UMIT INATCI: FULL CIRCLE TO THE HIEROS GAMOS
Cyprus became independent in 1960, the year Umit Inatci was born. Growing up during the Cyprus Civil War and coming of age during the 1974 tragic Turkish invasion, Inatci’s formation as an artist is inseparable from his own independent path between the binary opposites characterizing the Cold War mentality splitting Cyprus into two.
Inatci was born in Limassol where he learned to communicate in three languages (Turkish, Greek and English) within his Turkish-speaking family. As a boundary smashing artist, he switched his base across and between borders to create a Mobius strip aesthetic. It is a rare contemporary gaze uniting past, present and future in the moment of the quantum leap, but every aspect of Inatci is the hieros gamos, the sacred marriage of opposites.
It is only one among a multiplicity of ironies and paradoxes characterizing this Cypriot artist formalizing the struggle against form that the term characterizing quest is articulated in Greek. The hieros gamos was the religion at the Sumerian dawn of human civilization in which writing was invented and the Sacred Marriage Rites were revived in the Cypriot Golden Age before the arrival of the Greeks. It is precisely this enigma lying serendipitously at the heart of the Inatci oeuvre which illuminates the political folly of annexation and partition (Enosis and Taksim).
The physical boundary that makes Cyprus a universal symbol of the division of opposites, east/west and north/south on the geopolitical map, makes literal the passage of the 21st century artist -- to transcend the binary while holding the tension between opposites to embrace Uncertainty. While Inatci’s unrecognized nation of North Cyprus has been living in a state of Uncertainty since 1974, the tension running through Inatci’s art makes the quantum leap into the “buffer zone” between borders accessible to the participant on the magical journey.
The Inatci Third Language
It was a natural progression for Inatci personal evolution to create a new third language. His breakthrough is not just about art but an archeological gesture that is political and social: recovering a Cypriot identity lost with their local goddess, Kypris, and replacing the third language of the colonizers, English, associated with the binary “divide and conquer” under British rule. That Inatci’s holistic and cyclic Third space of expression calls up the lost Cypriot syllabic language reveals a great deal about his shamanic process which rejects labels and categorization to the degree of refusing to title his works.
The shamanic realm is the field of a fully activated vision, a 360 perspective in which logic and intuition are integrated as one mind. While his sculpture figuratively points, like the Sagittarian archer, into this future, even Inatci’s paintings on flat surfaces have a multidimensionality articulating a universal aesthetic transcending cultural, geographic and political boundaries.
The picture writing across Inatci’s surfaces is a mysterious coding for the Third realm beyond the opposites of right and left hemispheres of the brain. Eastern mystics refer to this insight as the Third Eye, the door of perception. For Inatci, the push into this middle realm is reflected in the topography of his homeland: the buffer zone surrounded by barbed wire. The puzzle imbedded into the Inatci corpus is that the Turkish Cypriot, unencumbered by the classical perfection of form, has greater access to the primordial realm than the Greek Cypriot, who has to first unpack the Christian repression of the divine feminine only to arrive at the stasis of the classical perfection of the female form. As the Sumerian myths relate, the chlothic descent into the Underworld, is essential for embodiment of the hieros gamos. How then, does the artist proceed into the descent?
Transforming the Linear into the Cyclical
Inatci’s use of toilet paper was his key unlocking the primordial in his art practice: with this motif, the artist was already leaping into the future paradigm and returning to present to reveal a future path humanly accessed by a process of elimination. Creating a linear paneled surface with the tissue dedicated to the cyclical recycling of waste establishes a repeating theme connecting his multimedia expression: playing with the opposites through humor. The elimination is not only explicit of the artist’s task of sorting through personal crap in search of the universal, but also the release of ego boundaries, the fear blocking the complete surrender into Uncertainty.
The battle continued as aggressive acts against the corporate media (and its gatekeepers) in early Italian works of rollicking spheres comprised of newspaper. A simple yet profound act of magical transmutation: linear writing on the page transmuted by the artist into a magical symbol of the paradigm leap from the linear/hierarchical into the cyclical/communal.
The Hieros Gamos Revival
The Sacred Marriage Rites at the origin of civilization were imported to Cyprus from Mesopotamia as a catalyst for Cyprus’ Golden Age (12th Century B.C.) in the divine wedding of King Kinyras and his beloved Kypris, the goddess of copper. They return again through Inatci. While artists around the globe have fallen prey to commercial interests (the ever-present art fairs) preempting the strenuous artistic requirement of surrender to the emerging archetype, Inatci’s oeuvre establishes the hieros gamos predicted by such pioneers as C.G. Jung and Wolfgang Pauli as a certainty.
Art is above all a quest to resolve problems and the conundrum created with the revival of the hieros gamos is how to portray the act of “sacred intercourse” without resorting to what may be considered pornography. Inatci addressed this question early by leaving his emotionally penetrating human portraits behind to follow his instincts into creating a sign language spreading like a germ across his surfaces.
The birth of a new archetype necessarily demands an elimination of the old in a quest for a new aesthetic. In this, Inatci offers revisionist view of the 20th century avant-garde leap into abstraction -- the rejection of the human figure to rediscover the primary elements in painting – color, ground, shape and form.
While Inatci was classically trained in the human figure in Italy and entered the school of Arte Povera, his quest took him beyond the Arte Povera holes penetrating the surface straight to the dark energy. But how to access this unknown and claim it for art remained the problem of the 21st century. The only way out is right through – hermeticism.
The Hermetic Rites
While the hieros gamos practices that took root in the Cypriot sanctuaries were to be repressed by Christianity, they were retained in the Hindu culture with its mystical practice of tantra and multiple faces of the dark goddess known as Kundalini, Kali and Shakti. The aim of yoga practice is to elevate the Shakti, the serpent fire, through the body to the crown for a sacred union with Shiva, the masculine spirit. Inatci combines hermetic signage of his own making with the Hindu gender symbols of yoni and lignum to create a ground for his universal language that is both vertical/horizontal, a holistic gesture symbolizing the Axis Mundi (a singular title of his 2014 Opus Magnum paintings in which all opposites converge around a universal symbol of the mirroring twin halves of a singular flame as Tree of Life commands the center focus) or world navel, and cyclical in its insistence on interpretation through intuition rather than read through the logical sequence of the western alphabet. How fitting then, that the more recent of his paintings (Axis Mundi) reveal dark matter with interior star map formations asymmetrically coalescing into figures marrying the linear and cyclical: The Goddesses of a New Order?
Inatci’s art, created from the marriage of the right and left hemispheres of the brain, stands as a neo-modern art-I-fact of a primordial reality – the bipolar goddess who was eclipsed, like the Cypriot syllabic language, by the Greek alphabet. This is how Kypris, who was a Cypriot amalgamation of Near East and Mediterranean fertility goddesses, became the insignificant and superficial Aphrodite, born in the sea foam out of the genitals that earthly Cronus cut from Ouranos, the Sky God.
Aphrodite was created through a battle between Heaven (Ouranos) and Earth (Cronus) granted through the male parentage. No wonder the Hellenic goddess failed to provide a pathway for embodiment – thus the unhappy marriages! The Hellenic identification precluded the descent to the Underworld that the eastern cultures attributed to the orbit of Venus, disappearing from the horizon to reappear as Morning and Evening Star.
Inatci’s art recreates the unexplained archeological Stone Age idols. He revives this ancient idol of the hieros gamos in stone carvings of the phallus and vulva thousands of years before the human figures were portrayed engaging in the sacred rites. These become the erotic field in which the electrical charge of a new archetype is catalyzed again, by the Inatci picture language calling up the long dead Cypriot script which honored the ancient goddess with its appeal to both intuition and logic. This passage through the center is guided by a symbol replete in nature that rarely enters the artist studio – the tree.
The Finger of God
How many of us kick aside or walk around a tree branch in our path without contemplating the meaning? Inatci’s three-dimensional works reveal the unknown as known by way of artistic practice. Here again the opposites expressed by the Third. He gives us an ancient symbol, the Yod, and utilizes the found object of the tree branch to take his picture language into sculpture while his choice of natural material calls up the association of the Tree of Life, a representation of the cyclic life/death/rebirth for religions throughout the world. Inatci’s Yods in their multiple forms of highly original and engaging sculpture explode through the three dimensions (height, width and length) into multidimensional Third realm; indeed, the mystical meaning of the Yod, the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet, is the Finger of God pointing from Heaven to Earth. When the planets are aligned in this position, the opportunity to make fate into destiny exists for those with the courage encarpe Diem.
It is fitting then that Inatci’s Yod figures culminate his circular journey as an artist – classically trained in the human figure for his early expressionist painting and the long journey of surrender into abstraction to return to the figurative – literally through his “Cypriot” writing and then into the three-dimensional Yod constructions. Symbols and signs emerging from black ground accurately depict the process of energy patterns and configurations formed out of dark energy/dark matter, the 96 percent universe. He has done installations where this takes place on a canvas as a blackboard. This may be homage paid to Joseph Beuys, his forerunner in bringing the mystical symbol into the materials comprising his personal mystical journey.
Trumping Beuys: The Mystical Journey
The struggle between the opposites – personal/universal, form/formlessness, conscious/unconscious, etc. -- deepen the tension inherent in an art that manages to be highly personal as well as universal. Indeed, one without the other would not work; there would be no engagement. This was the contribution of Joseph Beuys, to raise the personal mystical journey into the universal quest for transcendence through art by restoring the sacred into the material.
Inatci takes the Beuys project further by making science complicit in the process. The complexity of the Inatci paintings can appear to be scientific proofs. Yet he is more likely directing his humor at mocking the complex formula physicists are compelled by their institutions to use as a mapping of the nature of reality. His blackground as a tangle form of “dark matter” for his “visual theorems” gives way to high vibration hues of blue and purple, while his unrepeatable shapes remain defiant of Pythagorean logic. We follow him on this idiosyncratic passage formalizing the breakdown of form and suddenly awaken. The revolution has taken place – liberation from linear time! In our own kairos leap is a single moment of unified perception in which past, present and future converge. The 360 perspective that can automatically interpret the linear contents of the newspaper into a unified world view was suggested by the early motif of the spherical. Hasn’t this goal been the quest of the evolution of the human being through time -- to exist in that space of unity and experience the orgasmic moment of sexual bliss as eternal? This would seem to be the elation of surfing the collapse of the quantum wave.
Inatci closes his Yods as an act of intention – to create nooses. This is the idiosyncratic humor drawing the viewer into a participant in the artist’s cosmic joke on art. Clearly, the ego satisfied with meaning gets trapped by its own pretentions. Thus, the noose is form of shamanic “notation to self” keeping the interpreters of art from getting stuck in their own heads.
The ends of the Yod pulled together create a holistic circle speaks volumes about the current moment: the linear time of Chronos transcending into the cyclical time of Kairos. A new obsession with dots replacing number in recent (2016) works is another clue regarding number being the apparatus to read the Inatci archeology. He goes so deep that the layers of the Cypriot topography are peeled off – the Ottoman Turks, Christians, Greek, Phoenician, Persian, Assyrian, and Anatolian to surpass the Enosis and Taksim as the manufacture of culture and arrive at an authentic Cypriot identity. As this origin is sourced in an indecipherable language and a goddess who was an amalgamation of cultures, then all the better to create an enigma surrounding the icon of the hieros gamos characterizing the Inatci oeuvre.
This is where the noose represents an ending, the grail seeker’s head on the platter in the castle of the neo-modern journey. When the artist returns to the line after experimenting with the marriage of the circular (the dot) with the line, he makes repeated strokes and symbols within individual shapes comprising the entire surface as a whole. Eisenstein gave quantum mechanics a new view of the energy traveling in packets; every packet of energy contains its own code, and if we could possibly decipher this code, we gain eternal knowledge.
But destination isn’t the concern with Inatci; it is the journey into formlessness by which knowledge is transmitted. The packets are like the holistic chapters comprising the unity of the symbol; each layer of the narrative is self-contained, like the branches on the Tree of Life arising from the trunk birthed from the single seed. This is how art responds to the challenge of the digital age where the packets are binary coded o/x and the whole needs to be interpreted through its holistic parts. This is because completion is not possible or even necessary in the real time ongoing narrative of cyber space.
Inatci has done the unfathomable and carved out this unified space of the Third into his “forma corpus”. We find the coding in these works that instructs us on how to decipher his writing -- a most unexpected place understood by the most revolutionary of physicists: number.
The Magic of Number
The quest for the unification of the opposites lies at the core of Inatci’s endeavor to integrate visual/text as a poet and multimedia artist. Number is therefore not simply quantity with Inatci, but it is also quality, the characteristic of the lost Cypriot goddess/language. As the Third Realm of a new aesthetic, the hieros gamos takes place in the unity of quantitative character of number (the one-sided view of scientists) to the qualitative (the holistic view of hermetic).
Inatci claims both characteristics, spearheading the Hermeneutics of a New Modernism (Streitfeld, Atropos 2014) with the number 3. Three represents creativity in form - the tripartite shape of the upper and lower curves converging into a third point of connection – as well as meaning: three is the only number that commands the same position in sequence (1,2,3) as in counting (1+ 2=3). We see the Third space in the magical talisman of the Yod where the three separate lines connect in the Third point of connection.
So here we arrive at the ultimate enigma of Inatci: deliberate transmissions of multiple strokes utilizing our key to his DNA – the number 3 – we find 3 triangles like flames with shapes containing crosses – these are the Inatci temples of a new order. The paradigm shift in which the black interior (dark energy of the 96 percent universe) serves to lace the crosses and flames in relief symbolize the three flames that was the creative serpent fire evoked in the Cypriot sanctuary until the sovereignty of the Goddess and her priestesses was removed by coercion out of sacred ritual and into sacred prostitution.
Other figures represent astrology symbols for Venus and Mercury. These serve to balance a large symbol on the one side – the shape of the apse of a church giving way to a new green ground (the heart chakra) revealing symbols on top and bottom representing the hieros gamos with the cross in the center between 2 figures of the 3 flames (the serpent fire as the erotic attraction of the hieros gamos). The sacrifice of ego to the creative fire is the subject of ritual throughout human history; with his organic apparatus – skulls, skins and votive figures – Inatci recreates this role as modern shaman.
Constructing the Inatci Temple
The Inatci ironic temple revives the cyclical realm of the Goddess while obliterating the linear hierarchy of the patriarchal religions. His war against realistic form has formally embraced the New Science (Levis) of the morality of the collective consciousness as the natural state of equilibrium. Here his talisman loop or noose has a double purpose: the cutting off the head, or the sacrifice of intellect to instinct, as well as the eye of the needle through which this vision is to be threaded. In rallying against structure and gatecrashing through the barbed wire barrier upholding classical form as proportional perfection, Inatci has set himself up as a new guardian – no image can justify its existence on an Inatci surface without passing his “threefold test” as diagramed below:
ACTION – EQUILIBRIUM
Moral equilibrium is achieved by action piercing the suspension of intellect and intuition. Inatci’s dynamic action figures take the playful shape of encapsulated narratives -- each trumpeting Self-containment, yet contributing to the whole. In another nod to Beuys who put the mystical into the western artist, the black stages appear like hallowed fragments, with geometric drawings some revealing a star, others just a glimpse into the total figure. Others appear to be goddess figures of a new gender inclusive order – as if the intuition of the artist was pushing for definitive “line” to create a balance with the asymmetrical shapes defying the mere notion of form. The key to understanding Inatci is that formlessness is also form.
Trumping Duchamp: The Archeological “Found Object”
The found objects incorporated into Inatci’s installations and assemblages are gifts from nature, as if placed in his path by the once and future goddess to alert the very Heideggerian “becoming” of her arrival. The Third Space is how Inatci transforms the studio/gallery into the mystical realm of the shaman. This is represented by a white rectangle with a white upright triangle containing three symbols within a ground consisting of formulas: the highlighted symbols carry meaning here: the isolation of the Third spaced interpreted by the configuration consisting of Thirds.
Inatci’s archeological “finds” seem to have been excavated direct from some unmarked ruin. His magical use of them in his art has a purpose reflecting the leap of web 3.0 of real time collaboration in cyberspace. It means it doesn’t matter who is participant or how many in the audience, the act of personal transmutation into the universal icon is the artistic achievement! This is where the capability of facing formlessness aids the performance in which material dissolves into ether.
Bringing such personal acts of transmutation into art has the potential of a universal transformation where everyone will engage with the world through a 360 perspective. In web 3.0, every quantum packet will be coded with an inherent holism – a full narrative in every container of its own self-containment and therefore serving the holistic narrative of the whole. This is the view of the artist as a new form of human proclaimed by Nietzsche as the Ubermensch.
Cyprus as the Axis Mundi
The isolation of North Cyprus unrecognized by the global community is only compounded for the North Cyprus artist forcibly cut off from the world. Umit Inatci’s art triumphs by incorporating the quest into his oeuvre. The artist has become the very symbol of the avant-garde artist border-crossing, the buffer zone with its language of “cooperation”. In this passage into the Third Space on his divided island, the artist transmits the inner Buffer Zone without. The integrity of his creations transmits the Third Space between opposites as the ontology of his native land as the spiritual -- as well as geographical and political - center between east/west and north/south.
As the navel of the world, replete with the Inatci Temple reviving the power of the ancient goddess sanctuaries, Cyprus is the rightful origin for the hermeneutics of a 21st century art, an art with a geographical original that is nowhere and yet everywhere, arising as a holistic configuration from the 96 percent of the universe that is dark energy/dark matter.
This is the hint to the enigmatic -- Inatci’s personal language is the blueprint the contemporary artist quest to embody the hieros gamos. The arrows bring direction, the Sagittarian goal, creating movement with purpose in stillness revealing the ordered sequence of time flowing. A feeling of oppositional forces for attraction/repulsion establishing a tension, and through Kairos, the illumination of the quantum leap; the artist claims his language is decipherable, but for the viewer/participant it is best as an enigma-- layers of coding as an ongoing act of concealment and revelation calls up the original language of Cyprus, which made the goddess accessible.
The Artist as Shaman
The attraction-repulsion, push-pull both progressed toward and escapes from its own Truth – the naked truth embodied by the archaic, the eternal flame of the Kundalini in which time is not linear by circular and not only external but internal an all one’s expression progresses backwards to its own origins -- a realm that is confined, undifferentiated, resonant and vital. This activates the Finger of God, the human act which triggers the link between the primordial being and the myth.
What cannot be verbalized in any alphabetic sequence can only be imaged by the syllabic – for the feminine intuition aspect of Being – this requires silence, stillness which begets wonder itself. All of these feelings of the primordial depths come into Being through the Inatci art. The objects he creates are a reshaping back to the original, the primordial; therefore, object becomes subject of its own inherent narrative.
He writes this as a conscious act of recognition of inverting the “male gaze” by smashing the male domination of speech equated with the linear alphabet eclipsing the intuitive presence of the goddess in his native Cyprus. The objects becoming subject mean the displacing the viewer from their “objectivity” by making them the “subjective” participant in the art. This is precisely how Inatci transforms the role of the artist into shaman interpreter between realms.
As a self-proclaimed shaman, Inatci forges a new artistic pathway into the archaic propelled by the power of the earthly objects left behind in the scarred topography of Aphrodites Island suffering a geopolitical “barbed wire” division into her lost opposites of Morning and Evening Star. Along the way of putting into practice his own emergence from the shadow of the unrecognized Republic of North Cyprus, he invites us to be participant on a 360 clarity of vision without shadow. What more can we possibly expect from art at the beginning of a new epoch in which the gender opposites will finally be in equilibrium?
And yes, there is the ultimate symbol in the artist’s logo that is perhaps the greatest clue: the fork that refers to the Neptune trident punctuated by three dots – the double three consisting of the linear (three lines in the trident) and circular (dot). These three pairs of opposites add up the hieros gamos, the holistic brand that is Umit Inatci.