Sculpture, or carving, is the art of producing three-dimensional figures by the use of a variety of tools, and transmitting emotions or ideas by means of the aesthetic values employed. The resulting three-dimensional structure may represent concrete or abstract realities, and be representational or decorative. Sculpture has been employed since the most ancient times for the purpose of bringing an individual or event to life.
The Turks were skilled workers of stone since the very earliest times. The oldest examples of this are to be found in Central Asian art, and one thinks of the Orhun monumental statues in this context. Carved stone representations of the human bodies are also examples of early sculpture. Following the adoption of Islam, representation in sculpture, as in other art forms, was abandoned under the rules of the religion, being replaced by decorative arts such as reliefs, engraving and inlay. Even so, representations of the human form can still be seen in Anatolian Seljuk sculpture. Gravestones and marker stones were the most finely carved and beautifully decorated forms in the Ottoman period. One can also think of items intended to serve a practical function, such as fountains, mosque ablution fountains, pools and the like in this context. Turning into contemporary Turkish sculpture, modern three-dimensional arrangements developed under the influence of the West spring to mind.
The first body to offer training in the modern art of sculpture was the Sanayi-i Nefise Mektebi, or Fine Arts School. Oskan Yervant Efendi was one of the first Ottoman citizens and sculptures to teach there. The artists who emerged from the school up until the declaration of the Republic included İhsan Özsoy, İsa Behzat, Mahir Tomruk and Nejat Sirel. Except for Behzat, they were all productive during the Republican period, and were also sent abroad as part of the tradition of the school that had produced them, and their services were in turn employed in teaching.
Contemporary Turkish artists number such figures as: Ali Hada Bara, Zühtü Müridoğlu, Nusret Suman, Ahmet Kenan Yontuç, Hüsyin Özkan (known as Hüseyin Anka), the overseas-based İlhan Koman, Hüseyin Gezer, Mehmet Şadi Çalık, Kuzgun Acar and Saim Bugay. Women artists such as Sabiha Bengütaş, Nermin Faruki, Lerzan Bengisu and Günseli Aru have also emerged.