Susan Mains Making Art in Turkey


The residency spent in the Babayan House of Culture in the Cappadocia region of Turkey in September of 2008 was an experience that led to an exploration of the quality of light, contrast, and colour that is the opposite of my life in the Caribbean.  

The vibrant colours that typically inform my palette were not found in nature, but only in small bits inside the darkness of caves in the paintings made by faithful devotees of early Christianity. Angels, bright in their countenance, with Byzantine halos proclaiming their piety, watch now silent caves. This silence resonates with the white, folding, draping, swooping, drooping hills of the volcanic tufa landscape in which the caves are tucked away. Do the caves remember the chanting, singing, candle burning, baptizing, devotion of the monks? The eyes of the faces that were scraped away by the monks as they fled before the invading Moslem horde—do the saints really no longer see? Do they mourn the loss? If the rocks cried out in praise, would the silent angels join the song?


And the caves themselves, so dark, so mysterious, so much promise for fertility. The darkness dwells in its own colours—not black, but rich in depth of tone and value. The light that enters is absorbed, not reflected, by the walls that still show the tool marks of the hands that dug them. The mother earth breathes here, revered by generations of early people, still harbouring secrets for those who passed through.


The human like forms that litter the landscape lead the imagination to visions of the many movements of the people whose histories are entangled in this land. Centurions guard the caves, lovers lie across the ridge of a range of hills, a woman gazes at you from beneath her broad brimmed hat, a matron lies in repose at the hammam, and a sentinel keeps a lonely vigil. The white hills, veined by ochre and iron oxide, nestled into the green scrub of grape vines and apricot trees, form the backdrop and ever changing stage in this theatre of the absurd.


So with a limited colour pallet, and an unbounded imagination I strive to capture the depth of the seen and unseen that I have only lightly brushed against.