Ethnic, Ethic and Aesthetic Crossways in the work of Nil Yalter



Nil Yalter. 

In: Contemporary Artists, 5th Edition, Dec. 2001, St. James Press, 2nd volume, p. 1857 - 1860 




New technologies – a platform for a multicultural guerilla – lonesome autonomy. I am an outsider to the art world. Using media from within, working on cultural topographies. Working on aging artist´s body within a culturally corrupted society. The artist´s body is a vector for social issues: digitalized, virtual forms, words, hypertext. Lonesome interactivity. I am a woman shaman on the razor´s edge. The surface of my skin is where I write my message. Like a snake, I leave the trails of my skin on my passage. 

Nil Yalter



Nil Yalter´s work witnesses a history of wanderings and displacements between different countries, continents and cultures, specially the oriental and the occidental world. Voyages, as well between different technical and aesthetic supports, became the main impetus for the artist´s personal and the artistic research. 

 Born in Egypt as a child of a Turkish family, she grew up in Istanbul where she studied the Fine Arts as an autodidact, and has been living in Paris since 1965. During her studies in Istanbul she especially felt attracted by the occidental ideals of modern and abstract art (impressionism, constructivism, suprematism, Bauhaus). Searching for a place where the young artist would be able to contribute to the occidental project of modernity, she went to Paris. Besides painting and drawing, she not only began to work with the new modern medias as photography, video and computer art, but she paradoxically also started to be interested in the roots of her own oriental culture, the Byzantine and the Islamic art, and in the archaic forms and structure of memory. 

Yalter´sartistical voyages between Orient and Occident witnesses different and unexpected crossways between iconoclastic and iconolatric attitudes, between rituals and performance art and last not least between the computer generated imageworld and the myths and documents of an ichnographical or a literary past. She travels though the most traditional as well as the most modern and contemporary medias and forms of expression. 

 In order to express her complex artistic and ethical ambitions in-between modernity and tradition, she combines elements of constructivism, suprematism and the Bauhaus with elements of islamic and byzantine art. In these unexpected coincidences (“recontres”) emerge surprising relationships between constructivism and ancient calligraphy from islamic art, between abstract art and byzantine mosaïque compositions, suprematism and oriental mirror effects. She discovers those relationships through multiple and variated translation processes from painting into video into computer images and back to drawing and painting. She transposes the experiences of painting into the modern media-world and vice versa. With the instruments of new technology she reviews the formal language of the Avant-garde art of the bginning of the 20th century by fragmentation, translation and displacement processes. In this way she discovers similar formal structures and affinities between occidental and oriental, traditional and contemporary art forms; for instance, between constructivism, suprematism and picture elements of the computer (Pixels) with which she composes the computer generated images. So the white square of Malevic can be understood as the direct forerunner of the smallest unit of the computer generated image. The pedagogical graphic “screens” drawn by Malevic can be interpreted as anticipated forms of numerisation. Yalter´s aesthetic-analytical proceeding reveals that technological inventions are due to anticipatory artistical phantasy, on the one hand, that artistical phantasy develops through technical inventions, on the other hand. 

 She synthesizes, approaches, combines not only different artistic styles and epochs, but as well opposite artistical doctrines such as abstract art and l´artpourl´art, and a sociological and ethnocritical oriented realism. Within her critical and enlightening aesthetic practice, the artist renders homages to the Turkish immigrant and workers in the european exile, to the fishermen in La Rochelle, to Turkish nomad women etc. She passes through numerous poetical (NazimHikmet, Chateaubriand), philosophical (Marquis de Sade) and artistical references (Popowa, Stepanova) in order to review them in a new personal and actual context and to push them to new meanings. She treats and displaces her once chosen material, references and quotation, combines them either with personal documents, as photos from a family album, or with earlier works of the artist. 

 In this puzzle of infinitely combined elements she creates a complex artistical field in which we can outline that artist´s proposal: she searches for an infinite and multiple space with multiple dimensions, strata of time in-between the past, the present and the future, in-between the I and the Other, in-between reality, fiction and imagination, memory, loss, and new constructions; she advances in a fields where aesthetical, ideological and religious frontiers are going to be dissolved, and opens an ever transforming field in which, instead of eliminating the Other, opposite fields can coexist, co-emerge, dialog and change. In these in-between fields the creative principle of a matrixial feminine subverts, displaces and modifies the order of a Phallic world in which the symbolic is outlined and defined through limitation and opposition. 

 Nil Yalters “Yourte” inspired by the tents of nomadic women in Turkey (Nil Yalter presented it in 1973 in the Museum of Modern Art of Paris) reveals something of the artist´s nomadic program: Yalter (re)creates a metaphorical and a feminine space symbolizing the artist´s method and proceeding of wandering and displacement between the archaic and the contemporary world. The “Yourte” signifies the creative space of a womb and of a house at the same time. It can be carried and constructed anywhere, it is a home that can be rebuilt anytime. Her entire artistic work searches for such a symbolic space in-between and outside of different cultures, in-between and outside of tradition and modernity. The artist´s place is a kind of voluntary and permanent exile in-between the opposite aesthetic, ethic and ethnic positions and systems. 

 Proceeding in a matrixial way and givingthe artwork a matrixial structure, Nil Yalter does not only contribute to the discussion of multi-cultural and sexual differences, but proposes an aesthetic fields in which feminine elements as a creative force and energy are established.