Hopes Wonders of Existence
By Ana Finel Honigman
Coplu’s creatures appear soft and sweet but they grapple with the same existential concerns as us all. Like heroes from a fable, the challenges that these sympathetic creatures address are abstracted versions of common human concerns.Their dramas and joys are compelling metaphors for the fundamental issues underlining our universal struggle for understanding and happiness.
In his current series, Coplu casts his creatures within poetic scenarios involving oversized eggs. The eggs are seen either unbroken, as empty shells or presented like the delicious highlight on a breakfast plate. In both cases, the eggs serve as striking symbols of life’s potential and its mysteries.
The Turkish-born Canadian artist’s use of eggs reflects their power as symbols for creativity, purity, mortality and hope. As Picasso wrote, “When you start with a portrait and search for a pure form, a clear volume, through successive eliminations, you arrive inevitably at the egg. Likewise, starting with the egg and following the same process in reverse, one finishes with the portrait.”
Outside of art, eggs are simply the origin of all life. Children often encounter their first experience of birth by watching a chick hatch from an egg. We may intellectually understand the importance of eggs in biology but seeing birds’ eggs hatch makes the reality of birth immediate and intimate without forcing a clear confrontation with sexuality and the bloody biological reality of maternity in mammals. A chick popping out of an egg is as wondrous as magic. But it also educates children in the natural processes of life.
Coplu’s male and female creatures have similarly plump bodies but his females possess distinctly maternal physiques. They have full bosoms and bountiful hair. They seem warm and motherly. Family and community are key to Coplu’s universe. The eggs symbolize potential birth in these images just as they do for children. Their appearance is joyful. Although the shells are empty, Coplu’s creatures fill them with love and hope. This symbolic significance is addressed in many of Coplu’s egg images. In one painting, a couple sits together in an open eggshell. The egg itself has been removed and the couple chastely inhabits the shell but their presence together evokes their potential as parents.
In another image, the couple relaxes in an eggshell floating through space attached to a balloon of clouds. In Coplu’s work clouds represent dreams. In this instance, the clouds clearly represent the couple’s *dreams and the power of their love to hoist them above otherwise rocky and bleak terrain. The sky surrounding them is dark and turbulent. The ground is dotted with eggs and hard hills. The earth beneath them seems precarious but the dreams uphold the nest that they create together in the eggshell. It is a lovely and reassuring vision of domestic security and romantic contentment.
A comparably mournful image shows the same couple rests within their egg but it is no longer aloft. It is grounded and rooted in the dense earth. They watch two floating clouds and appear to contemplate their relationship. The sentiment is tender, not bitter. But a sense of potential loss is still gently conveyed.
Eggs’ potential as symbols of hope and disappointment is illustrated in a dramatic painting by Coplu in which one of his creatures pushes a whole egg up a mountain while others watch. The far side of the mountain is crowded with forgotten eggs. The gesture seems futile and curious but the evident determination of the worker creates a sense that the activity itself provides potential solace and self-discovery, in keeping with some interpretations of the Sisyphus.
One of the painting evokes a proverb from Coplu’s native Turkey, which translates into: “Today's egg is better than tomorrow's hen.” As the proverb makes clear, an egg has less objective value than a hen but it is still superior to the fantasy of a hen in the future. However, the existence of similar proverbs throughout multiple cultures demonstrates mankind’s susceptibility towards investing in fragile and false hope.
The positive implication of this quote is that hope can transcend reality. This sentiment possibly inspires the group of creatures gathered on a series of rocks watching another of their kind travel the sky in a vessel with an egg as it sails. Ironically, the egg is sunny-side-up. In this state, it will clearly never become a chicken. It’s potential for giving life has been arrested. As food, a cooked egg can contribute to another creature’s nourishment but it cannot independently become an autonomous thing. However, it’s appearance hovering above the heads of Coplu’s creatures still generates obvious hope within them. They gaze at it with understandable wonder and envy their brethren flying under its steed. Although eggs represent many aspects of our emotional and intellectual investment in life’s potential, eggs also signify the limits of our understanding of life. Eggs’ simple but significant symbolic meaning is summed up in the eternal conundrum: which came first, the chicken or egg? Like Coplu’s charming characters, this riddle’s apparent simplicity belies its hidden profundity.
Ana Finel Honigman is an art critic and writer living in Berlin