as photography, printing and painting, involve a large number of figures like dragons, roses, King Kong, dinosaurs, lighthouses, trains, miniatures and whirling dervishes.

“Everybody sees what he wants to see,” says the artist. “Sort of like a mirror. Some see miniatures, others dinosaurs.” He adds, “The works in the show are the result of what I’ve accumulated over 20 years.  This figure here, for instance, is from an old postcard a friend sent me years ago. I think it’s a Bektashi dervish who lived in the 1880’s.”

NOT TOUCHING PROHIBITED!
The show is entitled Âşıklar Kabilesi/Lovers’ Caravan, the works themselves are untitled. “There is no need for names. Each one is original. After a while the work itself becomes the signature anyway,” explains the artist, adding,  “Each one has many layers. There are so many figures and materials layered on top of one another…

A whole bunch of hidden things… Some are evident at first glance, others only become apparent as you look and touch. That’s why it’s not touching that is prohibited but not touching!”

Two videos, 14 and 50 minutes in length, accompany the works, which utilize numerous different materials from paint and wax to pearl dust and gum Arabic. The videos explain the process by which the works were produced.

MERCAN DEDE
Arkın Ilıcalı was born in Bursa in 1966. After graduating from the Journalism Department of the Istanbul University School of Press and Publication, he entered the Fine Arts Department of the University of Saskatchewan in Canada on a scholarship. In 1992 he was admitted to the Master of Fine Arts program of Concordia University, also in Canada.

Completing the program there in 1996, he was a faculty member at the same university for two years. Taking a break from his work in the visual arts in 1996, Ilıcalı pursued a career as a musician under the name Mercan Dede.

THE ‘NEY’
An end-blown flute made from a sort of knotty reed called a ‘kargı’ that grows in Turkey’s Aegean and Southeast Mediterranean regions, the ney has nine nodes and seven finger holes, six on top and one on the bottom. It is imperative that the distance between the nodes be equal if the ney is to be properly tuned.

Since such a reed is rarely found in nature, reed makers try to adjust the tuning to the desired frequencies by a method called ‘kaydırma’ (shifting or sliding). A ney of ideal proportions is extremely difficult to find and is high-priced accordingly.