Exhibition: “One Must Continue”, Zilberman Gallery, İstanbul, 2019 (Photo credit: Kayhan Kaygusuz)

Painting Series, 2018

“The Middle East, MENA, The West Asia, Middle East Swamp, The East of Eupharate, Azez-Jarabulus Line, The Manbij Pocket..."

Landscape Studies is a series of oil paintings on canvas. I made these paintings using landscape views that I sourced from propaganda videos released by military forces and organizations like al-Nusra Front, the Islamic State, SAA that fight in Iraq, Syria or Libya. In the videos, people are killing other people just a few second before or after the frames we see on the canvases. Also, demolished buildings and war vehicles are visible on full length versions of the propaganda videos.
But in these frames, we see only the geography, the landscape.

The geography works as a background image for the war images, shared from wars legitimized by the religious and human values by these actors. In the almost all of these propaganda videos, the purpose is not to show the geography of the site, instead, it is visible as a decorative backdrop of the incidents, people, actions and rhetoric in focus. The geography is an element of no consideration, just like tragedies of "small people" not are not newsworthy under the reality of war and geostrategic issues.
The place of geography in the art history is, more or less, like this until the 18th century. Partly it was used as an adornment at interior spaces but also seen as background behind of people and animals on hunting scenes. It was a setting for the grand religious and mythological narratives to be played out in. Landscape, which had not been seeing worth to be depicted in itself and had rarely been made visible Medial Ages, lived its golden age at the beginning of the 19th century and and acquired a position as an object of depiction in itself.
I'm trying to get contact with the geographies named by soldiers, strategists and historians as "Middle East, MENA, Near East, West Asia, The Middle East Swamp, The East of Euphrates, The Azez-Cerablus Line, The Menbij Pocket", beyond the macro-political purposes of these names. I want to adopt another approach to geography which is different to see it as a mere tactical-strategic element of war.
On the other hand, in this era, most of the human population of the world, including me, experience geography through digital screens. Every time period has its own recording, montage and sharing methodologies and aesthetics connected to these. These images accompanying wars will also accompany us in the coming decades when we want to understand the wars of today. Today's imagination technologies are going to dominate relationships that we will try to build with today's war, in the future. For instance, just as what the Trojan Column's aesthetics has a meaning today to understand the Dachia Wars, these videos and their aesthetics will welcome the people who want to get engage with the wars which are emerged by the Arab Spring.
With this viewpoint, I made these paintings on canvases which have same scale with my laptop screen which is 15'', in 18x28.5 cm. I thought this series must touch reality that my visual relationship with these geographies is mostly based on my screen, with today's digital aesthetics.

Hasan Özgür Top
June 2019

“Al-Dumayr”, Hasan Özgür Top, 2018, Oil on canvas, 18 x 28.5 cm

“Tripoli”, Hasan Özgür Top, 2018, Oil on canvas, 18 x 28.5 cm

"Iraq or Syria", Hasan Özgür Top, 2018, Oil on canvas, 18 x 28.5 cm

“Iraq or Syria-2”, Hasan Özgür Top, 2018, Oil on canvas, 18 x 28.5 cm

“Sana’a”, Hasan Özgür Top, 2018, Oil on canvas, 18 x 28.5 cm