Richard Bartle
The Black Pen

Bloc Projects Sheffield. The Black Pen by Richard Bartle

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The Black Pen - Bloc Projects. Sheffield 2021

The Black Pen is the third and final series of paintings inspired by my life in Istanbul and the demon paintings of 14th century artist and storyteller Siyah Kalem, also known as The Black Pen.

Siyah Kalem’s work first came to my attention in the exhibition Turks: a journey of a thousand years, 600–1600 at the Royal Academy in London in 2005. These amazing and idiosyncratic illustrations depicting the lives and beliefs of nomadic communities along the silk road, traversing the borders of Iran, Turkey, China, and Mongolia during the Middle Ages, so captivated my imagination that they set me on a 15 year journey of creativity, research and discovery.

Over the 15 year period working with Siyah Kalem my passion for Turkish and Middle-Eastern culture has grown exponentially, specifically around the works of the Miniaturists. Resulting in, several artists' residencies in Turkey, three important solo exhibitions in Istanbul, two international biennials, several art fairs, and most significantly, my ambitious and popular exhibition Nomadic Tales at The Millennium Galleries, Sheffield, in 2020.

The Black Pen is a series new paintings which consciously re-presents social and political imagery I observed on the streets of contemporary Istanbul to create his my own personal take on the images of the Siyah Kalem. This imagery includes iconic political figures, graffiti, and architecture, as well as individuals I encountered along the way. The work explores where the historic and contemporary meet, creating new meaning in the continuing journey of the life and work of The Black Pen.




Bloc Projects Sheffield. The Black Pen by Richard Bartle