By Joan Eroncel
Turkey boasts a unique artist, a man who paints with lively colors, great imagination and a strong depth of feeling. But, you are already saying to yourself that this is as it should be. The difference between this painter's work and other's work is that he has never seen light in his life, doesn't know one color from another and he has certainly never seen any of the objects that he has painted.
Esref Armagan was born 42 years ago with no sight. He is an unusual individual, not just because he has been blind since birth (he carries around a health attesting to this fact), but because the art work that he has created has been all through his own efforts, his own trials, his own discoveries of methods that would work so that he can put on paper that which he feels in his environment.
When I first met him, I was skeptical about his work because I am sure that in other countries there are blind artists, whether blind from birth or having lost their sight at a later date. But as I got to know him, I realized that this man creates his art using his own methods - he has never had anyone next to him encouraging him or describing a method to use. As a child, Esref wasn't allowed to go to school or to go outside to play with the other children, so he would pick up a nail and try to draw shapes on the cardboard boxes his father brought home from work. Eventually, he thought that he would try to draw the shapes of various objects that he was acquainted with. It soon grew into a passion for him. As he learned the names of the colors, he also learned what objects they went with. He devised a system for keeping his colors separate and he started drawing and painting.
For the past 35 years, Esref has been working to perfect his artistry. He works mostly in oils, using his hands instead of brushes.
To work on a picture, he needs absolute quiet. He needs to feel that he is "inside" his painting - in fact, as he explained to me, when he is drawing a picture of the sea, he wonders if he should wear a life jacket so as not to drown! Esref Armagan has had several showings in Istanbul, Antalya and Ankara plus exhibits in Amsterdam, the Czech Republic and New York. Although he has difficulty in finding ways to support himself and his family, he is looking forward to the opportunity to have more exhibits, to learn more about his craft, and to prove to the world that there are no limits to what can be accomplished.