Artist Özçimi: I still cannot call myself an ebru master

A new exhibition by Sadreddin Özçimi, an authentic master of ebru, has given a new boost to the traditional Turkish art of paper marbling. Özçimi reworked 18 miniature human portraits by the 18th century Ottoman miniaturist Levni, the most famous miniature artist of the Tulip Era, by using a revolutionary new technique called “akkase” (two-toned marbling).

Distinguished masters of traditional Turkish arts, including Niyazi Sayın, Uğur Derman, Alparslan Babaoğlu and Fuat Başar, attended the opening of the exhibition at the Taksim Art Gallery and expressed their appreciation for Özçimi’s progressive technique. Özçimi notes that he creates new styles without destroying the unique essence of ebru. “The resulting miniature series, I hope, will be beneficial both to Turkish civilization and to the history of art. I have received many positive reactions, which I wasn’t expecting. When our teachers, who are hard to please, expressed their support for my attempt, I was extremely happy. Yet there are some people who consider themselves ebru masters after a training period of three months. I have been working on ebru for 15 years, but I still do not regard myself as an ebru master.”

Özçimi is a representative of the ebru tradition of Hezarfen Necmeddin Okyay, Mustafa Düzgünman and Alpaslan Babaoğlu, and he is also a master neyzen (reed flute player). What has urged him to create this miniature series is his search for doing something for İstanbul and the art of ebru. He has realized that while there are several marbling artists who synthesized the classical arts of miniature and ebru, they have few works to exemplify their quest. As he was pondering how he could do this, he came across the work of master miniaturist Levni being displayed at the Topkapı Palace Museum. Özçimi says he looked on Levni’s miniatures with utter respect and thought, “Will I ever be able to properly handle this task?” It took six months to create the miniature ebru pieces with the akkase technique. About 450 models were cut. It was Fatma Betül Koyuncu who cut the miniature models with the rare Ottoman art of katı paper cutting, and Güler Yağcı who drew the miniature details.

Each miniature was processed several times in the ebru tray, and classical Turkish ebru techniques were employed in the creation of these fine pieces of art. Özçimi’s works illustrate the elegant harmony between miniature and ebru, as seen in “Dader Banu’nun Tasviri” (Portrait of Dader Banu), “Bursalı Kadın” (The Woman from Bursa), “Acem Dursaz Bey’in Tasviri” (Portrait of Acem Dursaz) and “Testi Taşıyan Kadın” (Woman with a Jug) and you can actually mistake them for Levni’s original miniatures if you happen to view them from afar.

In addition to the works done with the akkase technique, the exhibition also contains a selection of Özçimi’s other works created throughout the year. There are 64 ebru pieces in the exhibition. The most popular piece in the exhibition is “Levni Nakışhanesi” (Levni’s Workshop), to which Özçimi devoted extra labor and care. The colorful mixture of miniatures and ebru is certainly a revolutionary development for the classical arts. These wonderful pieces will be on display until Dec. 29. Tel.: (212) 245 2068

Bad marbling artists: terrible for the art

Özçimi says: “There has been a recent increase in the interest shown in ebru. It is hard to guess what has caused this. … There are both good and bad things done in the name of ebru. Of course, it would be rude to display the works at an exhibition without requesting the permission of our mentors. … But today, things have changed. People attend courses on ebru for several months and they rush to open their own exhibitions. Of course, they can open exhibitions. This may show that people’s interest in ebru is rising but, at the same time, they exhibit very bad examples of ebru. Frankly, I think this is terrible.”