Nazım Hikmet Richard Dikbaş
Born in 1973 in Leeds, England / Lives in Istanbul, Turkey
Jens Hoffmann (JH): Biennials often privilege large-scale, spectacular works over the medium of drawing. What intrigues me about your drawings is that they have an enormous intimacy and formal sophistication that goes hand in hand with a political subtext that speaks about social realities in Turkey. But they are easily understandable no matter where one comes from.
Nazım Hikmet Richard Dikbaş (NHRD): I try to be a sensitive observer of the multiple environments we occupy—or, in the words of the poet Gülten Akın, “to pause in order to understand the subtleties of things.” This may sound obvious at first, but it is an attempt to decelerate the process of observation, or to manipulate the speed at which perception and reception take place.
JH: To me your drawings seem like snapshots of larger events, like a fragmented narrative of which we, the audience, are only offered some parts.
NHRD: I look at how people act— in language, in gestures, in the company of others—and try to see the gaps in communication, the moments of silence, repeated fragments of small talk, expressions that do not correspond to immediately definable emotions—what could perhaps be called the surplus of everyday meaning, to paraphrase Paul Ricoeur. I also try to see how people simply are: as objects like any other, as primates in their own special world. I also observe them in terms of their age, their social standing, the time of the day, and at a further level how their appearances change once their images are reproduced in photography, film, drawing, or painting. This is easiest to do with people around me, and of course it endlessly complicates the position of the independent observerI often feel that we are blind, or deaf, to a lot of this, and I try to enter into this mostly undocumented sphere by way of creating new scripts, stories, monologues, dialogues, and thought processes for characters that may resemble people I know, or figures and faces I have encountered in various media. I assign them new roles, give them new levels of courage, outspokenness, and nonchalance, or perhaps shyness, introversion, or guilt, so that the rigid surface of formal interaction can be breached.
JH: Tell me about the political aspects of the work.
NHRD: Not much has changed in terms of fundamental social realities in Turkey since 1971, when Gülten Akın wrote the poem I quoted above. Perhaps there is now a stronger awareness among various minorities—which I would here collectively define in terms of their different ways of thought and ways of life—regarding acts of oppression and discrimination perpetrated by the majority. As artists we find ourselves resisting the loudly proclaimed statements of power that have seeped into all levels of social life, but this must be done without falling into the trap of producing a similarly swollen and overcharged discourse.