In my studio visit with Kutay Alkin I was able to explore the mind behind the distorted photographs which he produces in his Eagle Rock studio. The layering of consciousness that goes into each piece allows Kutay to break the rules of photography and semantics. To Kutay the subject matter of his photographs is not important. For him the further the images get from original form the more powerful they become. Kutay creates his art by taking photographs with low fidelity cameras, plastic lenses, filters, and toy cameras. Once his images are printed, Kutay distorts and manipulates the wet ink by blurring the image with his hands, a brush, or sometimes even a hatchet. Still wet, Kutay hangs the images on the walls of his studio and allows the ink to be dragged down by gravity. It is a dance between procedure, mechanics, natural forces, timing, and human creation. While Kutay is not a religious man he sees his creation as taking on a quasi-religious aspect. Kutay sees his work as alive. As they drip and dry, the cosmos and natural ordering of the universe collide with his actions to create his art. The works are transient in that they capture different points in time. Here, a traditional interpretation suggesting that photography brings death to the subject is insufficient. Because Kutay’s methods invoke movement and life, the subject of the photograph is saved by distortion. In his works, mistakes become discovery. Kutay believes the future is open and he does not want to know how his work will play out. If he already knew, he wouldn’t want to do it.
Kutay started his educational career in Istanbul studying metals engineering. Through this he learned valuable problem solving skills and was forced to take an elective class. That’s when he discovered photography. Kutay embraced his study of photography, though he felt trapped by the rules and expectations of what “good photography” meant. After a self-exile to Vancouver to escape the distractions of Istanbul, Kutay grew an even stronger relationship with photography. He applied to the Claremont Graduate University fine arts program, which he classifies as an abstract painters school. This is where Kutay learned that he could break the rules. Rather than try to mimic others, Kutay searched for what photography meant for himself. With his approximately 15 different cameras Kutay captures little parts of the world which seem valuable to him at that time. Whether it is the side of a building in Los Angeles or the propellers of a ferry exciting river water in Istanbul, film exposed to natural light lays the foundation for his creations. Many people often tell Kutay the effects he applies to his photographs can be easily replicated in Photoshop, but the thought of replication is what Kutay strays away from. None of his photographs come out the same. He feels responsible in this part of human history to make this sort of pre-computer age work. As the world transitions from analogue to digital it will always have Kutay’s work to look back on as a procedure set away from distraction, mimicry, and rushed creation.
Photography allows Kutay to find his human side and ignore his intelligent side. Through his photography he can let go of control and let his art seep through his consciousness. Kutay’s works exist in a realm of photography, painting, and sculpture but in none of those categories explicitly. They exist without categorization in the same way that Kutay sees himself as neither a citizen of Turkey, Canada, nor the US, but rather a person in the world from everywhere. Photographing Los Angeles was a route for Kutay to discover and accept Los Angeles. The freedom of the city further pushed him to find freedom in his works.
By MP Knowlton
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