1960 born in Turkey

1980-1984 Marmara University,A.E.F Painting,Istanbul/Turkey

Lives and works in Berlin

A Refreshingly Sober Pictorial Language

Timur Celik is a Berliner to the hilt. He was born in Turkey in 1960 but has lived in Berlin

since 1993. It was his love for a German woman that sent him far afield. Celik left his

“mother country” (anavatan) to follow his heart. But the cultural imprinting he had

experienced continued. Sometimes he says: “I am both – a Berliner and Turkish”. Then the

actual question is left hanging in the air: the question of home. Celik has learnt to feel at home

in a foreign country. But he has also found a second home – in painting. He investigates both

those homes with brushes and paint – his origins, connections between biography and

geography, and the feeling associated with having arrived.

His painting revolves around identity and the city. Celik gauges the urban climate as it may be

experienced in the Berlin districts of Kreuzberg and Neukölln; he portrays city dwellers and

friends – with no sweeping gestures, without pathos. He is concerned with factuality. And so

painterly means show even completely normal, easily overlooked everyday things, e.g. an

escalator in the underground system, a light bulb or a bunch of keys and “refine [them] out of

existence” (to use a fitting phrase by James Joyce, which he attributed to one of his bestknown

creations, Stephen Dedalus, in “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man”).

There is something about Celik’s paintings that is reduced in emotion, though avoiding

everything that might appear affected about painting presented without emotion. As a

consequence, I interpret the expressive element noticeable in his colours and gestural

brushwork as a sign of distancing. In his paintings Timur Celik attempts to create closeness to

whatever is portrayed as well as simultaneously seeking distance – to his ego, his roots, his

city, his friends and acquaintances – in order to understand them all better.

With this kind of artistic approach, of course, Celik also undermines attributions of identity.

He is well-known in his Berlin neighbourhood, in the local “Kiez”. But the conventions of his

urban quarter do not concern him at all – least of all Turkish role models.

His friends include fellow artists, actors and students. It is to them that he has dedicated his

portraits, set down on canvas in the style of an urban-informed European realism, fully aware

of its links to various art-historical traditions.

One can see from the paintings themselves: they unite an inner necessity and existential

urgency. Timur Celik senses the power of paint as dynamic energy. These are paintings

spoiling for a fight, demonstrating a robust ego.

It is certainly not his thing to get lost in discursive contemplation of the world. He creates his

night-time street scenes and faces using a quiet style and a refreshingly sober language, which

reflects his honesty and openness. Celik’s pictures have potential, as if they were directly

connected to the current of life. In the faces of those portrayed there is an unmistakeable pulse

– this constitutes the difference from the dry pictorial language of so many paintings that seek

to be contemporary but succeed only in being lifeless illustrations of discourse. There are

paintings used to cover over the cracks in reality, and there are paintings that drill holes into


Why is Timur Celik’s way of looking at his environment so fascinating? Because face to face

with these paintings you forget the effort of looking at painting when the painter has imagined

everything. Because these pictures actually recount life – with clarity, but also with

melancholy. Because they are not an artistic effort but a necessity. Because they are not mind

games. This is obvious from Celik’s formal language – and painting is always about form.

There are pictures that are painted; and there are pictures that simply have to be painted.

Celik’s ego is always a means of fathoming the world – and what else, since that is all we have.

Christoph Tannert

(October 2012)

A thought of sight

By Özgür Uçkan

Timur Çelik is known for his big-sized, hyper-realistic portraits. Faces in his portraits acquire, while coming closer to us with a hyper-perception of their

realness, further profoundness like a deep abyss that gulps us down with a kaleidoscopic play of rust, asphalt and every other urban color.

These faces act much like a doorstep: while venturing forward through that doorstep into the inmost parts of someone, some anonymous one, the faces look outward from their own inside and talk to you...

Timur Çelik’s paintings are, indeed, a threshold; that is, the threshold of reality which resonates both below and above the threshold of perception and thus falls within the reach of our sight.

“The spirit’s perception”...

Big size does not necessarily refer to the size of the works; in any case, dimensions on canvas do grow larger: Because everything is given in closeup, and this, in turn, brings closer the reach of the sight, slows down and deepens it, and furnishes perception with a greater power of penetration.

These paintings should be better called “hyper-perception-thresholds” rather than “hyper-real”. Because the profoundness of reality can be only captured with a depth-enquiring perception. The perceived, the very reality of spirit... A capability of our sight, that is, the power of the eye to intuit, sense and contemplate, has been getting increasingly lost for quite some time...

Maurice Merleau-Ponty says “everything I see is in principle within my reach, at least within reach of my sight, and is marked upon the map of the 'I can.'” and adds, "Painting awakens and carries to its highest pitch a delirium which is vision itself, for to see is to have at a distance; painting extends this strange possession to all aspects of Being" (Maurice Merleau-Ponty, "Eye and Mind" in The Merleau-Ponty Reader ed. by Ted Toadvine and Leonard Lawlor, Northwestern University Press, 2007, 354, 357). With each day, however, the relationship between sight and reachability which Merleau-Ponty emphasizes, that is, the possession of Being on the map of the visible, the richness of possibilities to penetrate and conquer, is dying.

We are living in a fast world. Indeed, it would be quite appropriate to call this world a “speed-world” where everything is in perpetual acceleration. This is a world which transforms our perception of space and time under the dominance of a science and technology and is wittingly called the “logic of speed” (dromology) by Paul Virilio. The world of flow, movement and speed...

"It was believed that freedom of movement led to infinite freedom. I have shown it's not true: there's a dictatorship of movement beyond a certain limit.
We pass from freedom of movement to tyranny of movement" (Paul Virilio &
Sylvère Lotringer, Pure War, Semiotext(e), 1997, 74). In such a world, it is getting increasingly difficult for the sight to “stand still” within its own space and time and be able to move within “duration”, that is, to slow down within its own freedom of movement and thus penetrate further beyond the surface reaching deep down inside and capture the being in its utmost variety, without surrendering to the motion (speed) of movement.
space-time that is peculiar to painting is one of rare opportunities where the map of possibilities still has a chance to survive In Timur Çelik’s both portraits that dwell, not simply on the faces or at the surface, but beyond the threshold of the face, and suburban landscapes that reflect an uncanny mist of humanless solitude, there always exists a spirit which opens up itself and readily invites the onlooker to a lively perception.

Your sight sniffs the air at this very threshold and then moves forward and deeper inside. In the rust of faces whose possible would-be expressions are erased when caught in a wider shade of time, in the mist of lonely streets, or in the depression of an old discarded police horse, or yet in the suspended moment of space that is reflected from the mirror of a light bulb, there lingers a spirit that cannot be captured unless the threshold of these paintings is carefully climbed over to get to the other side.

This spirit can be only conquered with a sight that would penetrate “all aspects of Being”, and Timur Çelik’s paintings agitates your sight to possess that spirit.

Sight is thought. By our body we are forced into thinking within the movement of our sight and this is the reason why images in general accompany thought. The thought of sight is one which is not “rationalist” and cartesian, that is, it does not dominate emotions, intuition and perception, but rather “labors” alongside them. Painting facilitates a thought of sight that can capture the deep essence behind the surface by relying on light, color, texture, paint layers and, not at least, the movement of the painting body. Indeed, a painting does not “picture” anything, nor does it represent anything, either.
A painting
just creates something that would not be there otherwise.

Faces, streets, and living or nonliving things alike that are caught in the spirit times of Timur Çelik’s paintings are beings that open up their reality to sight, that is to feelings, intuition and perception only while you are looking at them.

It is not for nothing that they are embedded in a Berlin atmosphere. Karl Krauss called Vienna of the last century a “city of decadence”. Berlin, on the other hand, is rather a “city of post-decadence” in this century. A utopia, or rather, a dystopia, a “no-mans-land” that registers, with its walls or lack of walls, the boundaries of this century upon the collective memory of humankind...

Art has always been one of the most basic means of knowing. But it is a reality of spirits that we access while looking at these paintings. In pain, scared, hopeless, smart, ironic, evil, mischievous, agile, weary, misty, variable, profound, crowded, close-up, distant, but alive, real souls...

There, they await you “on your sight’s map of the 'I can'”...