Two young men paint city walls as a business

Two young men paint city walls as a business

ISTANBUL - Anatolia News Agency
Two young men paint city walls as a business

AA photos

Two young entrepreneurs have taken their passion for graffiti and turned it into a business opportunity by establishing an agency last year to earn money by painting walls.

It is known that travelers in ancient Egypt left their mark on walls they passed during their journey by drawing, painting or simply etching their names. Graffiti artists Ulaş Çelik and Uğur Oğuz Erdem leave traces of their own adventures in similar ways through graffiti.

Born in Istanbul’s Güngören neighborhood, the two boys began paintings walls with colorful spray paints as young teenagers. Since then they have continued to graffiti, but now do so in legal ways. Last year they established their own company, Boyalı Eller, meaning ‘Painted Hands’ in English.
Çelik, 23, was first introduced to the art of graffiti 10 years ago when he saw a “homeland” graffiti piece in his neighborhood. “Actually, it was not a very good piece of work. Of course I can see this fact now, but this graffiti piece made me love paints. I have been paintings walls since then,” he said.

Aims to make graffiti a sector in Turkey

The soul of graffiti is illegal paintings, but the desire to create long-lasting art overcame their passion for painting under bridges, in train stations and on city walls, said Çelik. “We could not have afforded paints. This is why we applied to the Güngören Municipality and asked for their support. They supported us [and we] then also organized Turkey’s first graffiti festival,” Çelik said.

Çelik’s and Erdem’s families were at first against graffiti. “My family was harshly against my painting walls. They wanted me to work a job that would guarantee my life. In 2006, we began to change the views of our families and other people. People’s view on graffiti has changed thanks to us,” Çelik said.
Establishing their business was a difficult process according to Çelik. “We established our company Painted Hands in 2011. We create graffiti legally and paint walls in accordance with certain rules. For example, we have painted all transformers in Güngören. Companies have become interested in such works in recent years and we receive proposals from them. I am the founder of the company and Uğur is the general coordinator. We earn money from graffiti. Graffiti is a big sector in the world. Global companies make use of our artists. Our goal is to make graffiti a sector in our country just like it is in the world,” Çelik said.

’Business of ramblers’

“Graffiti was known as the business of ramblers. Now we have our own company and our own artists. We have a writer (who makes graffiti) team and its number will grow over time. We try to make the city beautiful with this team. It is more important to break taboos on people’s minds. It means to change the view that money cannot be earned by painting the walls. This view has already begun to change,” he said. Recently they painted the walls of a pool, Çelik said, adding that their work was well received by people. “People smile and thank us. This is very important to us. We want to create better works and to get [an art] education,” he said.

According to Erdem the men have known each other for more than 10 years. “We began making chat through graffiti pieces. Ulaş wrote his e-mail address on the wall and we have been friends since then,” Erdem said.

Legal and illegal graffiti are completely different from each other, Erdem said.

“There is adrenaline in illegal graffiti; you can say ‘I am here, I am living in this world,’ but you have to leave [that area] within a short amount of time. Now I and Ulaş create our own concept on the walls in a legal way. We do not damage anything even when we’re working. We don’t paint on anyone’s wall or shutter. We have made dirty walls beautiful with our paints,” he said.

Istanbul, Turkey