Heidi Trautmann

657 - A World of Legends – Kemal Behçet Caymaz – a young painter

Creative people living in our midst

By Heidi Trautmann


Kemal Behçet Caymaz is from Karşiaka, his mom comes from there and his dad from Karaoğlanoğlu; he spent his childhood in the village, the village where Özden Selenge, famous local writer and painter of village stories,  grew up as well. A village in the foothills of the Kyrenia mountains where legends are still alive in all street corners and in the branches of the trees. Legends of the island’s mythology but also of Ottoman times are woven into the carpet patterns that are the daily life of the villagers.

On the occasion of the Youth Art Competition 2014 which is organısed regularly every year by the Cultural Department, I invited Kemal, who had made one of the awards, to meet up with me for a talk about his young life, his work and his dreams of his future. He came to my house with his grandfather who speaks English well.

He is one of those well-educated polite young men, a little on the timid side. “I am being careful when I am meeting with people; only when I know the person well will I confide in him/her. I think it has to do with my way of thinking or my growing up. When others were playing football or doing sports I would paint.”

Kemal whom I have known for some years now and whose first exhibition I have seen and commented on, was born in 1989, spent the first four school years in Karşiaka.

“It was a peaceful time, I did play with my friends but I spent more time with drawing and inventing stories.” He tells me, that the walls of the room he had in his parents’ house and which he did not have to share with his brother, offered him the first painting surface for the stories he created in his mind: “The walls were covered with my mysterious figures. My parents did not mind, on the contrary.”

It was the Cypriot families’ custom to recount fairy tales to the children in the evenings, and so Kemal’s imagination was always kept alive. I know best because all my interviewees, artists, writers and theatre people have told me so.

“I had learnt so much about the legends of Cyprus which fascinated me throughout my whole life; there was always another level of existence with legendary people populating it….between my level and the sky above…”

Did he read a lot, I was asking? “Oh yes, I did, in my young years it was fantasy novels, not from this world, not only legends but also Harry Potter, and other novels where people were fighting against the evil. Later I was into Shakespeare and nowadays I read a lot of philosophy books for example Jean Paul Sartre, on whose ideas my new paintings are based upon.

I saw Kemal’s first exhibition, away from the University and together with a student friend Ayça Akarcan, both then students at the Near East University, Fine Arts Department, and students of Eser Keçeci, Ceramics and Design Department. In 2011 I wrote about it: …. A rather short but fresh exhibition was ‘Once upon a Time’ at the Ismet Güney Art Centre by Ayça Akarcan and Kemal B. Caymaz, art students of Eser Keçeci at the Near East University. I know the artist Eser and her art work and I know her sensitivity. But what she has taught her students in first place that is to respect art, the tools they work with and to love their work, because when you love your work you treat it respectfully.  The 33 big formatted paintings were very well presented, the colours and the composition well balanced and it gave me great pleasure to see these young people’s presentation. I am sure we will hear more of them….’

Kemal told me: “With “Once upon a time” all fairy tales commence and in-spite of all modernity today’s people are willing to be led into a world of fantasy, I believe and it is my aim to reach the child within people, to open their imagination and to leave aside the real world with all its depressions created by daily routines, communal and national problems and issues, with other words, give them some hope and innocence.”

Kemal still has this innocence, he has created for himself a different world and he wants to share it. He has begun to write a book which he wants to illustrate. It is a fantasy book about events happening in St. Hilarion, about a prince, the son of a God, and a shepherd from another star.  “The idea has been developing many years ago and it is now ripe to be finished and published.”

Before we continue let us have a look at his education and the art teachers he had in his youth because I believe that they are very important in forming the character of a young person. “After four years in Karşiaka I went to the Girne American School where I had Feridun Işıman as art teacher…”

Ay yes, Feridun, he is a fine art teacher, especially concerning brush work and colours. …Kemal laughs: Feridun Işıman keeps telling people that he has known me in my baby boots…I had him later again as art teacher when I was at the NEU, the Near East University.”

Yes, one cannot deny the influence…

From 2004 to 2007 Kemal went to the Anadolou Fine Arts College with Ruzen Atakan and Aşık Mene as art teachers who are known to support the individual growth in young people, and I know quite a lot of artists who have gone through this school. No pressure, confirms Kemal.

He continued to study fine arts – and as elective subject ceramics – at the Near East University and in 2013 Kemal went to Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University for his Masters degree in painting. He continued to take part in art competitions in the TRNC and has just recently won a prize for one painting out of a series he has been working on for the last years. It is about childhood, a boy being confronted with life, and the questions of life and existence. It is the time when he was reading Jean Paul Sartre’s work ‘Existence precedes essence’ about the own responsibility for oneself, for one’s destiny, in short.  His new work also refers to the hard times his mother went through, wishing so hard to have a baby but not getting pregnant for many years, and thus his own existence having been in question for so many years; he has thought about it; life or with Sartre’s word ‘existence’ is not so self-evident, and later on, when existing, to learn that he himself has to act to arrive at his ‘essence’. There is no ruling from outside, no model life, the responsibility lies with oneself.

That is so very true.  “It is I who freely transform it into action”. When he said that “the world is a mirror of my freedom”, Sartre meant that the world obliged me to react, to overtake myself. It is this overtaking of a present constraining situation by a project to come that Sartre names transcendence. He added that “we are condemned to be free”.


Where will he go from here, this young painter?  “I will continue in Istanbul to learn the tools I need for my profession, I will study painting in all its depth and will later decide what I am going to do with it, perhaps I combine my destiny with teaching, I am sure to finish my book, ‘Sapphire’ will be its title, and perhaps there will be others to follow.”

Kemal will make his way, although he seems vulnerable, he has the innocent approach of a child, still….may he continue to wonder about the world in-between. It may be a way of fresh hope.






Kemal and his grandfather
Kemal and his grandfather

Web Site Counter(web site counter)  [impressum