Turkish photographic pioneer honored at Istanbul Modern

Turkish photographic pioneer honored at Istanbul Modern

Turkish photographic pioneer honored at Istanbul Modern

Şahin Kaygun, who died in 1992, researched the possibilities of the expression of a new and distinct language of art through meticulous working practices.

The Istanbul Modern Photography Gallery is presenting a retrospective on the oeuvre of Şahin Kaygun, the premier Turkish pioneer of an interdisciplinary approach to the photographic arts.

The self-titled exhibition “Şahin Kaygun” extends from the artist’s experimental photographic Polaroid works to his cinematic productions, as well as to his late works in which he ultimately exceeded the boundary between photography and painting. Curated by Sena Çakırkaya, the exhibition includes 89 works produced by Kaygun from 1978 to 1991 and traces the technical and conceptual transformation of the artist’s working practices and photography series.


Şahin Kaygun

Kaygun implemented a new approach to photographic techniques throughout his career. He brought together different disciplines such as painting, graphic arts and cinema in the 1980s, a time when the concept of interdisciplinary studies was yet to take its place in Turkey’s agenda.

Kaygun, who died in 1992 at the age of 41, researched the possibilities of the expression of a new and distinct language of art through meticulous working practices. He challenged the boundaries between different techniques through a contemporary interpretation, his protean, pioneering and creative identity, as well as his incessant concern for surpassing his abilities.

In Kaygun’s oeuvre, collages, various symbols, fantastic constructs and a search for surreal spaces were accommodated in an expressionist attitude and a diligent graphic disposition. In works in which he probed the theme of life and death, Kaygun reflected his distinct view of the world and his understanding of aesthetics through symbols and images.

“I’d rather create the incident than adopt the approach of a documentarist. The artist should create his epoch instead of documenting it,” he once said.

Kaygun’s creative process and films

The idea for organizing an exhibition of Kaygun’s work came after a detailed study of the artist’s archive. Over 20,000 negatives and slides from the archive of his family were scanned, an inventory of his works in collections was collated, and 29 collectors of his works were contacted after a long and diligent period of research.

The exhibition showcases the original prints of Kaygun’s works from 10 different collections.
The exhibition will also screen the artist’s films “Afife Jale” and “Full Moon,” as well as Atıf Yılmaz’s works “A Widow,” “Vasfiye is Her Name” and “Oh Belinda,” and Ömer Kavur’s “Motherland Hotel” in which Kaygun was the artistic director. Kaygun said he viewed cinema as the meeting-point of all arts and as the subject-area in which he could most intensely reflect his individuality.

Kaygun’s last series, “In the Ancient Seas,” was founded upon the sculptures the artist photographed at the British Museum. He draws figures of the ancient times into the tales of his self-constructed world “with the excitement of setting forth on new voyages, discovering uncharted lands and creating new worlds filled with mystery.”

“Every little sculpture or figure takes you to a different realm. All this allows the emergence of other images in your mind. The people who made these sculptures, the periods in which they lived, those civilizations and the stories of the people whose sculptures were made … All that has mixed into the stories I ascribed to them and have transformed into a new set of stories … Thus, they have become the protagonists of my stories,” Kaygun said.

The exhibition will continue until Feb. 15, 2015.