In this exhibition, Coskun Demirok’s works may be read as artistic actions. His practice is always driven by the question, “What is art and aesthetics?" and thus reflects the problem at the centre of his thinking. Turkish-born, Demirok is an architect living in Germany. His sympathies as an architect are decidedly with a minimalist style, and he carries this ethos into his fine art practice. But it would be inaccurate and insufficient to think that that is all there is to his images. 

 

His minimalist aesthetic and mindset in these mixed-media works (photographic image and paint) keeps the artist from directly representing individual moments of emotion, or symbolically or expressionistically capturing a particular idea. Demirok's modes of image-making overlap. However else we might want to identify these objects, what emerges are not paintings. The completed images suggest neither context nor particular stylistic reference. Rather, accident and spontaneity dominate the process of making, but only to a point; at which the artist intervenes to contain and decide the final image. The artist sees this process as an action reflecting his own struggle with painting. 

 

Immanuel Kant’s ideas might be useful in understanding something important in Demirok's aesthetic. According to Kant, the location of an individual aesthetic is essentially an emotional response and occurs within the free play of imagination and understanding. This is his idea, important for 18th Century thinkers in Aesthetics, of ‘disinterestedness’. This subjective feeling, as Kant perceives it, is pure because it is not spoiled by conscious individual judgement. He asserts that calling an object beautiful has little to do with the specifics of its existence, and that if you were to become too involved with the object on those terms, your judgement would be tainted by bias and lose its purity. What is interesting is the pure form of the object.

 

It is the artist’s own assertion that the works in this series are not paintings. The work "is what it is", he says; the process of making as many small performances is for him of primary importance, as is Kant's principle of ‘disinterestedness’. “Intention without any purpose”, says Demirok.

 

This exhibition, entitled "Breathless" consists mostly of works based around a collection of the artist’s family photographs. For the artist, his incentive is the search for an answer to such questions as, "What defines my identity?”..and “What is my purpose here in this time?” Having lived abroad, as he has since his 20’s, the artist’s need for an answer is perhaps ever intensifying. “What is the connection between our past and who we become?” is perhaps the essential question for Demirok as he sets out on an existential quest through fragments of images of his past and his origins. 

 

These works represent the artist’s first attempt at integrating photography and his signature painterly mark making. He begins with the photographic image as his canvas, applying the paint in an attempt to fetch the past and link it to the present day and his contemporary self. The viewer is given no clue about the people in these photographs. We don’t know what relationship they might have to the artist, or, in fact, whether there is any relationship at all. As starting images, the photographs retain only the quality of being evidence of a past…documents of a moment; the artist nullifies their function of being, in any expressionist or romantic sense, shared memories between photographer and Demirok himself.

 

For him, the resulting works provide some resolution of his project. Isolated as the images may be from content or historical specifics the exhibition nonetheless powerfully retains the sense of carrying the artist’s personal and professional experience and world view. By naming it, “Breathless”, without divulging his ‘story’ to us, and never straying from his minimalist style, Demirok insistently marks the exhibition with the personal, transforming his family photographs into the property of the Present. 

 

Translated and edited from notes by Melike Tomris Önder on the exhibition Breathless