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Histories of Knowledge

Histories of Knowledge

Yekta Çetinkaya's most recent body of work, stemming from research and consisting of several mixed media paintings, is an inquiry into histories of knowledge, examining the power dynamics and estrangement between the Western world and Middle Eastern culture.

Concentrated on the visual languages found in Anatolian art-making practices, the history of astronomy/celestial navigation technologies, and the intersection of these two subjects; the navigation of various approaches to representation, Çetinkaya’s work grows into an exploration of non-Western futurisms. Çetinkaya assesses how Middle Eastern visual languages can be carried into the realm of contemporary image-making and into the future through the journey of an immigrant artist.

Çetinkaya’s paintings constantly negotiate between painting’s illusionary capacities and the potentiality of traditional Anatolian art-making practices that favor flattening of space over linear perspective, thus the diversion between Eastern and Western approaches to representation comes to be of great significance in Çetinkaya’s practice. As a result, Çetinkaya’s subjects are often intertwined with Western narratives which have marked his Franco-Turkish upbringing.

Çetinkaya’s art historical references, drawn from 17th-century French Baroque period ballet costume designs, 20th-century political caricature, Middle Eastern luster tiles, and Anatolian rug and kilim motifs, are often weaved together in his gesturally painted, representational or semi-abstract spaces, linking Çetinkaya’s practice to a wide variety of visual and socio-political networks.

With Astrolabe I, Astrolabe II (Supertheory of Supereverything) and Astrolabe III (Creation of the World, Theories of Everything, etc.) , Çetinkaya re-interprets the Islamic medieval astronomy device as a time/space travel gadget or structure. Instead of being a handheld object, the astrolabe expands into a spatial and compositional element. Figures either emerge from this structure or become one with it through transparent paint applications.

​Painted patterns from Turkish kilims (a type of rug) occupy surfaces or borders which suggests an act of reclaiming history or knowledge, gestural paint applications create illusions of cosmic space, Western figures point in directions and appear to show way, and empty rooms that appear to be workshops or observatories invite the viewers to examine and ask questions alongside the artist. Painted on an area rug with heavy impasto acrylic paint, The Re-Orientalist suggests a defilement of the valuable cultural object and has the artist questioning his own positionality in relation to Turkish and Western cultures.

While Çetinkaya’s works vary in the styles of representation they employ, the common theme in all his works is the critical and at times playful questioning of hierarchies of aesthetics and Western canonical histories of knowledge. Through painting, Çetinkaya examines these dominant structures while proposing a non-linear progression of history and visual representation.

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Astrolabe III (The Creation of the World, Theories of Everything, etc.) , 72x96 inches, oil on canvas, 2022

Astrolabe I, 72x48 inches, oil on canvas, 2021

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The Re-Orientalist, 63x99 inches, acrylic mixed with plaster on area rug, 2022

Histories of Knowledge installation shot, University of Ottawa, 2022

Astrolabe II (Supertheory of Supereverything), 60x60 inches, oil on canvas, 2021


Astrolabe, 72x48  inches, oil on canvas, 2021

Histories of Knowledge installation shot, University of Ottawa, 2022

Histories of Knowledge, 36x72 inches, oil on canvas, 2022

Yekta Cetinkaya. Histories of Knowledge

Histories of Knowledge II, 48x72 inches, oil on canvas, 2022

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