Istanbul Infographic I: Tiles

I’ve left my blog dormant for far too long again, and I think the best way to resume posting is to do a series of posts on the three-week summer programme that I did in Istanbul in June. It was my first time in Turkey (or indeed to that geographical region) and it turned out to be an amazing and inspiring experience. The basis of the programme, entitled ‘The Artist’s Journal’, is the disciplined act of drawing from observation as a form of diary and a means to experience a historic city with rich visual material. Based on these drawings, the photographs we take, and any ephemera we collect along the way, we have to create a suite of 10 works of any medium.

I only managed to complete 6 of the intended 10 works, and I will be posting those as well as drawings from my sketchbooks in the next 10 days (I have many decent digital and analog photographs, but other than dumping them on Facebook, I don’t have a clear vision yet as to how to curate a few posts here).

I chose to revisit the medium of the infographic, which I had not really touched since doing the Waste Land project. My aim was to explore this very rational, data-driven medium and a potential synthesis of that with “information” that was essentially personal and emotional, or at least reflective of a certain intimacy. I went to Istanbul with a very vague inclination toward this medium, but it was really my experience at the Rustem Pasha mosque that made everything click for me. It had a particular wall of iznik tiles that was strangely made up of a myriad of tile fragments rather than a regular pattern of similar tiles.

I couldn’t help but think about the process of classifying these tiles according to their patterns, and how that the presence of so many different fragments was in itself evidence of the passage of time – it was effectively a diary. In my head, this was a clear connection to the essence of the programme, and it also appealed to me as someone who is very sentimental and values each and every memory. For me to classify these tiles based only on a photograph felt almost archaeological, like I was trying to create my own version of history. I began to think about the idea of the collection and classification of information as a nostalgic process of journaling.

The original idea for the infographic was to organise all tile patterns by colour. Rather than attempt to replicate the patterns, I was more interested in recreating the overall effect of fragmentation. I did a vector illustration of each individual tile and sorted them according to patterns in the different layers in Illustrator. Unfortunately, I wound up with 38 different patterns, and in terms of design, 38 different colours just wasn’t going to fit the simple, throwback aesthetic that I wanted to achieve. I struggled with this for a long time, but my ultimate solution was to identify the 5 most common ones. This infographic turned out to be the most heartfelt one, as I decided to include a short prose piece on my encounter with the wall.

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