The Nun, the assassinated great grandson of Ghenghis Khan and an old church in Istanbul


Hammers from a steel mill

Hammers from a steel mill

Byzantine Emperors had ‘illegitimate’ children like most of the rulers of their time. These  offspring it turns out were useful. Michael VIII Paleologus sent one such daughter (Maria Palaiologina) to be married to Hulagu Khan (a grandson of Ghenghis Khan). He however died before she arrived, so she was married to his son Abaka Khan. It then turns out that this husband was assassinated by this brother years later and Mary returned to Constantinople. Understandably (I assume) tired of international intrigue Mary became a nun and renovated the church which still stands in Istanbul known as St Mary of the Mongols. It was one of the few Orthodox churches of Constantinople to be granted permission to continue to as a church after the fall of the city in 1453. Yet another ‘diamond in the rough’ inconspicuously occupying a corner of ancient Istanbul.

Watercolour on 600gm paper

Pipe Stripes II

pipes sm

I was explaining that I needed an angle grinder, as we say in British English. Here it’s called a taş motoru (stone motor) and of course it’s used for grinding or cutting very hard surfaces like metal, stone or plaster etc. The guy in the small workshop looked me up and down. The small workshop was a hole in the reinforced concrete structure in a tunnel like passage off an alleyway in an area of the city foreigners never frequent. He realised of course that I’m a foreigner (I just need to say something in order to make that abundantly clear) and that I was most probably not a person most familiar with grinding hard surfaces for a living.

His small shop was the place where welders, car mechanics and workmen went to get their angle grinders, drills and, by the looks of things, any electrically motorised tools mended. One of the other men in the small space was winding copper wire around something which looks like it would become a motor, after a few more hours of winding. I love this part of working in a country where labour remains cheap, it means you can get things fixed for a fraction of the price of a new one!

He asked me what I wanted to use it for and I explained that I was making sculptures out of metal and needed something to cut car doors. He looked blankly at me no doubt wondering how grown men of my age can spend a Friday afternoon looking for what is for him an expensive tool to make a pointless thing out of metal. I explained again, showed him my card, referred to our arts association, and then our website. He finally reluctantly climbed up the stairs, rummaged around and returned with a second hand Bosch angle grinder.

Next episode in a week or so….

Pure Watercolour on 600gm paper.

Pipe stripes

Pipes in the Sun

The weather cooled down in the last few days. The schools are back and so is gridlock in the mornings. The Bosphorus is truly one of the most beautiful sights as it glistens in the late summer sun. We are busy working on various art projects for the coming year and the lure of rows of rusting pipes, discarded auto parts and the prospect of learning to weld is drawing us into possible 3D works.

Watercolour on 600gm paper.

Sculpted Metal


It’s a sculpture park. The men who work there just don’t realise. I’m talking about the automobile repair neighbourhood just down the road. The crafting of metal, the application of paint, the manipulation of wires and the mixing of chemicals to produce the orchestra of movement which is Istanbul is truly a creative feat. It may well be all about movement, I mean getting people and goods from one place to another, but if there was ever an art form devised from necessity it’s the motor repair industry.

The storm which struck the city on the 27th July and in the space of ten minutes rained down fist sized hail stones, left behind it a trail of destruction. The glaziers and the car body work industry have been delighted by the business this has brought. Brazil has sent over scores of workers skilled in the art of fixing dented car body work. The six month wait to settle insurance claims tells a story of pain for those with damaged vehicles and I expect the insurance companies are smarting. In the meantime one can spot the dimpled body work on the rooves of cars and the sides of buildings scarred by the strafing of outsized hail stones.

Last summer the city lived through a political storm, this summer it was a hail storm, never a dull moment.

Watercolour on 600gm paper – Discs