Artist Spotlight: Taner Ceylan

Ceylan's technical proficiency is so dazzling that you might miss the outspoken content of his work.

BY Christopher Harrity

May 10 2014 3:00 AM ET

To be Turkish, gay, and making paintings of explicit sex — both straight and gay — is political.

Rather than being inspired by other painters, artist Taner Ceylan takes some of his cues from modern photographers like Nan Goldin and Terry Richardson. Ceylan's hyper-photorealistic paintings are often so intense he can't look at his own work. He told Taylor Quist on Whitewallmag.com: "It takes four months to paint these paintings, and in time we become aligned in the atmosphere of what I’m painting, especially when it is a human, or a portrait. He is looking at you, or she is looking at you, and sometimes I have to cover the eyes. I can’t look for 24 hours into these eyes. It’s crazy."

Curator Dan Cameron, who has championed the painter, orients him in a tradition of sexually explicit art stemming from Robert Mapplethorpe to Jeff Koons. Cameron says, “One of Turkey's most prominent artists, Taner Ceylan makes hyperrealist paintings that bespeak absolute technical mastery and precision, but which are also freighted with an emotional and sexual dimension usually absent from the genre — qualities that have set him apart from the prevailing tendencies in contemporary Turkish art, and which at times have also brought him outright abuse in the press." Ceylan's paintings occupy a register somewhere between the mutely homoerotic (as in his portrait of a bloodied and perspiring boxer — possibly an allegory of the artist's own trials) and the overtly sexual (to enter his website “you must be at least 18 years of age”). Cameron points out that the implicit argument of Celyan's work is “a romantic arguing for the wholesomeness of gay male sexuality.” (Excerpted from We Don't Know Who We Are in Taner Ceylan: 1997-2009. Damiani, Italy, 2011)

Go to TanerCeylan.com to see more, and remember you have to be over 18 to view much of his work.


1923 (From Lost Painting Series), 2010, oil on canvas, 180 x 170 cm

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