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Reha Akšakaya's exhibition at Mai Manˇ Gallery

Daniel Bart

July 2001

If it is true, that we concieve the world best with our organ that percieves lights, than it is necessary, that from that viewpoint the world is made up of lights. And still, our humble receptors are only able to percieve a narrow band of the wawes, that emanate as lights. This narrow band is our precious treasure, our visual world. Under and above this lie all the other "virgin" visual worlds, not percieved by humans.

I picture Reha Akšakaya, the turkish photographer as an inward-turning, dreamy child, who was not blinded by the constant coquettish bustle of the world around. He lies down on his back deep in the anatolian ocean of grass, and questions the galopping clouds: what is beyond this world? What is behind all these appearances?

Then he grows up and starts to photograph, or maybe the other way round. He goes on interrogating the world of illusions with his camera and objectives. And he acquaints with all the photographical techniques, but none of them is good enough for him. And then, by good chance, he finds the technique of photographing on infrared film. He sets out on a great journey with his new and powerful weapon, the infrared 'eye', and travels around Europe and America. And when he comes back, he publishes his first photoalbum, called 'Journey with the Invisible Light'. His pictures are worth to look at closely, since what he puts on film, we never ever are going to be able to see with our own eyes.

His soft, grainy masses and lights make up a fairy-tale land, one that could only ever have existed in the memories of one. Or in the eerie moments between sleep and half-awareness. His classic, calm compositions radiate melancholy and timelessness. His technique however modern it sounds, does not come through as modernistic in effect, on the contrary it lends an oldish, daugerrotyp-like feel to his images, they seem like first, insecure steps in an unknown territory beyond reality. He is not fooled by the officiousness of realism, he asks the final questions, his pictorial language is akin to that of the great masters of landscape painting. What he does, is a new chapter to the tradition. But still, his chosen technique, the great experiment makes him a science fiction-hero, who unravels the secret of the world, he whips off the veil of Maya, and what does he find behind? Mostly innocently dreaming childhood landscapes. Anatolian landscapes, Anatolian people, old men with faces like mud, and ruins defying time.

His main message is of course his technique, the scientific-fictional excitement of seeing beyond the visible band of lights. His first and most important subject is landscape, but the essence of his art is the dialogue between the eternal and the ephemeral. The surging sea of grass is time itself, and the lonely tree, lonelyness itself, is ephemeral and single. Defying time. Only time is not transitory, defyers are. This constant polemy is concievable on most of his pictures, steep rocks versus weak plants, small house versus great open field, and so on. And sometimes roles interchange. Musing on his photos, one feels, that timeless and transitory melt together, his poesy burns on such a high temperature, where opposing extremes reach around and start to mean the same thing.

And when Budapest audience filled its heart with Akšakaya's great open spaces and silent metaphisic landscapes, they found the photo of the steam engine, and had to giggle because of the twist in the subject. And then realize, this is right, this will make the collection exciting. This is only about an old machine in close-up. It loses metaphisical distance, does not join the battle of eternal and ephemeral. We saw the conscious artist photographer, smiling out from behind the picture, who is also interested in the breaking of his own rules, and of course also in selling his pictures. Since his pictures are for sale, either during the exhibition, or thruogh his website: These are pictures to be hung on your wall for sure. They have the power and weight of a great painting.

Nevertheless one cannot help thinking about the dangers and difficulties of working with such a characteristically powerful style. How does he not become a pure imitator of his own style? How does he always manage to find the appropriate level of abstractness and symbolism in his subject, that fits his dreamy, emotional tonality? Well, he is not always able to do that. We have seen one or two pictures a little bit insecure, where silvery mist and the emotional surge of white light does not meat any deeper meaning, and remains pure sentimental affectation. His images should be -as most of them are - grand and solemn, or absurd, funny. If he asked my advice, I would ask him not to relate tiny beauties. We want creation and apocalypse in one sentence. And a second and an eternity in the same.

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