Jak Baruh and Levent Özçelik on To Look in PG Art Gallery

Pg Art Gallery is hosting three photography artists until February 23rd. In the exhibition titled ‘Bakmak (To Look)’, each artist presents the viewers with completely different expressions about narrative types and material usage by focusing on different potentials and properties of photography. This gathering of photographers creates for us the opportunity to re-think the scope and limits of the word photography.

Jak Baruh, in his series titled ‘Pop CubArt’ rebuilds the images he gathered in his Cuban trip in a way to reflect the city’s cultural changes. Baruh, instead of the adopting the usual documentary narrative style, approaches the effect of American culture in Cuba, again, using a unique to America seeing style. The artist blends photography with 20th century posters and graphic narrative styles by creating collages of direct indicators, overlapping icons, cult – even kitsch – images that remind us of Pop Art. We interviewed Jak Baruh on photography.

Y.S. We know you studied chemical engineering. In which part of your life did photography appear, develop and become your priority?

J.B. Photography is a passion for me and it’s one of my priorities. I’m a person who records the views of the world into my brain via images. During my education, I tried to take capture images of my environment with my camera. In my high school years, some of my friends and I found a Photography Club. During that time, my goal was to add my own consciousness to the image of the outer world that I captured and froze with my camera, and I can say I still have the same goal. Cities like London and New York which I went to continue my education, added more fire to my passion for photography. Especially New York’s incredible city structure, its light, its position were pushing me to use my camera. As I finished my chemistry education, I stepped into the world of professional photography.

Y.S. How would you describe your photographical language?

J.B. I can define my aesthetic style as contemporary. Because contemporary is about what we do, what we make you think right now. Contemporary is adding whatever and how much we transform into the here-and-now universal being.

I think current events are very interesting and I want to photograph most of them. Contemporary is the logic of understanding, interpreting and during interpretation, exceeding the current moment. Post-modern philosophers describe contemporary as consideration of the ignored ontic integrity of human existence in the daily life.

Y.S. Would you talk about ‘Bakmak’ exhibition?

J.B. As you know, three photography artists were gathered in this exhibition. Photos of each one of us are very different from the other two. But this difference results in conversation between exhibited works. According to me, ‘to See’ and ‘to Look’ are different sides of the eye actions. To see is a natural action, but to look after seeing means being carried into different dimensions. For examle, in our daily lives we see lots of things in our surroundings, but we don’t look. To look means understanding an object in all its dimensions. The object or the subject that is looked at – after a careful analysis – ends up being re-interpreted. To look contains understanding the object’s core, penetrating it, discovering it. It’s also a result of the spiritual process that we photography artists use all the time. ‘To Look’ has a magnetic power.

Y.S. Where do you see the Turkish photography art in the world?

J.B. Photography art has a very short history. As you know, photography was discovered by a chemist named Nicephore Niepce in 1831. The time passed since then is not even 200 years. However by the 20th century, reputable museums and galleries of the art world began to include more and more of photography art examples. Especially by the second half of the 20th century, we can observe the rise of the photography. There are more photography artists in the world creative environment now, there are more exhibitions, young generations are encouraged towards photography. In our country, we see newly beginning activities in photography. Unfortunately, encouraging mechanisms are missing. But still, we can see the beginning of a social interest, holding of more photography exhibitions and slowly gathering interest towards photography in the younger generations. Documentary and historical photography are more dominant because they provide benefits, they transfer information. But after these phases, a new era where ‘Art Photography’ will rise is beginning now.

Cinematographic works of Maura Sullivan, another participant of the exhibition, carries the less and less used analog photopgraphy into a special resistance point inside the digital culture. Sullivan’s scenes begin to exist as fragments of continuous secrets and hiding instead of a complete image; as both a lost fragment of time and space and manifestations where the viewer cannot grasp the whole. The scenes in the artist’s photographs are somewhere between a natural and fictional moment; they cannot be grasped but can be traced as residues in the memory, just like a dream.

On the other hand, Levent Özçelik’s works present the photograph not as a two dimensional illusion inside a frame, but as a material inside the location. Özçelik’s photographs which he exhibited using reflective surfaces, touch on the relationship between a photograph and reflection in both symbolic and optical meanings. When this situation is reduced to the basic property of photography, which is the relationship between the object and light, it shows us the difference – or the sameness – of photography and the glass standing in front of it, or a reflection on water, or our reflection on a window. We asked Levent Özçelik to talk about this technique he used in his photographs.

L.Ö. For a while now, I’ve been shooting a series called ‘Yansımalar (Reflections)’. I joined ‘Bakmak’ by printing some of these photographs using a different technique. They were reflections as photographs, too, like reflections of people or trees. As a different approach, I wanted to print these photographs onto the materials that they were reflections of. In one of my works I used 1 mirror and 2 glasses; in another I used only a mirror and plexy. There are three repetitions of the same photographs on different materials and this gave it volume.

Y.S. Is this a technique that is used, that you saw somewhere else? How did you think of this presentation style?

L.Ö. If it is used somewhere else, I don’t know about it. People who know this kind of stuff say it’s not used before. What pushed me towards this style were – again – reflections. I thought about how to use the reflection photographs with the reflective materials and then improved upon that. After 1 or 2 prints and their effects, I understood that I was on the right track.

For those who don’t want to miss ‘Bakmak’ exhibition, the closing date is February 23rd.

Stay with art…

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