FOR THE TIME BEING One morning Gregor Samsa awoke to find himself as a canvas. His back to us, or facedown - stretched over his skeleton and muscles akin to the taut skin of a drum - if one were to look at outside world’s agonizing indifference - again processed by his own sensors – a canvas that waits to finds his own tongue. At the beginning of the tragedy, what lies behind is perhaps the wish to be the son of a father from whom health gushes from his body (both physically and in quotations), and/or the son of the law (intangible and sharpening its nails at the same time). Aside from the notion of transforming, when faced with the bronze body of father, a child can do no more than to find shelter in art. Very well, but what role was a work of art to play during Kafka’s time at the start of the 20th century? What is it to do, the object transfigures into a non-restraining form of enthused glorification. By diving feet foremost into the dark-murky waters of philosophy, the gargantuan German idealism (namely, with Kant, with Hegel and with Nietzsche) dredges up handfuls of tragedy from there. According to Schelling, ‘the very essence of tragedy lies between the real conflict and obligations of objectivity and freedom’. This is a conflict of neither victory nor defeat; the importance rests on the conflict itself. The subject defends its freedom, demanding reality (transformation). Fortune is blind! The subject only begins to see when blinded. Now that being human has led ‘to wandering around eerie waters’, contradicting the homeland/the canons/the ancestors and violating the law, thy that knows no measure can only fall to earth in exile.

Heading off on a path carving out his career, emerging artist Onur Mansız emphasises at varying degrees the intensity of the way in which the father figure aims to conceal the body in almost every culture. Targeted, provocative and daring, it is in fact a smart decision. Mansız, again making the right selection, in the exhibition he names Tragedy, where he takes the body through an eerie relationship – from the youngest age sets an incredible test which looks set to continue in the coming times. What he does, since learning to stand on his own two feet, is silence the world and to see his body witness major inglorious treatment is no outlandish thing but capable of doing things that have been the test that defines his capacity, together with the body recognising his own artistic possibilities, including his limits. To understand ancient (!) fantasies regarding the body is to ignite an argument about the body as well as the perceptions of the body that sparks just as much interest. The artist (Mansız), with every stroke he layers on to the body, purses his lips with anxiety, squinting his eyes, perhaps seeing his own body in those before him now, for the time being. He is well aware that the brush strokes are not as auspicious as the body itself. If we respect the demands of the names, we should first start from Before. In the fictional land of Before where missile-like plants are bedded into the air, where a war-ready mace-like sea mine takes on the guise of one of the world’s caricatures and falls right into the heart of the chest. One may come to ask, ‘’To fall? Does the sea mine not ascend to the chest? And is it true, or is it not that we may refer to the body’s cavity, or the empty space between us as the body’s upper atmosphere? Now, if you will, look at the strained chain swaying below the mace/mine!’

If a work of art is a work of art, it would leave us alone with our thoughts, not confined to poignant interpretations, so that our curiosity summoned to works such as Mansız’s, it would even excuse and be left dumbfounded in the face of our varying interpretations and their abundance. The model in the work Before seems as if he would really understands this fact/notion. His look seems to hide away from our judging eyes and the interrogative light that we insistently set upon, just for now, almost as if a pain captivates the hand raising it to his stomach. However, exactly at this point, before we turn back to Before, we take a glance at the other paintings. For example, upon our studying of the model/fiction in Demoninside, his challenging, arrogant approach ensures that we do not forget easily this work. Studying Mansız’s works together along with his other paintings at the same time, and not forgetting that they’re part of the bigger picture (idea), we turn back to Before and realise that its perfect and delicate body has no intention to expose violence submission. We could say that the sharp and bright interrogative light intends to cast wound-like-shadows onto the unsuspecting body with hands extended to the chain of the sea mine. Dropped onto the body, the bomb now becomes a backfiring weapon – it becomes an organ of the body, thereon. For the time being.

Models don’t avoid making eye contact with us, and when they do they abscond and set about taking the darkest tone of shade, needless to say, for the time being. To understand how these interrogated bodies turned into the interrogators; a look to False_Lunacy is required, as it is perhaps one of the most unnerving examples (seizing the right shoulder with supple hand, the shadows trying to find herself/himself through the closed eyes in the distance). The body, particularly the youngest appears to be proudest and which makes us ask, if the more they grow the more culpable they become, then new criminal identifiers of the new times should be attached to their hands, their bodies and backs and mug shots must be taken. (Let us not forget, all of these interpretations made are only valid until another does as we do now, our viewpoints of Mansız’s works are inevitably transient).

Onur Mansız is not and will not be the last artist to take on the body. As we are attracted by both his models and his pursuits being ‘young’, he also provokes our glance, rendering us just as young. Whilst admiring his works, we remunerate his art by not standing nonchalant at his beckon, then our creativity emerges and we go through one reading to another, we force age upon his models, obsess with their wrinkles, undress them in many ways only to dress them again, embellish them with strange hair cuts and heavy makeup, listen to our bodies’ muted voice, make eye contact with the paintings imagining many eyes staring back at us, in brief, finding ourselves at the place where Mansız set out towards his own Tragedy, we start heading towards our own. Then we smile thinking that it is ‘the wonder of fate and of art’ despite so many attempts to suspend it without effect, now it is hung on the walls of a gallery, a challenging body standing erect before us,’ at the beginning of the 20th Century, right here right now, for the time being.


We did say that the hero of a tragedy in pursuit of the truth has the inevitable fate to taste ruin and disaster, to be blind. Critchley engages and states the obvious: ‘The problem with the paradigm of tragic heroism is that it’s not tragic enough due to its implicit claim to being legitimate, and yet, humour constantly thwarting the possibility of legitimity is more tragic than tragedy itself’. No doubt, the hero who manages to collar us with his pain, as soon as he disappears from sight, opens his wings up to some further pain (weltschmerz); while we stand with our drooped shoulders and aged looks, trying to cope with discontent created by the young painter, Onur Mansız will live out his youth laughing out loud until undoubtedly pain enters his body, for the time being.

Niyazi Zorlu