What is anonymous? It derives from the Greek word onoma (name); one whose name and identity is unknown. One who has hidden their name and identity, one who wanted their work to be known, and did not want its maker, copier, that is, themselves to be known, one who has hidden behind their work, completely hidden, chosen to be nonexistent. A kind of “unknown soldier”. Similar to the history of countries, history of art is also full of anonymous soldiers, especially before the Renaissance.

Today, we do not know the names of the creators of thousands of sculptures, paintings, and architectural structures which we watch in admiration. Many of them have been ascribed to names, identities, and even biographies afterwards. For instance, one of the greatest questions of our history of art, the name Siyah Kalem is such an ascribing. Therefore, his paintings that were placed in the Palace Albums as signed by “Kârı Üstad Mehmet Siyah Kalem” still maintain their obscurity and anonymity. As is the case with Siyah Kalem, not all signed paintings are free of anonymity; just as that not all works of art without a signature are anonymous.

Many of Cézanne’s paintings have no signature. The painter has not thought it necessary to sign these works. Why should he? To whom the painting belongs to is written in every cm2 of the painting.

In contrast, many paintings that carry Rembrandt’s signature were not painted by the great master. If these paintings with Rembrandt’s signature do not belong to Rembrandt, then who do they belong to?


Or to anonymous.

This strange word inevitably directs us to the concept of authentic which expresses the essence and genuineness of the work of art.

For anonymous does not only have no signature, it is also a work of art to whom it belongs is unknown through its style. Can such a work of art be authentic? Can we see it as an unadulterated, pure, and real work of art?

To search for a signature in a painting is to search for the person behind it, nothing else. Signature is a sign of the person that made that work of art; it is a mark or approbation:

This painting has been made by me.

That which reflects the person and the historical era they appear in, the social structure, and culture is not the signature, it is the work itself.

Yet, we do not look for a signature or a mark in the primitive society’s arts, which are not primitive at all. It is not that we know that there is not any, but because we do not find it necessary. We know that they are both anonymous and collective.

A signature is no doubt a personal sign. I know of writers who want to be anonymous, and upon seeing that it is not possible, hide behind a pen name.

And I have known painters who did not sign their paintings / did not feel the need to sign / did not dare sign / glorified art and did not see themselves as elevated. Are those who made the paintings “signed” by Sarkis one of them?

We do not know.

Have not they ever signed all the paintings they have made?

We do not know.

Even if each of them is not from different and separate regions, what is it that these painters from different periods and various cultures have in common? I must admit that these paintings are not such that they would make one curious about the answers to such questions. What interests me in this “event” is that Sarkis fancied a signature for these anonymous paintings which he saw in Raffi Portakal’s “antique shop”. Sarkis is one of those who believe that each painting, big or small, significant or not, signed or unsigned, ascribed to a famous painter or not, contains a hidden signature. Sarkis has an eye that could see the painter in a form, a colour, a light, or a stain in the painting. He must be in the belief that in all the works he does not know the title of, that no one of us knows, the character of the anonymous artist is inevitably reflected. Thus, instead of making up a name for the artists of these paintings, he gives them a neon-signature; both his own signature and that hidden signature that was not signed for whatever reason.  

Thus, through the creativity of Sarkis, anonymity does not attain a name, but more importantly, turns into a new work of art.

Like Borges, who, having picked up a handful of sand and tossed it up in the air in the Sinai Desert, said “I have changed the desert”, Sarkis is a contemporary artist who knows best that the slightest “intervention” changes both authenticity and the work of art.

Ferit Edgü