Artist creates fluid masterpieces on water canvas

Garip Ay has shot to fame with his watery adaption of Van Gogh’s ‘The Starry Night.’

Photo by: TRT WORLD
Photo by: TRT WORLD

Updated Jul 31, 2016

Garip Ay, a 32-year-old artist, uses water, oils and brushes to create extraordinary art work, revitalizing an art technique called Ebru, or "marbling.”

Ay’s work came to the world’s attention when he painted an Ebru version of Van Gogh’s “The Starry Night.” His piece made international news and garnered almost 30 million views on Facebook.

Ebru, or “face of water,” is an ancient art form where the artist uses coloured oils to paint on thickened water with a thin metal rod, later to transfer the masterpiece to paper.

While Ebru traditionally focuses on the physical record of the design the artist paints on the water, Ay takes the art to another level, by undermining the value of final print and focusing mainly on the painting process itself.

“I am not an Ebru master,” Ay told TRT World, “and I am not interested in becoming one.”

“I just like to experiment, try new techniques everyday. I like to distort images, doing something, and then trying the opposite. Experimenting has been my method for the last 4-5 years.”

“The Ebru you see on the wall is passive. But if you watch the process, if you witness it, it is pure pleasure. The video has become Ebru’s melody,” the young artist said.

“People ask me if I am going to do a Van Gogh series, or if I will do Ebru versions of impressionist paintings. For me, this is very limiting. It is taking the easy way. Why would I limit myself, when Ebru is compatible with so many different art forms. It is metamorphosis, it has many faces,” he said.

Ay took part in various projects, including a music video clip and infomercial using the Ebru technique. 


A video posted by Garip Ay (@garipay) on

“I am not an Ebru artist, neither am I a video artist. I am an artist who adapts Ebru to video.”

He said he was a hyperrealist before, but at some point, he had to admit that he “can’t take full control of Ebru.”

Ay mentioned that he wants people to observe the process with all its flaws, instead of observing the painting that has been through many revisions.

“Ebru does not allow you to master the desired design. Paint will always expand, move, and react to each other. Most of this happens out of your control.”

“Ebru is free, free from your will power. If you want to mess with it and try to control every move, it will mess with you," he said. “You can’t be stubborn towards it.”

“Just like in life, you want to believe that you make your own choice in everything, but in the end you have to admit many things evolve outside your will.”

As he demonstrates the process, he starts with a single brush stroke that expands into a circle. He then transforms it, first into a shape of a heart then into a bird, which he calls his signature.

However, he fails to transfer it to paper. “This is also part of the job,” he says. “Embarassing yourself.”

“But this is how I discover something new, by making mistakes.”   

“My objective in transferring my artwork to the internet is not my desire to make my artwork last. It is because I want to show the process. Even if only one person watches and enjoys that process, it is enough for me.”

In a time when one can effortlessly achieve “the perfect image” with a couple of taps on a mobile phone, Ay abandons the burden of reaching perfection and emphasises the beauty of the very effort the technology is aiming to expedite.

Author: Asena Boşnak