Yücel Kale

Merging ancient and contemporary vocabularies is his way of art making. Being a master sculptor, Yücel Kale is not interested in the readymades.He conceives of himself in the classical sensuality of the 'alchemist' sculptor.His work is about pure emotion and imagination, suggesting a poetics of sublime. Kale makes use of conceptual constructs—including the ancient and the sublime—creating luxurious icons and elaborate works; which, beneath their captivating exteriors, engage the viewer in a metaphysical dialogue with cultural history, while his fantastic creatures teleport the viewer to the world of dreams.


About the Artist

Yücel Kale mines the potential of organic materials—from colored stone, gemstones, copper, brass, lead, aluminum,  to leather, glass, wood, clay and horn—to create works that come to life by speaking to both the visual and the tactile. With obsessive attention to detail and handiwork, the artist endeavors to create a 'new' reality that provokes imagination. Being a master sculptor, he is not interested in the readymades.He conceives of himself in the classical sensuality of the 'alchemist' sculptor.His work is about pure emotion and suggests a poetics of sublime. 


Teetering on the cusp of ordinary perception, Yücel Kale’s sculptures present a world where the natural and supernatural go hand in hand. Drawing his fancy into play, the artist employs  age-old symbols and fanciful myth, irrational beliefs, traditional genres like portrait, and wonder at the natural world. His women and other supernatural creatures find echoes in the fairy painting of the Victorian era British painting, his artist sensibility creating an interest in otherworldliness.His richly detailed polychrome sculptures are also characterized by their engagement with art history, from Byzantine and Ottoman colored works to French surrealistic works. By interweaving these different elements, Yücel Kale opens up a wide field of associations, from the metaphor of the goddesses symbolizing the power of  women to  humorous biomorphic  animal forms. His anthropomorphic creatures engaging play and speculation create a phantasmagoria. They are defined by their size and of course, their idiosyncratic personalities; such as the surrealistic wooden deer with undulating lead-inlaid legs evoking the legs of the futurist Boccioni's works. With his playful approach to creating form, the artist merges the theatrical with the intricate.


One of the artist's reflective creations, Calypso, is a work in which narrative association is played out:a stylized, explicitly figurative portrait bust, it is carved out of glass; and features the frequent feminine motif in the artist's oeuvre. It does not depict a particular person at a specific moment, but rather synthesizes the idea of womanhood. Embodying the strong goddesses of Anatolian mythology, this delicate work carved in glass reflects the strength of women. His copper female head sculpture, Lyrical, consisting of thin curved planes, conjures references to Anatolian goddesses as well; but boasts a very contemporary aesthetic. The formidable wealth of the cultural heritage of Anatolia -among the richest in the world and going back as far as the sculptures of the Pre-Hittite period from the 7th millennium B.C. on display at the archeology museums of Istanbul-  was a strong influence during his formative years.


Both thematically and formally, his works are a fusion of the various strands of art making. Kale chisels masses of wood to create an anecdotal narrative of his love of nature.His long-held fascination with the arboreal is still prevalent in his work today, displayed in his current tree works. The animal and plant life represents  eternal knowledge.They embody  nature's wisdom and life-force.The artist's fantastical creations such as the technicolor-surfaced, leather covered Lucky in the form of a supernatural leopard gecko are wryly ambiguous in meaning. His wood- carved,  hand painted  'Art Bags' reflect also an ambiguous materiality.They evoke hand bags but are surreal portraits. Kale makes use of conceptual constructs—including the ancient and the sublime—creating luxurious icons and elaborate works, which, beneath their captivating exteriors, engage the viewer in a metaphysical dialogue with cultural history.


The artist works hard to revivify the discipline of sculpture he reveres. The sheer pleasure he takes from the physical and mental rhythm of carving is evidenced in the quality of his draftsmanship. He carves wood, stone, gemstones and the glass.Kale shares the older artists' commitment to manual skill, since he thinks the human hand is still infinitely more complex than any multi axis CNC machine; and his mastery of the craft allows him to be spontaneous. His hand-carved work has sleek forms and clean lines, subtle color and graceful curves. His Mother Earth, an elephant figure, is carved from the gemstone ruby-zoisite, a material associated with meditation.Kale's dexterity with such materials allows each object to possess a talismanic potency. Elegantly slender and attenuated, Talisman represents an enigmatic female partial figure, filled with paradox and wonder. The opalescent green tends to the sublime.The artist's sentimentality is reflected in this lyrical composition imbued with undeniable beauty.  Keeping his affinities with the modern temper, he enjoys playing with the human form; capturing the subtlest of movements and expressions to portray myriad emotions and convey tension, drama, fluidity and grace. No other subject has this richness of emotional and spiritual content or the capacity to convey such a broad and interesting narrative.

In his latest sculptures, Kale has stayed true to his painstakingly elaborate production process, but his adopting different materials such as fiberglass, aluminum and vibrant colors has brought in a more contemporary aesthetic following the stylistic freedom he allowed himself; yet remaining in the true spirit of the surrealist idea of the miraculous, exploring the world of subconscious experience. His fantastical  works  evoke  different things to different viewers according to their own emotional states—of intimate desires, longings, connections. He is interested in the transference that can occur between his works and the viewers; and merging ancient and contemporary vocabularies is Yücel Kale's  way of art making.



Yücel Kale is an Istanbul based established artist,  who began his artistic career two decades ago studying sculpture at Mimar Sinan Fine Arts  University, Istanbul (1993-2000).  In 1997 Kale had his first large-scale solo presentation with C.A.M Art Gallery, Istanbul. His work has been exhibited  solo or as part of group exhibitions internationally at fairs -Art New York 2017 , Aqua Art Miami 2017, SOFA Sculpture Objects Functional Art and Design, New York (2008), ST-ART Strasbourg Contemporary Art Fair, France (2009), Frankfurt Book Fair, Germany (2008), Asia Pacific Leather Fair Hong Kong(2014), Contemporary Istanbul (2006,2012, 2013)-; at museums, -Museum Der Arbeit in Hamburg, Germany(2009) and Santa Maria della Scala Museum, Siena Italy(2008); at Portside Gallery in Yokohama, and at Youkobo, Japan(2004). The artist had also many solo exhibitions nationally,  at many established galleries including Galeri Apel, C.A.M. Art Gallery, Galeri Selvin, Imoga Art Space and Siyah Beyaz Art Gallery. His works are held in private collections.


Selected Works

Mesmerized, 2019


Mother Earth,2019



Calypso, 2018

Lucky, 2017


Lucky, fiber glass and leather,2017

Lyrical,2018, hammered copper


Wisdom, hand carved


A Selection of Past Exhibitions

Yücel Kale at Other Venues

A selection from Artbags  exhibited at Galeri Selvin and Armaggan Gallery, now in private collection

Galeri Selvin's booth  at Art New York 2017, photo by Y.C. Cagatay 

 Sealed Past exhibited at Imoga Art Space, 2018 and Acar Blu, 2019

The Artbags of Yücel Kale are included at Galeri Selvin's exhibition at Art New York. May 3 -7, 2017. 

Odysseus exhibited at Acar Blu, agate

Dream Sculptures, featuring Yücel Kale at Acar Blu. 

This is a solo exhibition (May 9-12, 2019 ) which collides supernatural and mythological, a dreamy depiction of  creatures inhabiting the rich imagination of the artist.  

 Yücel Kale with his artwork Shadow at Imoga Art Space

Yücel Kale's List of Dreams solo exhibition   ( Dec.1 - 22,2018) at Imoga Art Space

From Another Place exhibited at List of Dreams Exhibition at Imoga Art Space, 2018, wood carving

Soul,Body, Intellect exhibited at the List of Dreams Exhibition at Imoga Art Space, 2018, Zile agate stone

List of Dreams Exhibition at Imoga Art Space, 2018

List of Dreams Exhibition at Imoga Art Space, wood carving

Within Dreams, at Imoga Art Space's List of Dreams exhibition, Aluminum