The Millî Reasürans Gallery in Maçka is hosting an exhibition of gorgeous photographs by the Turkish artist Hasan Deniz until April 26.
‘These photographs are the memories of my life,’ says Deniz. ‘They are always taken spontaneously.’ Deniz strives for a sense of timelessness and spacelessness with his photographs – which are given no titles so that the viewer is not tempted to make direct references. What you are left with is a sense of the artist’s personal journey and his mood. The photographs are almost entirely devoid of people and capture places and objects exactly as they are. Like many artists, Deniz sees beauty in imperfection. He actually prefers his photographs to have flaws and never cleans them up in post-production.
The exhibition, accompanied by a catalogue featuring a poetic prose by the Turkish writer Murat Gülsoy, takes its title from a boat restaurant – I won’t reveal where, but you can guess – called Alte Liebe and the above photo of it hangs, fittingly, at the entrance. Of course, the title has a deeper significance and the notion of ‘Alte Liebe’ (‘Old Love’) is one that appears in many branches of the arts from literature to painting, cinema and music. ‘Objects reminiscent of an old love lead the way. A murmuring, a vague rhythm, a hint of someone that dares to supplant reality through incessant repetition,’ writes Gülsoy.
Deniz prefers black-and-white photography but in this exhibition he has interposed the occasional colour photograph in order to focus the viewer's attention. One of my favourite black-and-whites is the one above, showing handbags in cages against a backdrop of what looks like a church. Most probably the reflection of a shop front, the picture juxtaposes things which don’t normally go together, yet remains completely natural.
One beautifully composed colour photograph (above) was taken from a rooftop bar. Seen from far away, the bottles meld into the buildings. But draw closer and you can see the image for what it really is.
The artist particularly likes photographing cemeteries and the gallery's smaller room is devoted to photos either of cemeteries or places evoking similar feelings. The one above underlines that feeling of almost surreal tranquillity which cemeteries always seem to inspire.
Deniz says that one of his main objectives is to bring out the simplicity of situations and objects. The photograph above, for example – featuring a rubbish bin, not an intrinsically exciting object – possesses an understated beauty.
Another of the artist’s favourite ‘simple’ photos is the one above. I particularly like its geometry – the bus station smack bang in the middle of nowhere is reminiscent of an abstract painting. The feeling is just as dreamlike, and almost eerie.
The theme continues with the above photo. ‘This photo is so basic,’ says Deniz, ‘it could be from any period or geography.’
Deniz’s perspective on the Atatürk Cultural Centre in Taksim shows it from the back. This photo differs from the others in the exhibition in that it is not about the artist’s personal memory, but ‘our collective memory’.
I also love the originality of the picture above. Deniz took it from inside a contemporary sculpture, using its letters to frame the people and evoking the feeling of a family holiday snap.