Onur Hastürk Assimilation

02/04/2020 - 13/05/2021

Anna Laudel - Düsseldorf

Anna Laudel Düsseldorf showcases “Assimilation” by Turkish artist Onur Hastürk, who is recognised by his combined style of Islamic painting and design with contemporary art. “Assimilation” is Hastürk’s
debut exhibition in Germany and marks the largest display of the artist’s works to date and will be on display in Anna Laudel Düsseldorf.

The term “assimilation” holds both the harmony between dissimilar peoples and the threat of cultural destruction at the hands of hegemonic powers. The exhibition fits well with its name, by focusing on defining disorders of the twenty-first century, from refugee crises to the dislocating effects of transnational labor markets.

Transcending the borders of East and West, past and present, Hastürk withstands that traditional Islamic practices cannot effectively serve the demands of art in the digital age. Promoting Islamic art’s union of art
and craft, Hastürk holds an expansive view of how these arts can be applied and manipulated. Artist’s work is thus situated within a series of oppositional dualities: the traditional and the modern; the eternal
and every day; the normative and the disordered.

Within the exhibition, Hastürk presents 3 compelling series: Respect to Matisse, Respect to Warhol, and Classical Miniature.

Respect to Matisse

Hastürk’s Respect to Matisse series, is a contradiction produced between the modern and the traditional. Matisse’s paintings include the naturalism and tactility of the European painting tradition, rhythmic patterns of Islamic carpets and the shallow compositional areas of Islamic miniature painting. The chapel vestments of a priest designed by Matisse can be seen as a counterpart to the series of talisman caftans that Hastürk made. Also in the series, the limiting and abstract figures of Matisse's painting "La Danse" (1910) reappear by Hastürk with connotations between the curved ornaments of Islamic ceramics.

Respect to Warhol

Like Matisse’s paintings, Warhol’s canvases and ready-made sculptures reflect Hastürk’s practice. Hastürk engages with a different dimension of Warhol’s oeuvre in the series Respect to Warhol and explores the impact of the artist's figures and, it’s attraction to gold with Islamic art practices. In 1957, Warhol published A Gold Book, a bound volume of 19 offset lithograph prints depicting flowers, high-fashion shoes, and magazine models, most of which were printed on gold paper. A major part of the images depicts male figures, all boyish, effeminate, delicate, smooth and hairless, with slim waists, chesty, and muscular limbs.

In his gold book, Hastürk develops the figural silhouettes of his Matisse series into shimmering bodies falling or leaping through the blank space of the paper. Yet recalling Warhol, Hastürk harnesses the space
of the gold book as a site of erotic play. In one of his works, Hastürk transforms the female anatomy of Matisse’s nudes into a plump-limped male, whose elongated fez and matching red slippers endow him with a distinctly Ottoman character, one that recalls the celebrated gender-bending male dancers (köçek) of Ottoman taverns.

In his Starbucks series, exhibited also at London’s Saatchi Gallery in 2017, Hastürk applies his mastery of the Ottoman miniature to a new kind of paper surface: the ubiquitous Starbucks coffee cup. Without fully
erasing the cup’s hallmark logos, the artist incorporates the coffee giant’s branding into various scenes culled from the work of famous Islamic painters, including Abdülcelil Levnî (d. 1732), one of last great miniaturists at the Ottoman court. The twist in Hastürk’s series is that he takes an art form once reserved for a small elite audience and seamlessly transposes it onto one of the cheapest, most widespread paper
commodities around.

Hastürk thereby imagines an Ottoman art in the age of mass consumption. His work transfers the elitist cultural productions of the Ottoman court into modern life and enriches the “every day” to the status of
courtly patronage.

Classical Miniature

In the Classical Miniatures series, Hastürk presents the miniature’s potential for both dynamic aesthetic experimentations and the representation of modern subjectivity. He shows the extraordinary properties of
Islamic miniatures, which modernists, such as Henri Matisse, admired.

Hastürk's playful attitude towards the parameters of Islamic miniature painting extends to his work in other traditional media. In his ceramics, the male silhouette with fez, which appears in Hastürk's Warhol series, makes the leap from the gold-plated side to the pottery plate. This dynamic minimalism extends to his “Red Fezzed Figures”. Here, the familiar fezzed silhouettes appear on paper, drawn in a single gold line
with only slippers, fez, and faces rendered in colored paint. Their delicate, generic expressions recall the highly codified repertoire of facial models found in Islamic miniatures.

The desire to experiment the visual and material properties of gold continues to be an important feature of Hastürk's work. Other traditional techniques such as marbling (ebru) and gilding (tezhib) used by the artist make as much meaning for him as painting.

*Content of the press release is taken from the essays by Thadeus Jay Dare Dowad written about Onur
Hastürk.

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