Istanbul Modern presents the most comprehensive exhibition of work by Şahin Kaygun since his passing in 1992. Seeking new forms of expression, Kaygun played a pioneering role in photography in Turkey.
In the 1980s, when the term “interdisciplinary” was nonexistent in Turkey’s photographic culture, Kaygun combined photography with disciplines as diverse as painting, graphics, and cinema, and explored new and surprising applications of photographic techniques. Seeking a contemporary interpretation of the link between photography and other art forms, he continued to push the boundaries between various art disciplines in Turkey.
Supported by detailed archival work, the exhibition spans the whole of Kaygun’s career from his early experimental intervention in photography in the 1980s, when he produced Turkey’s first Polaroid work, through to his final years. Parallel to the artist’s technical exploration, in which he added layers onto photographs, the exhibition traces Kaygun’s narrative on the boundaries of consciousness between dream and reality through themes of life and death. The political atmosphere of the 1980s led to a period of individual crisis and introversion that can be sensed in his art. Kaygun’s work from this period, which is included in the exhibition, manifests the spiritual state of the time from a personal standpoint.
Şahin Kaygun started earning a living by painting when he was in high school. In 1969, he began studying graphic arts at the State University of Applied Fine Arts in Istanbul. For Kaygun, who developed an artistic interest in photography during his university years, graphics and photography were two fields that nourished and completed one another. Kaygun’s Polaroid series represented his first attempt at manipulating photographs. Works from this series have been included in the International Polaroid Collection and exhibited in major museums and art institutions.
For the artist who said, “I don’t take photographs, I make photographs”, every frame produced was a scene he designed. Kaygun would create the composition in his mind, then take the photograph; there was no room for coincidence in this process, which continued in the darkroom. Scratching, coloring, and drawing on the photographs, Kaygun erased the details he did not want and added those he did. He superimposed prints, made collages, painted with acrylic paint, and, ultimately, added his own inner world. What is important here is not – as it was debated at the time – whether these works are paintings or photographs. Precisely the contrary, Kaygun’s aim was to establish an interdisciplinary art language.