As an airline magazine, Skylife knows very well that aviation means loyalty above everything else. Twice in its publishing history, Skylife has featured the great Turkish artist Abidin Dino in its pages, once as a contributor, once in a feature about him. Now, on the 100th anniversary of his birth and the 20th anniversary of his death, we wanted to remember him again in a loyal tribute. As we did so, rather than sitting down and composing a piece, we turned for help to the friends who knew him best. He of course was a man whose unique world cannot be squeezed into a few pages of print. Our piece may fall short of the mark but this is what we were able to do. Let us console ourselves with the hope that this may be a road map for more to come on the subject.

How fortunate I am to have enjoyed a share of Abidin’s font of wisdom. Abidin is a wise man who tells me my story, which he reads in my eyes. He draws me for me. And I, camera in hand, capture him, because I must not forget, I must not let others forget. For me, this man is not just a painter, but at the same time a filmmaker, a philosopher, and a big brother. Abidin manages to be himself in his whole being, at a time when being able to exist at all in this world is not easy.COŞKUN ARAL

When Abidin died, Güzin Dino, who had devoted her entire life to him, who had lived and breathed in his light (without being overshadowed by him), turned to me and said, “How am I going to live now?” And I answered, “Exactly as if Abidin were alive. Holding his shows, publishing his books, even writing him a letter once a week.” “A letter?” she said in astonishment, “How?” “However you did it when you were apart during his lifetime. In fact, if you send me the letters, I’ll make sure they get to him. But I can’t promise to send you his replies.” For the first ten years after Abidin’s death, Güzin wrote letters, if not quite once a week, to Abidin, each one starting with the words, “My love”.  Until today no one has ever come to ask me a question about the books we’ve published about Abidin. But I’ve frequently encountered this question: “Was Abidin a great painter in your opinion?” And my answer has always been, “No, but there was nobody like him, as a man or an artist.” FERİT EDGÜ

“The songs I heard in a random village on a random plain in Turkey revealed to me where art lies hidden. And later I realized that this is not a secret; it’s possible to hear different songs all over the country, the same different songs with the same expressive words…”
“Art and the Village”, Ses magazine, September, 1939.

We encounter the name Abidin Dino for a second time in December 2003, this time in the writer’s memories of him.

Aragon and Abidin were like schoolboys, boisterous and full of beans. Every time Nazım [Hikmet] came to Paris, Aragon, gave a dinner in his home and invited the Dinos and Nazım as well as his own friends like Simonov and Neruda.

Abidin Dino was a personality that fit no mold, that neither of painter, filmmaker, book illustrator or writer. I believe those who examine his life in the future are going to focus on that personality and give us a novel about it.
Melih Cevdet Anday, “Novel of a Personality,” the daily Milliyet, 1981.

Abidin Dino, who witnessed firsthand Prof. Dr. Thomas Whittemore’s studies of the Hagia Sophia and the St. Savior in Chora Church, said that he knew Byzantine art inside out.

And painting, what good is it in this mad world?
Maybe it’s good for nothing.
But maybe painting is a banner.
A call for togetherness, a revolt against dark fate, a curse of sorts, a question, a lament for better days, or a childish game that dispels fear.
A white cloud in the dark, a spark of joy, whatever.

We are grateful to Gül Ar, Ferit Edgü, Coşkun Aral, Komet, Ara Güler, Nazan Ölçer, Sipa Press, Yapı Kredi Yayınları and the Sabancı Museum for generously supplying documents, visuals and information for the compilation of this feature.

“Abidin Dino painting is magic, a horrendous explosion, a creation… This sheer richness of flowers in Abidin Dino is not just Çukurova. Not just Karacaoğlan, or Dadaloğlu, not just the folksongs of the women of Çukurova. It’s a Turcoman kilim, a magic flower of a thousand colors.”
Yaşar Kemal, “Flowers of Anatolia and Dino’s Use of Flowers”, the daily Milliyet, May 21, 1977.

“But actually there was a certain interest I felt even at that age, so much so that throughout my life it was that, I think, that determined my path. It was the interest I felt in Turkish miniatures and the art of calligraphy.”
Abidin Dino, A Brief History of My Life, Can Yayınları, 2007.

Abidin was a man of culture, which came of course from his family… He did unusual things, as the mood struck him; he never hesitated to do things that were different. His multifaceted nature was the reason he produced so few works. He had a certain nobility, Abidin did, he was a grand seigneur in other words. He had a different angle on everything. He took a positive approach, he was not somebody who approached people with preconceptions. Everybody brought things to show him. It’s very difficult to say that something is bad. Abidin listened and made more gentle criticism. He never said something was bad; he would say it was interesting, or it would be better if you did it like this. KOMET

He dipped one of his brushes in the ink of the Asian calligraphers, the other in the vapors of Galata and Venice. Now the rough strokes of Siyah Kalem and the Hittites, now the subtle probing of Sufi esotericism. Exploiting these contradictions and cultural dualities, the  painter Abidin carried us away to very distant places, sometimes into critical conflict with the soft lives of comfort imposed on us in the West. PIERRE BIRO

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