Baku-based artist and photographer Elturan Mammadov sheds light onto contemporary Azerbaijani life through his focus on cultural symbols and practices in his artwork. Originally from Oghuz, Azerbaijan and then educated at the Institute for Studies in Global Prosperity and the Mohsen Makhmalbaf Film School, he has exhibited his artistic projects in Azerbaijan since 2012. Elturan has also displayed artwork in Russia and was an assistant on the video installation by Kazakh contemporary artist Almagul Menlibayeva for the critically-acclaimed 2015 Venice Biennale collateral exhibition ‘The Union of Fire and Water’ in Venice, Italy. In 2014 he was featured in the ‘ASTAR’ IV Moscow Biennale for Young Art and in 2015 he showed work in Russia as part of the ‘Candy Mountains and Oil Coasts’ exhibition at the Perm Museum of Contemporary Art. In 2016, he exhibited artwork as part of the YARAT resident artists show and his work was part of the ‘300 Words of Resistance’ exhibition at YARAT Center. In 2017, his work was included in two exhibitions: ‘Neither War, Nor Peace’ at ARTIM Gallery and ‘Between the Sea and Mountains’ at Yay Gallery, both in Baku. In the artworks presented at these exhibitions, he explored the way in which identity is performed by people and how it relates to their sense of place, in turn observing the circumstances that create meaning in everyday lives.
Through his use of conceptual framing, saturated colors, and atmospheric composition, Elturan’s aesthetic intention speaks for itself, although he also invites viewers to find their own interpretation of his work. Inspired by nostalgia, Azerbaijani music and social issues, he uses photography, videography, and contemporary technology to illuminate cultural patterns and spatial awareness, engaging with human emotions embedded in time and place in his work. Through his practice, Elturan examines social confluence and synergy, noting how things come together and combine to create new realities. In the project ‘Assorti Hits,’ he looked at iconography related to the wedding industry in Azerbaijan, focusing on underground and folk musical groups that have become local celebrities as a result of their popularity at these important events. Using found images, Elturan created visual collages combining the kitsch designs of the homemade CD album covers with modern visual language, highlighting the timeless nostalgia of weddings as moments that reinforce social cohesion and cultural identity.
In a more recent work, his piece entitled ‘Unidentified Heights’ (2017) for the aforementioned Yay Gallery exhibition ‘Between the Sea and Mountains’ was inspired by the Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan, and explored the complexities faced by the people and settlements of the region which has suffered greatly from prolonged occupation. Using online Google Maps software, Elturan recreated the landscape of Nagorno-Karabakh as a three-dimensional linen topographic map installation, giving shape and material presence to the region which is largely inaccessible in real life. As part of the installation, he included headphones that played the most popular music searched for by the people living in the region via the assistance of a music website, thus personalizing the conflict by highlighting emotional responses that people have to the events that are happening in their region at any given time. This theme continues to inspire his new work which looks at the narratives of contested spaces, discovering how identity is created and reinforced through deliberate actions and information. In his new project, he pushes this sentiment further through the examination of differences in information between regions of dispute such as competing Ukrainian and Russian weather reports, and how these frictions can shape reality. It is his cerebral interpretation of the importance of seemingly-insignificant occurrences that give his work such immediacy and vibrancy. By drawing attention to the details of the cultural systems around us, he brings seemingly-mundane nuances into focus, giving the intricacy of everyday human experience the prominence that it deserves.