Yüksel Arslan was born in Turkey in 1933 and has been living in Paris since 1962, where he produces art influenced by his readings on culture, sociology, philosophy and art. Around 200 of the works on paper he has created since 1959 will be shown outside Turkey for the first time in the exhibition at Kunsthalle Düsseldorf, curated by Elodie Evers, Gregor Jansen and Oliver Zybok. The exhibition focuses on Arslan’s artures, works created on paper using a unique technique and special paints and distinguished by an expressiveness that has been regarded as characteristic of the Near and Middle East by specialists going back at least as far as Eugène Delacroix. Dealing with themes such as the relationships between thought and mysticism, between myth, academic scholarship and the visual arts, they are informed equally by philosophical, literary and musical currents that one might call the foundations of Western thought and by a keen awareness that other peoples and cultures have contributed decisively to the body of knowledge accumulated within the Western tradition.
Rather than using conventional paints, Arslan mixes pigments, plant extracts, bodily fluids and other substances such as grass, blossoms, oil, coal, and ground stones to make his own - which he regards as an integral part of the artistic process rather than as a separate preparatory step. In Arslan’s view, painting has increasingly neglected its roots, especially since the introduction of industrially manufactured paints. Much like Jean Dubuffet, he aims to strip away the trappings of the present to arrive at the true essence of art and primal human experience, finding it in aspects of our (animal) nature such as reproduction and sexuality that we may think we have overcome through our culture but that are, in reality, only masked by it. As someone who has read extensively on subjects ranging from ancient and modern languages, history, philosophy and music to traditional cultures, Arslan knows more than many about the ‘trappings’ of culture and has come to the conviction that much of what they involve actually goes against basic human nature. This has led him to an interest in the similarities between various aspects of popular and folk culture around the world, which he believes are the common heritage of all humanity.
The exhibition was previously shown at the Kunsthalle Zürich and will later move on to the Kunsthalle Wien in Vienna. The accompanying catalogue, published by Hatje Cantz Verlag, includes numerous illustrations and features texts by Elodie Evers, Jacques Vallet and Oliver Zybok and an interview with the artist by Beatrix Ruf (€35)