Turkish artist residing in the United States, Yucel Donmez presents a new exhibition "Millennium Stamp 2" at Tatbiki Art Gallery in Istanbul. We have done some research on the artist, who also stages exhibitions in and has a studio in Turkey, in order to for you to become better acquainted with him.
Painting is an area about which Donmez becomes passionate very early on in his life. “I remember the first day of school, when I was eight years old,” he muses. “I even remember my desk, at the front of the classroom. The first thing I did was copy a picture of a horse on it. Our neighbors had children, older than I. They used to make comic books, and I would like observing them. Then one of them became art teacher. I was determined from secondary school onwards that I was going to attend Applied Fine Arts. My family were against me going; they would tell me, 'you are going to become a doctor'." (Yucel Donmez has been a Premiere Portfolio Artist at absolutearts.com since early 2008.)
"When my father understood that I did not want to study to be a doctor, he sent me to a two-year vocational school, so that I could begin to work as soon as possible. After my entrance, that went up to three years, meaning I would be eligible, upon graduation, to go to the State Academy of Applied Fine Arts. After I graduated from high school, I obtained the first place in the ceramics department of the academy. My father never knew what I was studying. The only thing I did was send him a telegraph at the end of the first year, telling him I had passed. He died the following day.”
Thus, Dönmez is never able to tell his father that he is studying at Applied Fine Arts. At the academy, Dönmez is not a very calm student. He prefers to do what he wants rather than follow what he is taught, a reason for frequent arguments with his lecturers. He sees the world differently to them, and realizing this, his lecturer allows him from his second year, to work how he wants to work. In his final year, seven of his works are chosen for an exhibition to be opened at the State Painting and Sculpture Gallery.
He is always good at writing. With the Academy begins his journalistic lifestyle. He pays his tuition with the money he earns from journalism. Dönmez says about this part of his life, “Once you get involved in the press, you are in forever. Neither you nor the press can let go. I had an art discussion column for 15 years in a newspaper on economy, where I would write about art. One of my best readers was Yahşi Baraz.”
Next in view is mountaineering. Yücel Dönmez can give up neither mountaineering nor art. So he takes his art to the mountains, where he starts creating nature installations.
“As I went hiking and skiing in the mountains, I would constantly study them. There was a village in one of the places I went to, and a great valley. Water had flowed rabidly for hundreds of years, kneading and chiseling out the rocks creating strange forms. With the help of the villagers, I pulled out and dragged the rocks. I arranged eleven statues in harmony. The villagers asked me what they were, and I answered that it was an arrangement of nature, Nature Installation. At the time Milliyet Art had written about what I had done. In the winter, I created multi-colored ‘snow-paintings’ in Uludağ, with ochre paints.”
In 1975 Yücel Dönmez opens a personal exhibition in Chicago Art Fair, returning to Turkey to do his military service after spending seven months making ceramic sculptures in the United States. He returns to the U.S. once more in 1980, this time to settle there. He sets up a ceramics studio in order to be able to support himself. He takes private commissions. “I set up the ceramics studio in order to be able to support myself,” he says. “You cannot expect to be able to just arrive in the States and say, “Hey, I am here, I want to stage an exhibition and sell my paintings”. You have to really work hard at it.”
There is another artist, Kuzgun Acar, who is behind Dönmez, encouraging him to go to the U.S. to pursue his art. He insists on Dönmez moving abroad especially after seeing his nature installations. Dönmez looks back on his departure with a little anger: “When I was leaving Turkey, I said that a new Picasso was going to come out of Turkey –only I had said this because I was angry. Throughout my life however, this is what I aimed for. I invented the technique that I use 19 years ago. Today, my name appears alongside Ipek Aksüğür Duben, Burhan Doğançay and Ahmet Gürsoy in four encyclopedias published in the States.”
Yücel Dönmez’ works are inspired by traditional Turkish art. The art of Ebru (Turkish marbling), could be seen as especially prominent in his paintings. The artist himself evaluates it a little differently; “Inspired by ebru, I have developed this technique, which is reminiscent of ebru. I do not see it as objectionable to have such inspiration. On the contrary, I was born in Turkey. Many people say, “This man has entered encyclopedias in the States, what is he doing back here?”. But I am Turkish, and I cannot forget my origins. The encyclopedias say it too, in fact, that I am of Turkish origin. They describe me as an American artist of Turkish origin.”
In 1987, Yücel Dönmez is invited to exhibit his work at the Sultan Süleyman exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago. He is guest artist at the museum.
As for his more current exploits, Dönmez is still aiming high; “For the past ten years, I have been trying to cover great distance with my technique. I sometimes come to my studio in Istanbul and work for a month or a month and a half. Either I will get where I want, or I will give up altogether. I need to get further, that’s all there is to it.”
View more of Yücel Dönmez’ wor in his POrtfolio at absolutearts.com http://www.absolutearts.com/portfolios/y/yuceldonmez