Mountains Have No Owners

Osman Erden


The relation of mankind to nature is widely interpreted throughout the history of art. The fact that artists wonder about the nature they live in as well as observe and perceive an aesthetic experience of it emerge with people starting to think of themselves as worthy and become the subject of art at the same time with Humanism. With the blessing of intelligence the desire to dominate nature grows in people. As opposed to this daring attitude, German Romantic philosophy states that humans may only be a part of nature but never its owners. Nature is attributed with dignity. Shall humans wish to glorify themselves, they have to respect nature of which they are a part of. We may see the strongest traces of this philosophy in Caspar David Friedrich’s art.

In “Mountains Have No Owners”, Burcu Perçin emphasizes the problematic relation in between humans and nature in our contemporary world. Witnessing the damage stone and marble quarries have caused on nature in recent years, Perçin focuses on the cruelty done against nature by mankind for the sake of self-interests in her solo exhibition for which she got the title from a mountaineers’ expression. Nearly in every region of Turkey there are mountains that lost their wealth of natural life by being dynamited and being hollowed out. Drawing its strength from the construction industry, the economic growth increased the number of active quarries in Turkey. Companies own mountains in order to exploit their prosperity. Not flora and fauna in Turkey but also natural water springs are being lost because of these quarries. In plain words, what is lost in reality is the future of humanity, a crucial part of the nature.

We may draw a parallel in between the paintings in Burcu Perçin’s exhibition and that of Caspar David Friedrich who most probably has had similar thoughts on nature. In many of Fried-rich’s compositions, human figures are represented as tiny details amid magnificent landscapes. Similarly, in Perçin’s works, human figures and vehicles are treated as minor details. There is, however, a main difference between the approaches of two artists. Friedrich represent a natural gorgeousness whereas Perçin aestheticizes a gorgeousness created by human intervention.

Burcu Perçin uses both oil and spray painting on her canvases to create her artworks for which she makes use of photographs she takes. Amidst the thick coats of paint, texture and color differences are visible to the eye. In order to compose these fields, the artist applies paper tapes on canvas and so prepares the ground plane of the painting. The forms Perçin constructs by pulling out paper tapes puts forth dynamism by creating interruptions in between brush strokes and color fields of contrasting compositions.

Besides the oil painting on canvas works there are also oil painting on photography works in the exhibition. At first glance, it appears that the artist applied color and texture differences on photographs of virgin mountain landscape; yet, when viewed closely, it is apparent that she only highlights the already existing quarries. Perçin creates the contradictory spectacle mankind constructed by intervening with nature through intervening with photographs. The artist generally employs photographs and photo collages as sketches of her oil paintings; however, in these works, she adapts a different approach and enriches the photo by using oil painting. Although Paul Cézanne states that one shall picture nature in terms of geometry, in these works, the only keen geometry is in regards to humans.

Different from Perçin’s previous exhibitions, there is a print work in her new exhibition. The work in question, a composition put together through employing photos taken by the artist, contains heavy-duty vehicles not as tiny details but as explicit components of the whole sight.

The enclosed spaces Perçin presented in her works in previous exhibitions now left their places to open spaces. Instead of the artificial light coming from windows, a strong and prevalent natural daylight penetrates. Therefore the dominance of light-colored shades and bright colors is prominent. The artist uses blue so as to highlight the contrast between cold and warm colours. In her black and white oil paintings that create a contrast and give the impression of pattern when viewed from a distance, forms come to the forefront. In some of her paintings Perçin does not depict the sky. This approach diminishes the depth of the composition and creates the perception of a new space. In particular the large painting in which there is no reference to the sky is very striking. It is very similar to
an abstract artwork. Pablo Picasso used to include details such as pipes or glasses in order to indicate that some of the portraits he did at the end of the analytical cubism period were in fact not abstract.
Similarly, Burcu Perçin employs a heavy-duty vehicle as a detail in her composition.

In her previous exhibitions, Perçin used to depict abandoned spaces. As they were deserted locations there were no traces of human figures. Even though the places she focuses on in her new exhibition are not abandoned there are only a few human figures. Though these places were made by mankind they are greatly unfamiliar to people. This situation is comparable to the fact that the economic structure based on the abuse of nature is against human nature. The savage capitalist system acts like the rightful owner of both nature and humans. In her exhibition “Mountains Have No Owners”, Burcu Perçin denotes her stance against this audacity by employing a powerful aesthetic interpretation. Highlighting an ideology with such a strong aesthetic expression makes the exhibition even more impressive.