Orhan Gazi Keskin who turned towards the search for “leaving a trace” and using natural stone in his works is a sculptor who continues his productions with mostly natural stones such as marble, limestone, basalt, travertine, and onyx. We talked with the artist, who gives form to his works with feelings that contain human emotions at the base, about his relationship with the material, sources of inspiration and the effect of natural stone on his sculptures.
How did your interest in sculpture begin? Can you tell us about your story?
Orhan Gazi Keskin: My first contact with art started when my father was interested in traditional arts. My childhood passed between these works. Technically and practically, this process laid good foundations for me. When I was about 10 years old, I found a ceramic piece with fingerprints on it during the construction of a dam. Thousands of years later, when I touched those scars, I had a tremendous feeling. For me, this search for “leaving a trace” started with sports. I ended my career plan, which is sports-centered (judo), although I had the opportunity to continue after suffering a severe disability. I realized that my success in this field would not carry me to the point I had aimed spiritually. My intention was to convey my thoughts and feelings beyond thousands of years; to develop a language of my own and touch people’s lives. In this direction, my relationship with art grew stronger day by day. Because of my interest in ceramics and then natural stones, I turned to sculpture. After a few department changes, I graduated from Anadolu University Fine Arts Faculty Sculpture Department in 2019. After my graduation, I returned to the place where everything started, where I was born, and renovated the barn and set up my workshop. I continue my work independently in my own workshop.
How is the design process of your works developing, what are the concepts that inspire you?
OGK: I usually take notes of my thoughts, what I see and what I feel. These notes contain small sketches with them. Over time, the sketches merge and turn into different forms. When the process reaches a certain saturation, clear sketches encourage me to make models from clay. The clay-model is the most important part. Trials allow me to think in 3D by saving material and time together with light plays. When the clay model is finished, I take the mold and cast it in plaster. After casting, the model sometimes waits for months for the size, type of stone or the intersection, which we can call the right time. I focus my works on a single concept, but I produce with the feelings that contain human emotions. Instead of pointing directly at a subject, I leave it to the current mood of the viewer.
How did your relationship with natural stone begin in your artistic life? As a sculptor, what is your perspective on this material?
OGK: From the moment I entered the faculty, I had a close relationship with marble. I was very impressed with the artifacts that were in museums before and the antique pieces that I saw as spolia building materials in buildings. I have always been attracted to the fact that the material can be elegant despite being hard and cold. Although it is a fragile material, I formed a great bond with marble thanks to its easy and controlled shaping from plaster and its strength that pushes the limits. Marble has always been my priority among natural stones. I acquired my equipment on this basis. The desire to push the limits of patience and technique gives birth to this passion as it has been for thousands of years.
Which natural stones do you use in your sculptures? Are there any obvious quarries that you prefer?
OGK: I have worked with many natural stone types. These are marble, followed by limestone, basalt, travertine, onyx and opal. But since we use expensive equipment, I can’t be too flexible about it. I generally prefer stone types that do not contain iron ores and do not dull my diamond equipment quickly as I cut dry. I also avoid natural stones with structural cracks that can cause fractures in delicate forms. For this reason, Afyon Gray and Afyon White are the marble types that I use most actively at the moment. The enormous controlled breaking values and processing capacity of marble affect the works in a positive way, both materially and spiritually. Because of my location, I prefer the quarries in Afyon. Logistics can make an already expensive raw material more expensive.
As an artist, what have you found and not found in stone material?
OGK: When I put a marble block in front of me, only I can see what is hidden inside it. As I get rid of its burdens, the form integrates with me. The flowing time works with the same precision from the first moment to the last touch, with a resolute attitude. Although your demeanor is clear, the material communicates with the sounds between the murç and the madırga. Meanwhile, a distraction can put the sculpture or the person who made it into an irreversible situation. It is necessary to be in communication at every moment, every second, for fractures. This communication can remove the concept of time and space and drag you to a completely different adventure. Obviously, you have to be sensitive like holding a newborn baby and tough as a warrior. When it is blended with sweat, effort and passion, it opens the door to the unknown. This effort, this passion and pleasure, which pushes the human limits despite all kinds of sacrifices, is crowned with a work that leaves a trace. If I come to the part of what we couldn’t find, “equipment” takes the lead. We need various main and auxiliary equipment because we do a complicated job, but they are quite expensive because they come from abroad. I forge or develop many equipment by forging myself when necessary, nevertheless there is a solution.
What would you say about your current works that you are currently working on?
OGK: Right now, I’m just recording my life. I transfer this to marble by universalizing it rather than being selfish.