The Man who Draws Photographs, Mustafa Yüce

Mustafa Yüce is an artist who in recent years has made his name known in Turkey and abroad with his photorealist work. We talked to Mustafa Yüce about his art that looks more real than the real, almost alive, like it breathes. The artist, who is an art teacher in daily life, gave humbleand sincere answers to our questions.

Mustafa Yüce was in Ankara in December as part of an exhibition organized by TÜSGAD (All Art Galleries Association). We went to the exhibition to meet Yüce, where his portraits receihved the most attention out of the 500 works by over 100 artists. People closely inspected his work for minutes. Many academics told Yüce that they thought his wok was photographs at first glance. But this isn’t a new situationn for Yüce. At the ‘Art Revolution Tapei 2015’ exhibition in Taiwan with the participation of 250 artists from 72 countries visited by 21,961 people over three days, Yüce’s photorealist portrait of an old man was bought by a high level collector for $27,500, making it the most expensive piece in the exhibition. In this issue, we get to know our valued Turkish artist closer and take a look at his work as well as the process in which is portraits are created.

First, could you tell us a little about yourself? Who is Mustafa Yüce?

I was born in Kütahya Simav in 1978. During elemen tary school, I made hundreds of types of car statues from clay that I collected from the stream as well as working on portraits on manifold paper. However, during high school, I was only able to carry out certain fictional work only in order to satisfy, as my school did not have art classes. In 2001, I completed the Uludağ University Fine Arts Education Depart ment of Painting. I’ve been an art teacher with the Ministry of Education for around 14 years.


How did you art life begin?                   

I am fairly new. After completing university, I did not paint for around 10 years because when I began teach ing in 2001, my identity as an educator came before everything else. During this time, I dedicated myself to solving the psychology of children. By painting to gether with them, I learned about the details of draw ing with my students, how they enjoy themselves when painting surfaces. I witnessed that real works of art are the reflections of the naive feelings of children. I could say that in 2009, the destructions and wars in the world caused me to be active again.


Could you tell us a little about your work?

In 2010-2011, I worked on fantastic allegorical oil paint ings with the main theme of the Middle East. From 2011 onwards, in order to bring my feelings to reality like the pain being experienced, I brought together my soft pastel experiences from university and decided to carry out large-size portrait series with the concept of ‘old people and children’.

My main purpose with making portraits of seniors is that just like the pain we experience leaves a mark on our hearts and minds, it leaves a mark on our faces, settles in as a line, and that each line on the face is the story of a life lived… For children… There’s something that I say: I always seperate children from people, I think that they are not humans but rather angels, be­cause they are innocent and blameless. I am about to complete this series, and if fate allows, I have a project for exhibitions in 16 provinces.


In addition to your identity as an artist, you are also a teacher. Do you have any advice for young people who want to enter the world of art?

Yes, I am a teacher at a fine arts high school. Young people today unfortunately are not motivated to work. They grow up in the popular culture brought on by technology, this affects them negatively. So there are many toys and distractions for them. You need to work hard, success is parallel to hard work. As Michel­angelo said: If people knew how hard I had to work to gain my mastery, it would not seem so wonderful at all…


The importance of art in his life: “It is like bread, like water. Without it, I feel like I am left to die… Art is like a vital necessity to me.”

His style: “Technically I use pastel and oil paints. My genre is photorealism, and my subjects are generally portraits and tragic social problems. Actually, I do what every sensitive person does. The only difference is that I shout in my canvases. I give the emotion in my portraits and pick my models according to that.”

The key points of photorealist portraits: “You need to go into much detail and when bringing this together with lighting and shadow effects, the texture on the face becomes more noticable. The audience, which sees more details than a high quality photograph, is struck.”

How long it takes to complete a portrait:“Generally I get to work at night. I complete a portrait in a month and a half, working around four hours a day.”

The difference between Turkish and foreign audiences: “Anyone can be impressed with hyperrealist works and become fans. However, foreign art lovers value it more.”

2016 plans: “This year I am thinking about secluding myself and completing the other stages of the project that I began. This year we once again have projects in China and Taiwan.”