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  • Writer's pictureBurcu Çenberci


Muhabbet. 46.5X46.5cm (Inclusive of trims) Gouache and 22 Carat Gold on Acidfree Cardboard.

'My favorite flower is iris, what is yours?' she asked. After thinking for a moment yet feeling unsure I replied, 'I guess I like them all.' And so continued our conversation with my friend for hours without noticing how time went by. Inspired by my friend's love for irises, my recent painting called 'Muhabbet' is about friendship and spring flowers. Muhabbet can be translated as friendly, warm conversation.

I was fortunate to attend a very special school with a beautiful, big garden called the campus. We were relatively few students and during breaks we all would rush out to the garden. The campus was filled with all kinds of trees, but old cypress trees remain standing out in my childhood memories. In spring time wild cyclamens would pop up under the trees around the amphitheater where students would have lunch and chat with each other. Purple flowered irises would decorate the right side of the narrow path leading to the senior building from the amphitheater.

Detail of the Wild Rose Garden

Soon after our conversation, I went to my high school for a spring gathering and after so many years, walked along that iris path full of many sweet memories. When I came back home I knew I had to paint a beautiful flower garden filled with irises and various flowers and trees in a traditional Turkish style, as would be depicted in the manuscripts of the Ottoman Empire. And make it an homage to Karamemi, the highly esteemed chief manuscript painter (illuminator) of the 16th Century Ottoman Court. His most admirable work is found on 'Muhibbee Divanı', a book of poems written by Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent whose pen name was Muhibbee meaning lover, friend, devotee of God.

Detail of the Iris Garden

Typical features of manuscript decoration are: the text is almost always enclosed by a rectangle and the rest of the remaining gaps are sectioned out in various sized rectangular shapes then filled with floral and cosmic decorations with pure gold and paint. The typical plant motives used by Karamemi and such artists are tulips, roses, carnations, hyacinths, irises, cypresses and blooming trees called the 'bahar dalı' literally meaning spring branch.

Images taken from the book 'Hasbahçe' by Nurhan Atasoy

In viewing 'Muhabbet' you will notice, it consists of three rectangular sections, and each section consists of a garden, a world in itself, filled with Ottoman flowers. In the iris garden is my friend and on the right side is myself -dressed as we were in our recent high school reunion- we are facing each other but from a distance, separated by a cosmic river running down. And above is yet another heavenly garden untouched by humans, and for the amusement- adorned by the four green parakeets living in my neighborhood! You can probably tell my love for the Mughal florals and Indian miniatures is pretty lively. :)

Detail of the upper garden

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