Zeynep Kayan Biography

Zeynep Kayan's works explore image construction using personal archives and repetition across photography, video, and sound.

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Early Years

Born in Ankara, Turkey, Kayan studied Communication and Design at Bilkent University in Ankara and completed her MA in Fine Art at the Utrecht Graduate School of Visual Art and Design in 2009.

In 2012, Kayan co-founded the independent art space Torun in Ankara.

Zeynep Kayan Artworks

Zeynep Kayan's photographs draw attention to image construction. Her black-and-white landscapes and portraits are digitally modified and abstracted, blurred, stacked, or manipulated to highlight the artist's interference.

Process and Control

Kayan's digitally manipulated images reflect the artist's desire to capture moments that occur by chance, resulting in a series of works that blur the distinction between random acts of production and the control of the artist's hand.

In the 2010 series 'Torn', the artist incorporates tear marks into black-and-white landscapes and self-portraits, as if a literal allusion to the shredding of old images and modifications in the landscape of memory.

In 'Uncomplete' (2013), the same blurred female figures appear in empty fields or nocturnal environments—protagonists in incomplete narratives—with versions of the same image stacked vertically or arranged in a grid.


For 'Constructed' (2016) Kayan uses the body as a material to enquire into vision and perception. Placing familiar photographs in new surroundings, Kayan produces analogue collages that transform physical space using abstract elements. She set old images of bodies and limbs from her personal archive in built environments. Constructed_19 (2016), for example, depicts layered photographs of an open palm, which are impaled by a wooden stick set against a wall.

Other photographs, like Constructed_28 (2016), show obvious signs of manipulation, with the addition of auburn specks of combustion burning away the face of a woman, as if a literal display of a creation process that begins with the torching of memory.

Temporary Sameness

Increasingly abstracted, Kayan's 'Temporary Sameness' (2019) series shows versions of the same photographs captured at different angles with minor variations, in which human bodies engage material objects through performative gestures.

In the archival pigment print Pipe I (2019), seven photographs stacked in a long line show the same body draped in black with both arms nested inside a silver pipe. Slight variations between images blend into the next, generating the impression of a wave-like movement that evokes the pipe's material conditions.


The 2019 series 'Soaked' shows portrait images that appear to have been submerged in water, in which the upper layer of the portraits seem to be in the process of peeling away from the surface of the photograph.

Capturing different stages of this material transfiguration, works like Soaked III retain the air bubbles gathered on the subject's face and show a thin layer peeling away. In its aftermath, Soaked IV, the upper layer appears to be a different surface entirely, independent from the original portrait.


Zeynep Kayan has been the subject of both solo and group exhibitions.

Select solo exhibitions include Zilberman Berlin (2022); Unseen Amsterdam (2019); Zilberman Istanbul (2019, 2016); and Cda-Projects, Istanbul (2013).

Selected group exhibitions include Zilberman Berlin (2021); 212 Photography Festival, Istanbul (2020); Cité des Arts, Paris (2020); Evliyagil Museum, Ankara (2020); Helsinki Contemporary (2020); Rezan Has Museum, Istanbul (2013); Encounters, Seoul (2012); and Istanbul Museum of Modern Art (2011).


Zeynep Kayan' Instagram account can be found here.

Elaine YJ Zheng | Ocula | 2022

Zeynep Kayan
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Zilberman contemporary art gallery in Istanbul, Turkiye
Zilberman Berlin, Istanbul, Miami
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