Three days prior to when Franco Fasoli, aka Jaz, was set to arrive in Istanbul to paint for the Kadiköy Festival protests erupted throughout the city. Originally incited to protect one of the remaining green spaces in the city, Taksim Gezi Park, the demonstrations quickly escalated to become a larger critique of Turkey’s government. Watching from afar while preparing sketches for the mural, Jaz created four different ideas, taking into account his imagery in the context of the surrounding political climate. By preparing several scenes for the festival, the artist would be able to adapt his preexisting style to reflect the people of Turkey.
Visual tropes such as feline-human hybrids, voyeuristic crowds, and constellations have characterized the artist’s paintings for several years as visual manifestations of the political climate in his native Buenos Aires. Growing up in Argentina, a country whose history is steeped in political turmoil, dissent against the government was something that the artist previously witnessed and infused into his artwork. Jaz drew parallels between his experiences at home and in Istanbul, saying:
I observed so many similarities with the 2001 Argentinean protests, like a very generalized people manifestation, with the same feeling, angry but at the same time happy because the people are saying NO to the government decisions and are very proud about that. But also very full pace compared with the South American protests. The police attack very hard and the people don’t react with violence. That surprised me.
In contrast to the pillaging and aggression that took place during the riots in Buenos Aires, Jaz noted that the destructiveness in Turkey came at the hands of the government rather than the protestors. For the artist, these observations became the central thesis for the wall he erected during the festival.
In order to accurately reflect the plight that he had been hurled into first hand, Jaz took to talking with local residents of the Kadiköy district of Istanbul to tailor his imagery to their experiences. Central to the artist’s body of work is the need to convey the movement and aggressiveness of battle. These ideas manifest themselves through figures, whether human or otherwise, lunging toward one another, inevitably merging to become a seamless being. For Turkey, Jaz called upon these tropes while combining aspects from Turkey’s past as a means to represent its present.
Five stories tall and divided by a series of windows, two horses are reared in battle as the two identical figures attack each other, shields and swords in hand. As a means to reflect the plight of Occupy Gezi, Jaz portrayed these warriors carrying Ottoman swords, nearing each other with shields raised. Acting as a double meaning, these weapons represent not only the government attacking its own people in Taksim, but also the country’s larger history of colonization by the Ottoman Empire. Titled Uno Contro Uno, or One Against One, this name reflects the direct contact seen in conquests of the past and the government’s current determination to continue in suite with the protestors of Taksim.
Through carrying the weight of a country’s history into his mural, Jaz was able to display the protestors’ voices through coded aesthetics hidden in a crimson monochrome. Drenched in red hues, the visual cues reflect the activists’ strength of conviction in the face of widespread government brutality. By combining historical significance with a color scheme meant to reflect the peoples’ strife, the artist was able to adapt his style to create a mural that brought attention to Turkey’s political struggle. Upon completing the composition Jaz says that, “They react very well, felt very supported, and are happy because that way foreigners can see the situation in Istanbul.”
(All images courtesy Franco Fasoli.)