The “artures” of Yüksel Arslan at the Center Pompidou

Turkish painter Yüksel Arslan in his studio, April 27, 2012, in Paris.

Turkish artist Yüksel Arslan was born in Istanbul, but came to Paris for the first time in 1961, lived there most of the time and died there on April 20, 2017. his descendants the question of inheritance rights, which was settled by the dation process validated in December 2020: it allows heirs to pay these rights in works and not by a financial settlement. A selection chosen from the 160 works which have thus joined the national collections is presented in a room of the permanent exhibition of the National Museum of Modern Art in Paris (Beaubourg). It runs from 1958 to 2017. Previously, only one of these works had been acquired, in 1987, by the National Fund for Contemporary Art, which was derisory.

Arslan is indeed an absolutely singular artist and one of the greatest interest. To name his works and affirm their specificity, he invented the word “arture”. An “arture” is a composition drawn in ink and pencil, enhanced with natural pigments with dominant ocher and bistre. It sometimes includes collages. But it is, more often still, almost as much written as drawn, because the set of “artures” forms an encyclopedia which does not neglect any science – anatomy, geology, botany, archaeology, political history, art history, etc. – nor any peculiarity of the human species, its morals and its vices. The work sometimes resembles a page taken from a teaching manual or a school book. The map, the circular diagram, the division into columns are frequently used. The length of the texts varies from a few words to entire paragraphs. Each “arture” must therefore be observed and read carefully. It is then that the extent of Arslan’s curiosities and the acuteness of his irony are revealed together, which spares neither his fellow men nor their private and public activities.

copyist monks

The “artures” on display deal with the origins and evolution of writing systems between Mesopotamia, Egypt, the Latin alphabet and Arabic characters; but also mental pathologies, their manifestations in behavior and their classification by psychiatry; and the accumulation of capital according to Karl Marx, whose reading in 1968-1969 helped convince Arslan that art and thought should remain inseparable. On one of the plates, devoted to very small knapped flints from the end of the Upper Palaeolithic, below reflections on the presence of such artefacts in very distant regions of the world, Arslan added an autobiographical note: It is still and always at home reading old and newly published books that encouraged me to work for a new arture. » It could be his motto.

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