A great painter does not content himself by affecting us with his masterpieces; ultimately, he succeeds in changing the landscape of our mind.
Orhan Pamuk, My Name is Red
Orhan Pamuk is a Nobel winning Turkish novelist, whose Sun sign is in Gemini. The lower expression of the sign, its shadow, begets scatterbrained chatterboxes, but the more evolved Gemini souls possess an incredible gift for the language, a penetrating mind being able to see links and connections between the most distant subjects. Communication and verbal expression is their strength. My Name is Red is my favourite book by this author. What I find the most dazzling is the idea of giving voice to the most bizarre narrators. Each chapter is told from a point of view of a different character and these ‘characters’ include a corpse, a dog, a tree and the colour red. How very Gemini of the author to have given voices to these entities, isn’t it?
Comparing and contrasting ideas is Gemini’s forte as well. My Name is Red shows the deeper themes involved in the famous clash of civilizations. In the time of the Ottoman Empire the great miniaturists from the East “longed to return to Allah’s blackness by means of color. “ For them painting was the act of seeking out Allah’s memories and seeing the world as He saw he world. Therefore old masters perceived going blind as the ultimate achievement of mastery. Going blind meant being able to see as if with Allah’s eyes. For them individual style was a defect. Their masterpieces were all similar because they were supposed to depict the eternal piece of Allah’s vision. They lacked passion or individuality, though, and were one-dimensional. But at the same time they emanated spirituality, serenity and peace.
Astronomers study the moon and the stars in this Ottoman miniature dating from the 17th century.
The innocence of this paradise is marred by western influences, which begin to change the face of eastern art. The peaceful world of old masters turns out to be be a lie because they do not acknowledge their shadow. It turns out that even old masters are prone to violence. I think the book shows that everyone desires recognition and that ego always strives to achieve individuation. This is why ambition and violent competition are rampant among miniaturists, who want to be seen as exceptional and unique. Even the Sultan wants to have his portrait painted, which is perceived as blasphemy by orthodox reactionists. The colour red, an extremely potent symbol, enters the scene and announces: “I am so fortunate to be red! I’m fiery. I’m strong. I know men take notice of me and that I cannot be resisted.” It turns out that young masters have developed unique styles and they want to be recognized and adored for them.
Picasso, an artist with an undeniably strong ego
Orange Red Orange, Mark Rothko
Like the Bosphorus Bridge, which connects Europe and Asia, My Name is Red illustrates the interconnectedness between the East and the West. I hope that the two worlds can be brought closer by acknowledging each other shadows: the western contempt for spirituality and the eastern scorn of individuality. These two do not have to be mutually exclusive.