İlhan Koman was born in 1921. He was a member of a family with interesting roots and would live in his early years at a time when the society he was born into was going through signiﬁcant changes. After graduating from Edirne High School, he came to Istanbul and entered the Fine Arts Academy. In the beginning he wanted to paint. With the guidance of his teachers, he moved to the sculpture department. He became Belling’s student.
He was an extremely creative individual who could not be satisﬁed with the traditional understanding of sculpture. He went to Paris. He was inﬂuenced by the art of the early epoch. The reliefs he designed for Anıtkabir, the mausoleum built for Atatürk, were realized. He had proven himself. But he had ambitions that could not be satisﬁed with that.
He lived in Paris as an artist who perceives, notices and watches his surroundings. He opened his ﬁrst exhibition in this city. When he returned to Istanbul, he and his close friends were inﬂuenced by a movement in France and formed the Turkish Group Espas. With this action, he showed that he internalized the concept of space. Form was a phenomenon that had to be considered together with space for him. He also thought of the concept of sculpture as an ‘integrated’ entity. Architecture, sculpture and painting were disciplines that could coexist.
This understanding was not, at the time, a mainstream approach in Turkey. While dealing with form and space, Koman gradually realized that the ﬁgure would not come into being ‘by itself’. Even the abstraction of the ﬁgure had to correspond to a reality. It was clear from this reasoning why architecture attracted him. The statue was placed in the space. But architecture was space itself. Moreover, it was a plastic entity. It could be shaped. This view brought him closer to the limits of mathematics because he realized that nature has a language encased in mathematics and an order like any other language.
In 1959 he went and settled in Sweden. In 1965, he bought his boat named Hulda. Hulda was Koman’s ‘habitat’ until 1986. In Sweden he created Works that had a strong permanent character.
His work in Sweden had relatively distanced Koman from architecture. But he thought to the end about space and plasticity of ﬁgures. He sought to eliminate volume in sculpture. Mathematics could provide him with this possibility. The number of π (pi), which humanity is still examining and trying to grasp, was a starting point for him.
Mathematics was a language. The ﬁrst expression ground of this language was geometry. Koman had decided to make a sculpture of mathematics. When you play with mathematics, which creates any geometric form, a new form comes into being, just as a new sentence emerges when you play with words. The transformation could be sustained indeﬁnitely. It was the artist’s job to decide whether any form was a ‘sculpture’, turned into a sculpture. Koman was a sculptor, not a mathematician.
Sculpture is volume in space. Sculpture is also the void in volume. Mathematics is the tool that explains the invisible language of space and the balance of nature. Koman’s magic comes from his deep understanding of these relationships. In his sculptures, Koman was capturing mathematics and the void within mathematics, not the void within the volume.
Mathematics was a meta-language. The real meta-language is Koman’s fascinating sculptures. These are not just based on the language of mathematics. It also includes art’s own mystery and never to be deciphered codes.
We exhibit these sculptures in this mysterious place left to us from the Ottoman Empire. We celebrate Koman’s 100th birthday in the enchanting atmosphere of this unique place. Koman spent most of his life above water. In this place, the sculptures live their own adventures in the sculptor’s water-inspired world.
I wish Koman could have seen it too.
– Hasan Bülent Kahraman
About the Exhibition
Featuring the works of master sculptor İlhan Koman, “100-Year-Old Sculptor: İlhan Koman” exhibition was presented with the collaboration of Contemporary Istanbul Foundation and Tosyalı Holding, as another special project that drew attention at the 16th edition of Contemporary Istanbul. After the exhibition, which can be deemed as a first step of a fruitful partnership, CIF and Tosyalı Holding will continue their collaborations with projects on “upcycling” throughout the year.