Istanbul Modern’s collection exhibition, “Artists in Their Time”, focuses on how artists position their work and themselves within the concept of time. It suggests a conceptual field for examining, and reconciling, the links between an artist’s time and societal, cultural, natural and universal time. It unites artists from very different periods, geographies and disciplines around common themes.
“Artists in Their Time” highlights how artists experience their own times, feel anxious and frustrated that time emerges from the past and flows into the future, and form bonds between their own internal time and that of others. The exhibition also presents a base for discussing the place of art in transience and change and the transformation of art. Through which times does a work of art pass to become part of the present, of the moment we are now observing? What is the meaning of the temporal relationship that works of art establish with one another? What conditions do works of art resist, or what conditions are they absorbed into, in order to maintain their relevance in the future?
“Artists in Their Time” takes as its starting point the words of Ahmet Hamdi Tanpınar (1901-1962), one of Turkey’s foremost intellectual and literary figures: “I am neither within time nor completely outside of it.” Tanpınar’s views about time illuminate the process by which artists come to terms with the relationship of their work with the past, the present and the future. Accordingly, this exhibition groups together works of art from distinct geographies, periods and disciplines that share the same emotions with respect to a variety of themes: the intersecting responses of abstract art from different periods; the role of materials and studios in the production of art; the transformation from landscapes and still lifes to the present conception of nature; the search for identity; attraction to the Higher and the spiritual; existential questioning; body politics; feminist approaches; the complex problems imposed by the new urban culture; the struggle against war, death and destruction; life stories from Istanbul, a metropolis defined by water and embracing the sea; and efforts to understand the people of Anatolia.
“Artists in Their Time” offers a roadmap for understanding artists’ intertemporal, existential journey through time as conceptualized in Tanpınar’s work. In an age when we are able to imagine a variety of times simultaneously, the exhibition also reminds us of the comprehensive breadth of Tanpınar’s views.