Burçak Bingöl

To my beloved five-hundred-year-old blue glazed tile panel,

I vividly remember our first encounter back in early 2016… Like all great encounters, when I first set my eyes on you, I was oblivious to the fact that an enduring passionate relation would transpire between us.

I once read in a history book that the mineral cobalt, which gives the blue pigment used in the Chinese blue-white ceramics, was not of adequate quality in local mines. So, it was imported from the Persian Empire to be processed, applied on chinaware in the most elaborate of tones before being distributed across a wide geography. This fact, which seamlessly managed to fuse geography, knowledge, art and trade in one sentence like an alloy left a lasting impact on me which seemed to keep growing in my head to the extent of becoming a material representation of changing place and form.

I took the streets of the city I inhabit in pursuit of finding this sophisticated blue, painstakingly scanning every inch of the decorated walls of the once glorious empire’s silent palace, trying to track down traces of pure cobalt which managed to reach Istanbul.

I must confess, my eyes were very tired by the time I stumbled upon you. Only later would I fully comprehend the gravity of the moment I started to stare at you, quite beaten by exhaustion and nonchalance…

You were different in shape. Between your tiles which were fragmented possibly as much as the history of this city, there were no borders or grouting that could have breached your immaculate surface. Looking at you in front of the exterior wall of the Circumcision Room [in Topkapı Palace], I found myself pondering on what you might have witnessed five centuries ago while I struggled to piece things together, trying to get to know you better and feel you.

Considering it was the 16th century, it is very hard to imagine how you were made as a flawless, single piece measuring 120 by 50 cm… Rumour has it that you were painted by muralist Şah Kulu of Tabriz. How were you dried, more importantly, what kind of a furnace were you fired in and what was used to achieve those temperatures? What did people think after seeing your breath-taking blues which would endure centuries after you emerged from the furnace? They too must have got really close to take a better look just like me… Without a doubt you must have had many love affairs over the centuries…

Staring at you in awe, I felt you becoming more than just a surface but a passage alluring me to step inside. It took some time for me to step through that door but when I did, it was as if I was projected towards the far east via the Silk Road, to unfamiliar times and geographies, arousing my curiosity as I crossed expanses of lands and infinite seas. A compass converting words into motifs and motifs into codes was seemingly pulling me towards an uncharted map.

Şah Kulu had painted you with the infinitely deep blue of the precious mineral cobalt, formerly known as lājavard, so elaborately that he had also devised an uninterrupted space, a talismanic forest in which leaves and branches intertwine in the background of the impeccable surface created by the tones of the colour, where Qilins and Simurghs roamed freely and where every detail is fused in extreme refinement.

I have been strolling around this forest for some time despite occasionally getting lost while I try to get to know you better but I eventually wind my way. Wandering around in you, sometimes I come across such sceneries that I feel compelled to grab my ink and paper to draw what unravels before my eyes… then another picture from another part of the panel…. I try to take a new perspective looking at you, trying to compensate for the time difference between us…

Like every real relation, ours also transforms and nourishes me.
Being next to you makes my roots travel deeper beyond the marble surface under my feet while my mind keeps on wandering around your forest with immense fascination.

I try to get to know you better, learn more about you, draw and write about you. Like everything I cherish, I unknowingly want the whole world to hear about my passion for you while one part of me wants to keep our love affair hush hush. Who knows, I might drop another love letter the day I succeed in deciphering the codes you have anchored in time and space on your glazed surface…

Burçak Bingöl
Istanbul, 2020