Art

Lost Paintings: A Look at the Recent Taner Ceylan Exhibition

Either depicting a bowl of extra ripe fruits or a voluptuous female figure sitting on a chair while her maid is rubbing her curvy back, figurative paintings demand a certain sacrifice from their viewers. While they are sort of pretentious in terms of being the “primal form of the mainstream genre of painting”, they are also easy for the mind as they make the ‘interpretation’ process easier for their beholders. In today’s art dynamics however figurative painting is somewhere between ‘post-contemporary’ and ‘old skool’.

The recently opened exhibition of Turkish hyperrealist painter Taner Ceylan at Paul Kasmin Gallery offers viewers a post-Oriental journey among some voyeuristic yet fashion photography-esque paintings.

Taner Ceylan, Spring Time (The Lost Paintings Series), 2013, oil on canvas (Courtesy the artist and Paul Kasmin Gallery, New York)

Taner Ceylan, Spring Time (The Lost Paintings Series), 2013, oil on canvas (images courtesy the artist and Paul Kasmin Gallery, New York)

Known for being one of the most expensive living artists in his native Turkey, Taner Ceylan is a very remarkable name among the hyperrealist painters today. His paintings stand somewhere between the voyeuristic eye of Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres and the highly stylized photographs of Helmut Newton with a pinch of Robert Mapplethorpe’s homo-eroticism in the sub-text (or sometimes on the façade of his paintings, especially in his earlier works). In this exhibition of Ceylan’s recent Lost Paintings series, the stage that figurative painting has reached can vividly be seen: super-realist and yet, very stylized. Alongside his Israeli counterpart Yigal Ozeri, Ceylan is a bright example for new painters that bring painting and photography together. At the same, Ceylan links to the conceptual genre in terms of offering fresh critical arguments regarding the history of Oriental paintings and all that offers dating from the Ottoman era.

Taner Ceylan, Esma Sultan (The Lost Paintings Series), 2012, oil on canvas

Taner Ceylan, Esma Sultan (The Lost Paintings Series), 2012, oil on canvas

The idea behind Lost Paintings is to make a reference to Ottoman’esque paintings with the boldness and “sexualizedness” of contemporary art. Paintings in which two Ottoman generals stand out in some ‘controversial’ affair or one male figure prepares the other one for a Turkish bath experience bring a secret—or untold–history to the sexually liberal present.

Staring directly into our eyes, Ceylan’s figures of pretty girls and slightly or obviously sexualized boys in their late 20’s evoke the impression of alienation in the viewer in the same manner as fashion photographs on a contemporary magazine. These meticulously painted works, on the other hand, transfer some sort of nostalgia and reminiscence of the past to the viewer by carrying on the glorious days of figurative painting, the primal form of the mainstream genre of painting.

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