Ayhan Keser is a self-taught contemporary mixed media and multidisciplinary artist whose love for life and desire to create have found expression in various artistic mediums. His artistic milieu spans the worlds of mosaic mural art, street art and abstract expressionist art, showing uncommon mastery of sculpting, painting and stenciling techniques.
Born in 1974 to Turkish immigrants in the German city of Duisburg, Ayhan spent his childhood and formative years in the Duisburg Ghetto of Marxloh. He later returned to Turkey with his family to pursue higher education, graduating from the Istanbul University in 2003 with a degree in Geological Engineering. Excited about the possibilities of working with marble and travertine which he encountered while in University and which have historically been used in mosaic work, Ayhan began creating his own artistic mosaic tiles. This would mark the beginning of his prolific career as a mosaic mural artist and the first phase of his evolution as a multidisciplinary artist.
MOSAIC MURAL ARTIST
Ayhan rented his first studio in Famagusta, Cyprus, in 2003 and soon began creating mosaic artworks. He created his tiles by hand and with the aid of a machine which he customized to achieve the art nouveau style of his early mosaic creations. In 2006, he moved his studio from Cyprus to Istanbul where his skilled and innovative approach would over time, attract the attention of architects and interior designers in Turkey and beyond. Over the course of 11 years, as his style and technique evolved, Ayhan created more than 120 largescale mosaic mural artworks using marble, travertine, tile, and glass mosaics.
Commissioned by private and corporate clients like Bacardi, Neckermann, and the Ethiopian Railway Corporation, his mosaic creations adorned the walls of residential apartments, luxury villas, public buildings, flagship stores and railway stations in various parts of the world. These mosaic murals, cut and laid in his signature freestyle technique, were instantly recognizable, earning him awards, honourable mentions and recognition at international art and architecture events. These include his colorful 100-meter serpentine mosaic in the metro station of Bursa, Turkey, which in 2016 received special recognition at the International Thessaloniki Art and Design Symposium. During that time, Ayhan was also credited with contributing to the resurgent popularity of mosaic murals in Istanbul and his artworks were regularly featured in Turkey’s leading interior décor magazines such as ‘Maison Française’.
STENCIL STREET ARTIST
In 2014, Ayhan experienced a major setback when he sustained intervertebral disc tears caused by the strains of working with heavy mosaic materials. He suffered severe lower back pain as a result and was forced to stop taking new commissions for mosaic murals artworks. Despite this challenge, his desire to create murals and evolve his art remained strong. Creating larger than life murals held a special attraction for Ayhan who found the sheer scale of his creations empowering. So, in this setback, he saw as an opportunity to explore new materials and processes for creating mural artworks. He started experimenting with creating stencil art using ultra-light Bristol cardboards and spray paints. This would mark the beginning of the second phase of his career as he perfected his stencil technique and street art style.
Between 2014 and 2017, Ayhan was commissioned to create more than 20 large stencil murals for locations such as the popular Container Hall in Izmir, Turkey. In 2017 however, his lower back pain worsened, and he was again forced to stop creating large murals. He turned to new experiments combining mosaic and stencil art techniques and created 12 small scale works which were exhibited at the 2017 Parallax Art Fair in London where they were well-received by viewers and visiting gallerists.
Ayhan closed his studio in Istanbul in 2017, entering a transition phase that would see the subject matter and technique of his art evolve yet again. He describes his experience during this transition as that of a chef who having cooked at five-star restaurants for many years, now had to cook for himself alone.
He continued to experiment with combining mosaic and stencil art techniques, creating mosaics and canvases from used cardboard boxes which he colored with spray paint. In addition to being smaller in size, his creations during this time expressed his own ideas and perspective on the world, a great departure from the commissioned works which dominated the mosaic and stencil eras of his career. He also exhibited and sold a few of these experimental works which he considered primitive mosaic paintings.
ABSTRACT CONTEMPORARY ARTIST
In 2019, Ayhan settled in Hamburg, Germany, where he teaches mosaic and stencil art at different schools in München, Hamburg and Harburg. He is also active in the local artist community and in 2021, he received the ‘Kultur Sommer Preis Landkreis Harburg‘ award for a work named ‘Climate Change’ which he designed and directed in collaboration with a group of artists in Jesteburg.
However, these are side projects quite removed from the artist’s newfound sense of purpose and conviction. While transitioning away from largescale mural artworks, Ayhan learned of his Anatolian roots and the history behind his family’s emigration to Germany in the early 1900s. Researching his roots led him to a deeper sense of political and social consciousness which now finds expression in his art. The awakening of his identity marked Ayhan’s evolution into an abstract expressionist artist. Today, his paintings consist of visual linguistic compositions incorporating a 26-letter symbolic script which he created and named ‘Aian’.
Formed from the shards of broken mosaic fragments collected over the years, his ‘Aian’ script is a secret code which he uses to narrate the history and heritage of his people, expressing his hopes and fears free from intimidation and censorship in a style reminiscent of ancient Mesopotamian clay tablets. Painting on canvases formed from glued stacks of used envelopes and old newspapers, his latest collections, with titles such as ‘The 5 Wishes‘ and ‘Truth‘, are a form of historical memory where the stories and perspectives of the oppressed are safely preserved for posterity. By stepping boldly into the eminent role of advocate and truth teller, Ayhan has truly come into his own as an artist.