Cult films, classics reborn on paper, Ottoman-style

Try to remember the most unforgettable scene from “The Godfather” movies.
Now try to picture Marlon Brando’s character replaced in that very scene by an Ottoman sultan in full imperial attire, surrounded by his aides. Or think of a scene from “Star Wars.” But this is another “Star Wars” universe where Darth Vader is an Ottoman sultan, Stormtroopers are janissaries, and the Jedi master, Yoda, wears a turban.
It is perhaps difficult to imagine for diehard fans of these movies, but one movie fan from Turkey, artist Murat Palta, has gone beyond conjuring up these images and has actually created them — on paper, that is.
Palta renders unforgettable scenes from some of the world’s best known movies into miniature paintings resembling the traditional Ottoman art form. Together these works make up his series “Tasvir-i Beyaz Perde,” an Ottomanized Turkish title that means “Depictions of the Silver Screen.”
The idea for the series is based on a creative spark that came to Palta and his brother years ago, one night when the two were watching a movie from the “Star
Wars” franchise. Back then, Palta had long been thinking about what to present as his graduation thesis for his senior year in the graphic design department of the Dumlupinar University in Kandutahya. And voila! The brothers’ fun-filled fantasy about how “Star Wars” would look had the story taken place in the Ottoman era became Palta’s graduation project.
Convincing his professors of the subject wasn’t as easy, the artist recalls. Palta had already been thinking of focusing on Ottoman miniatures for his paper. Blending this age-old tradition with cult works of cinema from Turkey and Hollywood was an original idea, but it was also a vague project, in that no one knew what the outcome would be, so his professors were hesitant at first. They only gave the go-ahead to Palta after seeing his sketches.
Palta says that although in school he studied traditional art forms on a theoretical level, he had to develop his skills at creating miniatures mostly on his own. However, illustration — his field of study — does not fall too far from the ancient art of miniature.
“The stories told in miniatures, their content and the way they were produced are almost identical to today’s practices [in illustration]. Only the techniques are different,” he explains, “Both miniatures and today’s illustrations serve to depict something that is told in [text form].”
Asked why he decided to depict well-known works of cinema instead of more traditional topics, such as the conquest of Istanbul or the enthronement of a sultan, Palta says that he wanted to set the art form of miniature free from clichandeacutes with a new inspiration because those classical themes have already been explored more than enough. He also wanted to prove that something totally new can actually be created using something traditional.
h2Terminator on horseback, Scarface with a fezh2 When asked about his criteria for his choice of movies to depict in miniature style, Palta notes that not all films are suitable for the transformation. The first of the artist’s criteria is that it be a movie he loves to watch — this way, he also pays some kind of a tribute to the movie. The second is that the scene should be familiar to as many people as possible so that viewers will instantly recognize the scene being depicted in his work. The third is for the movie to have content from the West that is adaptable to a miniature.
The combination of these three principles eliminated many of the films on his initial list — no matter how popular they were. So he ended up with a list that included the sci-fi action franchise, “The Terminator” the sci-fi horror films in the “Alien” series the Al Pacino-starring gangster flick, “Scarface” and some of Turkish cinema’s cult films, such as “Eikiya” (The Bandit) and the fantasy-aenture “Dandunyayi Kurtaran Adam” (The Man Who Saved the World) in addition to “Star Wars” and “The Godfather.”
Naturally Palta had to insert numerous additional details, such as props and costumes — while removing some others — in these highly familiar movie scenes in the process of transforming these stories of Western origin into an Eastern — and ancient — milieu.
For instance in “The Terminator,” he has introduced horses and horse carriages. In his renditions of “Alien,” the creature lies on a floor table normally used for dining in Ottoman homes. Tony Montana of “Scarface” sports a fez and Eikiya is chased by policemen wearing ialvar (baggy trousers).
Despite the originality of Palta’s work, it didn’t immediately gain the popularity it now has among Turkey’s art lovers. Rather, he first became famous overseas and was discovered by his compatriots much later. But how did some art student’s graduation project become famous overseas?
Following his graduation in 2012, Palta prepared an online portfolio of his work, as most graphic design students do, to accompany his resume when applying for potential jobs. In time, he started receiving e-mails regarding the miniatures in his portfolio from experts abroad, leading his work to be featured in several group exhibitions overseas. It was only after he opened his first solo exhibition in Italy in 2014 that his name started to gradually become known in his native Turkey.
Palta says he receives praise from both traditional and modern artists in the East as well. Regarding the reaction he received at an international festival in Algeria he took part in a few years back, the artist says he was hesitant at first about presenting his work alongside the highly traditional work by veteran miniature artists from India, Iran and several other countries. “Initially I thought they’d tell me, ‘We’ve devoted years to this practice. What do you think you’re doing? You’ve ruined the art form!’ But it turned out that they actually took an interest in my work. They liked the fact that their craft was taken to a whole new level.”
For those who want to take a closer look at Palta’s work, a selection from his series “Tasvir-i Beyaz Perde,” previously displayed at the X-ist art gallery in Istanbul in February, is currently on display at a group exhibition at Office 4200 in the northwestern city of Bursa.
Palta’s work will next be featured in an upcoming exhibition titled “Bir Endandulandus KandOpeii” (An Andalusian Dog), set to open July 9 at X-ist.

‘The Godfather’

‘Dandunyayi Kurtaran Adam’

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman