Nazim Ünal Yilmaz: Brushman

June 23 - July 23, 2023

30 Orchard St, Gallery 1

Harkawik is pleased to announce Brushman, the debut New York solo exhibition of Trabzon-born, Vienna-based painter Nazim Ünal Yilmaz. Brushman is an episodic circuit; a series of modest-scale canvases installed in a ring around the gallery, in which lifelong fixations of the artist recur, recede, transform and dominate pictures that might otherwise be described as pleasurable, light. Central to Yilmaz's investigations is the notion of the artist as an unwilling bride; the meeting and undoing of the political ideologies of nations; sublimation, or the transformation of libidinal energy into socially acceptable activities; phallocentrism and the hubris of men; life's cycles, time-markers, moments of schadenfreude and sisyphean activities; the many stories that we tell ourselves, chiefly those codified in cartoons, symbols and slogans. Yilmaz is a wry humorist and a careful student and teacher of art history. His relationship to the canon might be summed up in the oft-quoted remark by Giles Deleuze that his strategy is "a kind of ass-fuck, an immaculate conception [in which I am] approaching an author from behind and giving him a child that would indeed be his but would nonetheless be monstrous." Yilmaz offers the monstrous child of Picabia, of Picasso, of Matisse. He is the exhibition's "Brushman," a tortured antihero who consumes and deflates modernist fallacies in equal measure. In Baby Me, his body shrunk to the scale of his brush, the painter adorns himself with a hero's mask, which trails off casually in a swoosh of paint. Turtel Kickers is a take on Osman Hamdi Bey's 1906 painting "The Tortoise Trainer;" here, soldiers kick the gentle creatures indifferently. In First Couple and You So Strong, Tom?, American cartoon characters are stuck in what might be a Jean Nouvel building or a Supermax prison, their expressions frozen in blissful diffidence. Some of the exhibition's most poignant works are it simplest, most direct; in Old Furniture, a figure sits in a yogic pose, nude except for socks and loafers, sandwiched between two antique armchairs that are forcing his shoes into his eyes. Yilmaz's exhibition is a testament to the exquisite pleasures of painting, the horrors of jingoism, and the tormented but vital existence of the artist.




Nazim Ünal Yilmaz’s paintings are portraits of a colonial race. Those exhausted from the standing start know exactly who they are and exactly where they’re going. The rules of the race are not permanent. No competing force, so ridiculous as to kick a turtle, could outlast one who remembers to slow and consider song, to humble oneself on their knees to look down upon their reflection in a pool. The leaders degrade the practice of self reflection to meet the mirror upright where they’ve mounted their regal likeness, where they spread their flesh and crane their necks to look inward. So the Brushman escapes from reality. His face turns confident as he avoids the fight, the catastrophe of burning branches that not even the horses can outrun. He tries, but he is not big enough, as has been decided by the court. He is a bearded baby that can see through the guide’s fingered blindfold down to the signing of a contract. He paints the red nose of a liar beneath tired eyes that know the truth.

Yilmaz uses the symbol of the clock, the arrow, in futuristic renderings of the impossible upward speed thrust upon the East by Western colonial forces. The artist’s wooden mannequin hurdles towards Modernism just in time to catch up to the border. Its limbs are shredded from its figure in the process, leaving an incomplete model in the classroom. The second hand tears through the canvas. You’re late. You’re the villain. The tomcat can never catch the mouse, and good thing, that loser. His nature is the barrier between him and pleasure under the law, and in this courtroom, you’ll never be XXL. The tension will grow, but there is no release under the reign of repression.

There is solace in a smoke by the full moon, the observation of a horse, blue in lunar glow. We can laugh at the absurdity of military trained dolphins, of surveillance whales. Still, the Greco Roman temple replaces the endemic flora while the workers disappear into the landscape, and each stone laid is a reification. And as long as the snowman, rich and fat, can not see himself, he will climb the mountain of his manhood pointing at the tomcat, the human that can’t keep up with the horse, the big other villain, until he is forced to kneel, melting into the pool of his likeness.

—Toniann Fernandez