Artist Spotlight: Taner Ceylan

By Christopher Harrity

Originally published on Advocate.com May 10 2014 4:00 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


FakeWorld, 2011, oil on canvas, 160 x 130 cm


Transporter (Self-Portrait), 2008, oil on canvas, 140 cm x 200 cm


Serhan, 2004, oil on canvas, 32 cm x 50 cm


1640, 2010, oil on canvas, 215 x 140 cm


Together, 2007, oil on canvas, 115 cm x 180 cm


Me Swimming in Cirali, 2004, oil on canvas, 32 cm x 50 cm


Karanfil Hasan, 2006, oil on canvas, 80 cm x 120 cm


Marvin, 2000, oil on canvas, 23.5 cm x 32.5 cm


Old World, 2007, oil on canvas, 140 cm x 200 cm


Spiritual, oil on canvas, 140cm x 200cm


Through the Eyes of Yılmaz, 2004, oil on canvas, 32 cm x 50 cm


Cyparissus, 2012, 101 x 121 cm, graphite and_charcoal on paper


Persephone, 2012, 101 x 121cm, graphite and charcoal on paper


Divine Ego (Golden Age Series), charcoal and 24 carat gold on paper, diptych: 101 cm x 121 cm / each (detail at bottom of page)

Ceylan will be participating in Frieze New York, May 9 - 12, at Paul Kasmin Gallery, Stand C15. Also, on May 9, at 1:30 pm there will be artist-curator talk at the Paul Kasmin Gallery stand with Dan Cameron (Chief Curator, Orange County Museum of Art).

In his new series Golden Age, the artist examines spiritual and immaterial depths. While first two drawings from the series, Persephone and Cyparissus, expose the concepts of duality and rebirth in Greek mythology.

Divine Ego presents a contemporary reinterpretation of Hieronymus Bosch's The Garden of Earthly Delights. Ceylan's background directly references Bosch's triptych, while the foreground is dominated by an angelic figure. Upon the exterior panels of Bosch's painting, the artist inscribed Psalm 33 in Latin, which translates to "for he spake and it was done; he commanded and it stood fast." Ceylan reworks this text, ornamenting his diptych in 24 carat gold with the words "for he spake and it was done; he commanded and it went insaine." Ceylan offers a stark contemporary contrast to Bosch by purposefully misspelling insane, using contemporary slang. Ceylan's usage of gold additionally evokes both divinity and the work of Bosch and his pre-Renassiance contemporaries.