Photos by Adem Ozkul for Keskul
The following is an excerpt from Pinar Kutlu Zengin's interview: “Jeffrey Baykal Rollins: The Shape of Beauty”, Keskul, No. 10, Fall, 2006, p. 100-108.
I work alone in a small studio in the Besiktas neighborhood of Istanbul, which is a place so private that no one but my family even knows where it is. This wooden house was built at the same time as Yildiz Saray with left-over materials from the palace, but today is in such poor condition it looks from the outside like no one could possibly even live there. However the inside of the house reveals another world all together different. Over a period of decades, a great sheikh who lived there lovingly painted every square meter from floor to ceiling, of the fourteen rooms throughout the entire house, even the toilets. What is truly remarkable though is not how much he painted, but what he painted: wood grain. Mind you, this is a house made completely of wood, and this man spent fifty years painting over that wood, simulated wood grain that goes in a different direction than what lies underneath! Most people would probably think the man was crazy, and that for fifty years he’d done nothing more than waste a lot of time. In fact many people who come to the house don’t even notice that the wood grain has been painted over. Many of those who do notice still do not look close enough to see what has also been painted into the wood grain: eyes, ears, suns, galaxies and splashes of drops in water. Furthermore, the knots of wood he has painted into each panel add up to numerical symbols that represent a whole lot more as well. What I learn daily from this is that it is possible to make every single element in a work of art meaningful, and it is worth devoting a lifetime to do it.