A retrospective exhibition by an artist who began painting when he met Turkey’s most famous poet, Nazım Hikmet, in Bursa Prison 70 years ago, is now on display at the International Art Center in Istanbul’s Üsküdar.
The exhibition, “Balabanizm,” features 140 works, including previously unseen tiles, design, carpet and canvas works, as well as a self-portrait signed by Nazım himself.
Balaban, who took three years of education in a village of the Marmara province of Bursa, told Anatolia news agency that his interest in painting began after he met Nazım, whom he described as “Şair Baba” (Poet Father).
Turks around the country marked the 110th anniversary of Nazım’s birth with ceremonies on Jan. 15. The artist said his talent was discovered and developed thanks to the poet’s support and interest and that they were together for seven years.
Balaban said he opened his first solo exhibition in 1953 in Istanbul and that he continued staging exhibitions in the following years both in Turkey and abroad. The artist said he was prosecuted in the past because of his paintings but acquitted and added that his works were also attacked in an exhibition in the southern province of Adana.
The creator of more than 2,000 paintings and even more designs, Balaban is also the author of 11 books. Recalling a shared memory with the poet, Balaban said: “He told me, ‘You are the biggest painter in the world.’ I knew that I was the biggest painter of the world but also that the world’s biggest poet approved it. He made my name known all around the world. This is why I dedicate this exhibition to him.”
Balaban said the exhibition also displayed a portrait of the artist signed by Nazım. “I was told in prison that Nazım Hikmet drew the portraits of prisoners and I made him draw my portrait. He showed me the painting and said ‘it is done.’ I did not like the painting because he did not draw my jacket and tie in the painting. When I said this, he responded, ‘I did not do it because I did not want you to look like a tax collector.’ Then I found six color pens and added the jacket and tie to the painting.”
Balaban said he was displaying paintings that had been inspired by Nazım’s poems, including one titled “Mapushane Avlusu” (the Courtyard of Prison), which he drew last year with inspiration from the poem “Bugün Pazar” (Today is Sunday).
The exhibition also displays two works from the collection of Nazım’s wife Piraye Hanım. One is Balaban’s self-portrait that he made in 1946 at İmralı Prison by looking at a mirror while the other is a work titled “Çeşme Başı” (The Fountainhead).
Piraye Hanım’s grandson Kenan Bengü said she had many other works, paintings and letters from Nazım. “Balaban made these paintings when he was at İmralı Prison and sent them to Nazım Hikmet, who was in Bursa Prison at the time. Sometime later, the poet gave them to Piraye Hanım and they have survived,” Bengü said. The grandson said they had started working to evaluate their archive of Balaban’s works after 2000.
“These paintings had been kept in hidden places for many years. I did not know that the self-portrait belonged to Balaban. We got together with him 15 days ago thanks to a friend in common and showed him the paintings. He was very excited because he had forgotten all these paintings, which were his first works. He asked for the paintings for this exhibit, and now we are displaying them,” Bengü said.
Balaban said he kissed the painting when he saw his self-portrait.
“Balabanizm” will continue until Feb. 14.
source: Hürriyet Daily News