A Man Walks into a Bar: Pemba Kahve

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Fikret Mualla Saygi, Pembe Kahve, Date Unknown
A Man Walks Into A Bar...

Let’s paint the town. After many visits to the city of love, Fikret Mualla Saygi finally moved to Paris in 1939. It was in Paris when Saygi’s alcoholism escalated. Around the art world, Saygi was known for as a mad man and as an alcoholic. His alcohol dependency hurt his body, but bars and parties acted as muses. Saygi’s Pembe Kahve depicts the classic bar in Paris. The sun sets behind apartment buildings leaving a shade of purple that you can’t find in any Crayola box. When I see this painting, I think of Matisse’s Red Studio, because, like the red, the pink takes over the canvas and the bar. The color is bright, but doesn’t hurt the viewer’s eyes. It’s warm, but the purple highlights bring a coolness to the canvas.

This painting is obviously not realism. The people depicted in the work resemble humans, but look slightly disproportional. The painting in the painting looks like it could be done by a kindergartener, but that's ok. I think that the painting has non-realistic parts to show the effects of alcohol. Considering the amount of alcohol Saygi consumed and the fact that bars served as muses, it is safe to say that he was drunk when he painted this. If he was drunk, it explains the abstraction, but that does not mean it doesn’t look like a bar, it means it truly embodies the essence of the bar. In this way, bars promote creativity.

Picasso was one of Saygi’s best friends in Paris. In fact, he once told a signed photo of Picasso for a bottle of wine, proving the significance of his alcoholism. After learning about their friendship, and looking at Picasso’s Two Women Sitting at a Bar, I visualize Picasso and Saygi out on a Friday night. I picture the two men “painting the town” like in Saygi’s work or drowning their sorrows like in Picasso’s painting. While the two paintings are complete opposites in terms of color scheme and mood, truly, at the core, they each are centered on alcohol.

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