The protagonist of a series of 10 simple reading books written by children's author Rasim Kaygusuz and illustrated by Selçuk Seymen, Cin Ali has played an intrinsic role in the lives of decades of primary school children in Turkey.
Artist Sabire Susuz was one of those children and now, nearly half a century after the birth of Turkey's most famous stick man, the Kütahya-born artist has decided to pay tribute to the somewhat unlikely hero in the form of a series of pixelated images in "Cin Ali Sergide" (Cin Ali at the Exhibition), currently hosted at Nişantaşı's Merkür Art Gallery.
Speaking in an interview with Today's Zaman on Thursday, Susuz reflected on her own childhood memories of Cin Ali. “When I started primary school I thought Cin Ali was a real person, so did many children, actually,” she said, relating that it wasn't until fourth grade that reality set in for her as to the fictional nature of the character.
“In many ways I see this exhibition as me giving something back to a precious part of my childhood. From 1968 to around 2005, the Cin Ali books were part of the curriculum in schools across Turkey, putting them amongst the most printed books in Turkey,” Susuz explained, adding that such is the prominence of the little stick man that there is even a popular Turkish saying, “I couldn't even draw Cin Ali,” used to demonstrate the lack of drawing prowess of the non-artistically inclined.
Yet Susuz's collection is more than just a nostalgic trip down memory lane. From a distance what appears as digitally enhanced pixelated images or photographs are, on closer inspection, patchwork quilts made up of meticulously arranged clothes labels secured together by pins, a unique technique Susuz has been experimenting with for over seven years. Subtle differences in the color of the labels allow for a fuzzy, pixelated effect, at times serving to cast a shadow or create the illusion of light in the images.
“There is increasingly a perception in contemporary art that in order for something to be modern or fashionable, it has to be in some way complicated. On the contrary, I am an advocate of the power of simplicity. This exhibition is completely based on minimalism, it combines the epitome of visual unfussiness -- a one-dimensional stick man -- with a very simple artistic technique,” Susuz stated, adding that she likes to see the collection as a reaction against the monotonous norms of modern art.
The somewhat unique use of labels as the main source of material in her works Susuz explained is no coincidence but instead an effort to highlight the disposable consumerism of today.
“Nowadays everything has a label, and I don't just mean clothes but everything, be it where we eat or live or our holiday destinations,” Susuz stressed, continuing to say, “We live in an age of ‘use and get rid of'' and a label-less life has become impossible and for the most part nonexistent.”
It is for this reason, Susuz explained, that she decided not to sew the labels together for the Cin Ali collection but merely to pin them. “We can see the works here in front of us now but in 10 minutes you could completely destroy them by untacking the pins,” she said, pulling out a pin with a flourish, then carefully replacing it before adding, “Just like everything else my work is disposable. It is a reflection of the world we live in today."
“Cin Ali at the Exhibition” is on display at the Merkür Gallery until May 29.