As part of MoMA’s online exhibition Companion Pieces: New Photography 2020, we’re introducing the work of one participating artist per week, from September 28 through November 16. This week focuses on the work of Özlem Altın. The audio recordings below are excerpted from Zoom conversations between curator Lucy Gallun and the artists.
To create her work, Özlem Altın (Turkish and German, born 1977) digs through a photographic archive she has amassed over many years, combining found images with her own photographs into a dense amalgam. Some emotionally resonant images—the mask, the mermaid, the heron—are symbols that she frequently returns to; they embody something part human and part animal, or a state of in-between-ness, and they appear again and again in her work.
The mural-scaled Topography (of time, of body) (2019) is a map of similarly disparate images that have been linked together, like distant towns connected by roads. The overall pink hue of the work also resembles fleshy tissue, with veins flowing through it, bringing life from one organ to another. The physicality of Altın’s materials—the unframed canvas, layered with ink—underscores that reading. To create the work, Altın printed her montage of images as one photographic print, and then painted directly onto it, covering over much of the imagery to isolate certain elements. Though she highlights particular components, she is also interested in the spaces between them, a relationship made visible in the emblem of hands at work, knitting together strands of material. Altın feels that Topography (of time, of body) invites viewers to enter in, drawn not only to the figures but to their change and growth—the “process of becoming.”
Özlem Altın. Topography (of time, of body). 2019
Özlem Altın. Topography (of time, of body) (detail). 2019
Özlem Altın. Wheel of Union. 2017
Özlem Altın. The Lovers (Intuition). 2017
Özlem Altın. Untitled (grow in the dark I). 2019
Özlem Altın. Container (corporeality, objects and affects). 2017
Özlem Altın. Portal (Highpriestess). 2019
Özlem Altın. Ancestors (spirits watch me). 2019
Explore further in our free online course Seeing Through Photographs.