The solitary time people spent in lockdowns, curfews and quarantines throughout the last year brought out new and bright ideas for some, and for Cumhur Aygün, a commercial photographer of 25 years, that new idea was reviving 1,000-year-old Seljuk motifs using traditional techniques.
Aygün, a graduate of the graphic design and photography department at Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University, said that he needed a way to pass the time during lockdowns at weekends. He had received a superficial education on relief printing at school, but he always wanted to learn more.
“At first I researched a lot,” he said and added, “I looked on the internet, who is doing what? What equipment are they using? Can I acquire them in Turkey? I researched these.”
Employing this traditional technique he soon learned the meaning of Seljuk motifs and started to build a collection of not just Seljuk, but motifs from all the civilizations of Anatolia. His technique was time-consuming but worth the effort and in lockdown, he had the time.
“First, I create drawings from photos of motifs on the computer and turn them into black-and-white patterns then print them. After deciding on the size of the paper that will be used in the print, I transfer the pattern onto linoleum and trace it with a pen,” Aygün explained.
He touched upon the difficulties of the technique, other than being time-consuming, it requires thinking about everything in the negative. “You are working in the negative, you will print positive. In relief printing, you need to think the opposite. So, I carve the pattern with that in mind.”
So, Aygün carves around the pattern, keeping in mind that the carved bits will be the white areas in the print. After transferring the pattern onto linoleum he pours ink onto it and the uncarved areas receive the ink. He uses a roller to make sure that the paint or the ink is spread out evenly.
Then he transfers the motif onto handmade paper by laying them onto the linoleum and applying pressure.
“Linoleum is a washable, cleanable, portable, wood-like material that is easy and nice for craftsmanship,” he said and noted that his technique was a historical one. “I create art by printing Seljuk patterns onto handmade paper, with handcraft and by using the oldest printing method in the world.”
Aygün explained that the research and the carving periods took a lot of time, and he would not be able to stand up for up to eight hours sometimes. Aygün said that this art required labor and patience but stressed that he enjoyed it thoroughly.
“Until now, I have done 12 or 13 patterns and motifs on Seljuks. Now, it is time for Assyrians, and then Hittites,” said Aygün. He stated that throughout 2020, his works had received significant attention, both domestic and international, and that they planned to launch an exhibition of all the Anatolian civilizations once the COVID-19 pandemic was over, and maybe in Europe.