Going back in time and the Silk Road
Photographer Renate Graf’s exhibition “Going Back in Time and the Silk Road” is welcoming visitors at Ankara CerModern, in a joint program organized by the Institut Français Ankara, the embassies of France and Austria, and CerModern.
“This exhibition is the artist’s call to Turkey, France and all other governments and citizens to act together,” said Hervé Magro, ambassador of France to Turkey, in the opening of the exhibition.
“The talent of Francophone photographer Renate Graf, who has lived in Paris for many years, takes us on a journey that questions the lack of change in time, space, settlements and landscape. Regardless of the time or place, the photographs of a journey taken in the past remain familiar; the natural and spiritual landscapes of Central Asia date back to today’s Anatolia. This continuance, however, is fragile. Graf attracts the attention of the observer by bringing them into confrontation with the challenges of the climate and environmental change, breaking the serene assurance of the sustainability of one’s journey.”
Graf is widely acclaimed for her powerful studies, which can be described as a poetic form of documentation in which the image wavers on the edge of language. Indeed, it was her passion for literature and poetry that prompted Graf to devote her life to photography.
Her reading of authors such as Fernando Pessoa, Rainer Maria Rilke, Tagore, T. S. Eliot, Edmond Jabès, Paul Valéry and Hermann Broch called forth images in her mind that she sought to capture through photography. Cinema also plays an important role in the artist’s work, with such directors as Wim Wenders, Jean-Luc Godard, Werner Herzog, Visconti and Andrei Tarkovsky all being important references in her bringing of images into existence through her distinctive perspective and unique style.
The artist’s camera accompanied her on her travels from a very early age, and thanks to her camera, she has documented every journey she has made, each with its own unique geography, whether in South India, Morocco, China, Alaska, Russia, Yemen, Cambodia, Italy, Germany or her homeland Austria.
She began creating travelogues with her photos to which she presented with excerpts from chosen texts, writing them out in longhand. These are the artist’s testimonies to the wonder of travel, and can be likened to the sketched notebooks of Delacroix in Morocco, or the diaries of Frieda Kahlo – being a mixture of narrative and art.
As her approach gained impetus, it gave rise to larger format books that were hand-bound by the artist herself. In time she felt the need to create larger format images, which she developed in the darkroom using traditional techniques.
Today, Graf’s photography is recognized for its distinctive chimeric quality combined with the formal simplicity of pictorial composition that characterizes her works, examples of which can be found in the most prestigious private and public collections around the world.
Speaking about her work, Graf said, “I am not a photographer in the classical sense of the word; my images exist to serve a different purpose than that of any true photographer; they are not complete or conclusive; nor are they perfect photographs in search of technical perfection. They function not only as images, but as language, as signs pointing to a meaning... They do not define; they testify, and in the cultural diversity of the universe, they are a language in themselves, a language for describing what I see. “
In 2019, Graf’s first solo exhibition in Portugal, “Photographer’s Chronicles: Thoughts become Images-1992,” demonstrated the extraordinary richness of her photographic language and nuanced black and white palette.
“Going Back in Time and the Silk Road,” hosted at the Tashkent House of Photography, Uzbekistan, opened in March 2021, and demonstrates the universal reach of her images.
The exhibition will be open to visitors through March 27.