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Turkish painter Kasim Tan portrays suffering of Palestinians in war-torn Gaza Strip to raise awareness

Kasim Tan, a Turkish artist, is shedding light on the plight of the people living in Gaza by depicting the attacks carried out by Israel on the enclave. In support of Palestinians, Tan has constructed a 9-meter by 3-meter (30-foot by 10-foot) painting titled "Gaza" in front of the Uskudar Valide-i Cedid Mosque in Istanbul. His goal is to raise awareness through his artwork.

Anadolu Agency ART
Published June 01,2024

Turkish painter Kasim Tan is portraying the suffering of those in the Gaza Strip to raise awareness about attacks carried out by Israel on the enclave.

Creating a 9-meter by 3-meter (30-foot by 10-foot) painting titled, "Gaza," in front of the Uskudar Valide-i Cedid Mosque in Istanbul, Tan, wants to support Palestinians through his work.

Inspired by Picasso's "Guernica," Tan expressed concern as a young artist about depicting the horror of the situation.

"I had a concern to express the horror experienced. After obtaining permission from the Mufti's Office and the General Directorate of Foundations, we prepared our canvas. Then we placed it here and started drawing," the 27-year-old artist told Anadolu.

- Tan's 21-day Gaza drawing

After the attacks by Israel on Gaza on Oct. 7, Tan went into seclusion to ponder: "What can I do against this genocide?"

When he emerged, he decided to create his piece.

The young artist said he mostly creates portraits, but in his Gaza piece, he wanted to depict the striking facial expressions of the Gazan people.

"Here, I aim to transfer to the canvas the unforgettable expressions engraved in our minds from Gaza, using bold lines, and to confront the audience eye-to-eye. I've allotted myself 21 days," he said. "After roughly sketching for the first two weeks, I'll spend the remaining week adding details. I'll occasionally use red paint. This work is actually a 21-day drawing action by a young artist at the age of 27. I have no idea where this work will take me."

He noted that he has been preparing a series called "Chaos" for about five years. "This series depicts black and white figures gathered in a space, witnessing each other's horror. The drawings I make in my normal life seem disturbing to people because harsh lines and expressions unsettle the audience. I'm observing this in this work as well. Of course, I can also say this; in the face of an existing massacre, people can suppress certain emotions. But when they unexpectedly see them on a canvas, they can react involuntarily."

-Artists' silence drove me here

Tan expressed a wish for more famous artists to undertake similar efforts.

"The silence of our artists drove me here. I'm essentially fighting a personal battle for both our artists and our nation. I'm glad to be a trailblazer in this regard. Being a bit crazy is necessary for an artist, and spending nine hours here drawing alongside people also broadens my perception," he said.

Tan plans to work around the clock in a tent during the final week of the project to finish the painting.

He wants to infuse hope into the work while carefully considering figure placement and perspective.

Despite challenges integrating sketches, he is dedicated to crafting a significant piece, and transferring his long-term series onto a large canvas is demanding but he is committed to creating something captivating.

The artist has received positive reactions from those watching him in Uskudar Square.

"Some left tips, some brought water and some asked if I was hungry and offered to bring food," he said.

Many admired his work and said things like, "Well done, I'm proud of you," said Tan.

"As I said, this artwork is also an expression of our society's conscience. After this artwork, I will leave a testament. This testament will be that when Palestine achieves freedom, this artwork should go to Palestine," he added.