Serpent as a mentor: Baysan Yüksel

You may have come across super talented artist Baysan Yüksel’s work in the pages of Bant Magazine before. She opened her new solo exhibition Serpent at ArtNext İstanbul on 5th of May, and here she is telling us about her creative process, techniques and her evolution.

Interview by Ege Yorulmaz

Let’s get to know you first. Who is Baysan Yüksel? What does she draw usually? And why does she draw?
An artist and a species of human being. She draws to make sense of things, to realize and to transfer these.

As far as we know your second solo exhibition Serpent focuses on a completely different theme than of your first solo exhibition Vahşi Batı. How do you choose your themes? Or do the themes choose you?
Vahşi Batı was about searching for the limits and Serpent is about getting beyond those limits. I always carry a notebook with me and in time I realize what I have been drawing intensifies around certain themes. So it’s both me who chooses the theme, and the theme that chooses me. It’s a bit like the chicken and the egg story.

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The dominant language in your work is childish, simple, textured and dark. It is very distinctive in that sense. How has your technique developed over time?
The factor underlying the wish to be able to tell something has always been about existential crisis for me. These are rather complicated and dense matters and they are shaped by the wish to find answers to even rhetoric questions. Existence itself is a dark matter. It feels like it has a meaning, and it also feels like it does not. This alone makes life as a whole to a highly contradictory state. I think trying to express this complexity and density with an even more complicated language would make the darkness even darker. So it’s very important to me to express the complex with simple lines and to reduce it. I have been drawing and painting for a long time so my technique has developed naturally within years. Sincereness is very important to me, so I wanted my style to be sincere and I always went with the flow while creating. I’ve been creating and producing since as long as I’ve known myself. It has been very important to me to tell a story. I tried various methods, and this has been the simplest yet deepest way to tell it, and it all created itself naturally.

Snake is a rather strong metaphor. Have you thought of other symbols that could transfer the same values? How did you end up with snake?
Snake has many meanings and so for me it meets the contradictions within life. The meaning of snake changes from positive to negative interculturally and cyclically. It is even bipolar within a single culture. I didn’t come across another symbol that is contradictory and stratified. I also use the eye as a symbol a lot but it is not as extensive. This is what I see from where I sit, of the past, today and the future. This is how the contradiction and the snake as a symbol came in.

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Have you done much research about snake culturally? What was surprising to you to find out?
It was a quite intense research, and it still continues. I’m writing a thesis about the subject. Snake has a lot of meanings but what surprises me most is that the symbol is still alive and it does show up currently. During the thesis meeting my teacher told me they did a painting session with the kids after the big earthquake in 1999, and all the children drew snakes. I was in İzmit during the earthquake, and I acted in a completely coldblooded manner during the whole time. There’s no sense of time in the subconscious. It’s surely possible there’s e a connection between this symbol coming to surface today and the earthquake experience.

I guess your series, especially Serpent is like a personal journey for you. How do you evolve with your work? Do they help you to make better sense of things?
Creative process does create a catharsis but this is for only a short period of time. It also deepens the sense of things and stratifies meanings. Serpent is a long personal journey for me and it still goes on. While creating, besides myself, I feel everything transfers through the brush, pencil, or orher materials and touches the surface. You can think of it as a giant soul, as if the personal evolves with the whole.

What will you be working on these days? What kind of work should we expect from you after Serpent?
I will keep working with the snake symbols. As I mentioned before, it’s a deep and layered area and this single exhibition does not feel enough. Besides paintings, I’m thinking of three dimensional works and installations. I will be working on those.

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