On Some of Irem Sözen's Photographs

Merve Ünsal
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I have seen Irem Sözen's works for the first time in person in "Parallel Realities" in Elipsis Gallery, which was composed of 3 artists and curated by Refik Akyüz and Serdar Darendeliler from Geniş Açı Project Office.

The first works seen as the viewer walks into the gallery are Irem's black-and-white photographs. The series, called "Recall", composed relatively of small photographs, and are placed on a wide and a narrow wall with an L shape. A woman's blurred photograph taken maybe when she was flipping her hair or when she was saying no or shortly before she smiled, is to me the key piece of the series. Landscapes viewed from afar and are penetrated up close, the body which becomes a part of that landscape, rays of light create a lyrical visuality through the most ordinary and familiar moments. In other words, they interpret our relation with what we see, through Irem's plain narrative, in a simplified manner, without tampering.

The routine of the long-awaited and desired kiss that burns the cheek of the mother "In Search of Lost Time" seems akin to Irem's plain visual language. Even if I usually find references to Proust dull, I think of momentary images, textures, smells that are materialized in Proust's depictions, maybe because I turn back to this essay at nights. I come to associate the pages where one can feel the texture, the smell of the pillow through banisters, and Irem's indication of things. What allures me in these photographs is that the photograph's pervious relation to reality that we are talking about ever so often, is built upon some sort of subjectivity.

I will try to give a substantial example because even I am not sure what I mean. A photograph of a woman lying on some place which seems like a forest road. Apparently, the scene is quite suspicious. Is everything alright? Why is that woman lying there? Where is that place? Even it is daytime, there is an uncanny incident here. On the other hand, within the terms of Irem's narrative and approach, this incident becomes a state. What she shows, expresses, recalls, morphs into a sign. When I feel the same way I do now, I would put my finger on that photograph.

This kind of transformation of anti-iconography into a personal one, surely has to do with Irem's use of rough visuality. Things that could be quite cinematographic detach us from themselves through this visual cache. Thus, we are abstracted from the things we feel drawn to, and instead of becoming a mirror image of what we visually see, they attract our attention to the fact that there is another narrative. As a photograph, what it does in terms of creating an awareness is not to intensify the reliability of Irem's works, but to strengthen their narrative power.

The photographs printed on opaque paper and exhibited in case-frames without a glass, highlight the relation between feeling-memory-time. This personal relation that can be immediately established, the hesitation to come close to the photographs, invigorate the bond between this personal journey and the viewer.

Let me finally talk about another photograph. A photo of a small ball flying about the trees. Or I presume that is what I am looking at. When I delve into the photograph, that composition which looks like it tries to keep up with the golden ratio, the reflection within that specific moment points out that all we see are actually visual interpretations, visual narratives. What Irem creates in her photographs is maybe a summary, the key piece of the world she invites us in. It is that perfection, insignificance as much as it is perfect, self-awareness as much as it is insignificant.

It can be appropriate to end non-narrative narration these photographs adopted with a quotation from Kundera. When Kundera speaks of dreams, he argues that dreams should be beautiful, or else they will be forgotten quite easily. I find a similar feeling in Irem's photographs. It is as if what makes them recollective is their way of being, the way they show ordinariness in an aesthetic manner.