The exhibition, Narrative of the Modern, featuring a selection of works from the Central Bank’s Art Collection was held in Amasya to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Turkish War of Independence and the Amasya Circular.

The exhibition have been arrenged to proffer a visual chart of the development of painting in Turkey and designed it on a variety of symbols. The section focusing on the intellectual development of landscape, one of the two main branches of process in Turkish painting, is entitled The Custom of Viewing and Interpreting Nature in Ottoman Painting. Early Republic Era paintings in the collection were gathered around a common discourse rather than the more conventional, long-accepted groupings such as the Independents or Group d. The Stylistic Language of Modernism: Late Cubism and Art Deco of the Republic Era is the descriptive title of the section designed to exhibit the resolve of the newly formed Republic of Turkey to foster modernist art, a particular determination that came to be embodied by these two styles.

The Custom of Viewing and Interpreting Nature in Ottoman Painting

Ottoman painting developed along two main branches: figure and landscape. Artists of the period interpreted landscapes as an extension of romanticism, one derived from the custom of viewing nature. The espousal of the impressionist aesthetic as an emotional style of expression blended only with variations in light and colour by the 1914 Generation artists, in particular, emphasising subjectivity in art. Rıza Tevfik (1869-1949) defines that subjectivity which he so avidly  advocated: ’Instead of extolling the skill in depicting and describing the external, it regards as the ultimate purpose the depiction, description and narration of the quality and strength of the effect those objects, landscapes, events and external influences have on our conscience (just as we experience them on our conscience).

Ottoman Impressionism lacked the positivist philosophy that was the foundation of western Impressionism; without this corresponding philosophical content, it was instead more of a technical phenomenon, an extension of the tradition of oriental colourism that stemmed from a love of nature. The 1914 Generation’s espousal of Impressionism as harmonies created by contrasting colours and an emotional style was due to their inherent traditionalism and inadequate knowledge or experience; there was no philosophical foundation as such. The same factors are believed to have played a part in that generation’s lack of interest in the other modern art movements of the turn of the century - Fauvism, Expressionism, Cubism and abstract art, for instance. All the same, despite this relatively superficial approach to Impressionism - rather than one based on philosophical content - the 1914 Generation successfully breathed new life into painting with their liberal interpretation, bringing a new viewpoint and wealth of expression. It was they who liberated Turkish painting from the monopoly of soldier-painters. Thus demilitarised, painting now had a new style, and more: popular cultural values would be tasked with conveying a new philosophy of life. This concern corresponds to Ziya Gökalp’s endeavour to compose his poems in a more accessible style in order to promote new thinking. Similarly, mobilised by Nazmi Ziya to reach the people, whom he regarded as the principal audience for art, his fellow 1914 Generation artists focused on island panoramas, pine groves, bays and mosque courtyards. That is why Hilmi Ziya Ülken likened the works of the 1914 Generation to the literature of the Fecr-i Ati period and said, ’What Fecr-i Ati sought in literature, they found in painting: Island beaches, pine groves, morning in Kalamış Cove and mosque courtyards.’

 

The Style of Modernism: The Late Cubism and Art Déco of the Republic Era

Early Republic Era art is defined stylistically as Art Déco and is tasked with promoting the Republic’s ideology on the contextual side. This ideology that aimed to reform society in the Early Republic Era specifically commissioned art, thereby making the Republic of Turkey the patron of the arts and artists. The reforms that followed the proclamation of the Republic found their way into the works of the young generation’s artists in particular. Art became an instrument that illustrated innovations such as the image of modern women, alphabet and clothing reform at this time. Art was an instrument in fostering the acceptance of national values, which led to the birth of the concept of national art.

School of Paris and the Construction of Abstract Art in Turkey

A generation of artists known in Turkey as the School of Paris who went to Paris centre of debates on abstract art. Nejad Devrim (1923-1995), Mübin Orhon (1924-1981), and Hakkı Anlı (1906-1991) represent this generation in the exhibition; they are accompanied by Abidin Dino (1913-1993) – whose career was launched with Group d much earlier and who was living in Paris at the time, Tiraje Dikmen (1925-2014) who had read Economics, trained at the Academy of Fine Arts under Léopold Lévy, in 1949 won a French government bursary to study in Paris, where she had first enrolled at the School of Law and Economics, and later read History of Art and Museology at the École de Louvre.

The international accomplishments of the School of Paris artists constitute a milestone; this was the time when Turkish painting gained self-confidence, found itself on par with its contemporaries across the globe and defined itself. This was a period when Turkish painting not only shook off its earlier insecurity, but was also represented by prominent artists outside the School of Paris; two of these names are Orhan Peker (1927-1978), a Bedri Rahmi Eyüboğlu student whose paint texture became a defining feature, and Ömer Uluç (1931-2010) who had trained in Nuri İyem’s attic studio.

Artists of the 1968 Generation

Certain changes are observed in the official view of art in the 1960s. The earlier distinction between the arts and the entertainment sector vanishes, especially at the end of the decade – and in the early 1970s. The National Coalition of the 1970s ushers in a new movement against globalisation as more conservative and traditional values dictate policy, a phenomenon that reflects on the arts. This impact manifests itself in two ways. The first, which follows from the peasantist discourse of the late 1950s and early 1960s, chooses subject matters focusing on Anatolia, its panorama and people. ‘Tradition in art’ grows in popularity as it increasingly occupies the agenda. Dissent is another vein that emerges at this time. Protests, student movements and the student-labour solidarity that laid the groundwork for the 1968 movement confronting authority are also embraced by the arts, which could be interpreted as another aspect of the reflection of the National Coalition policies of the 1970s.

 

New Trends, New Quests post-1980

In the first half of the 1970s, trends like minimalism and photo-realism appeared on the Turkish art environment, whilst the first half of the 1980s was largely marked by the new expressionism. The increasingly diversified exhibition activities of the period, certainly from the 1970s onwards, fostered a profusion and plurality of output. The New Trends, New Quests post-1980 section aims to demonstrate this variety.

Selected Sculpture Collection

The exhibition includes a small selection of three dimensional pieces from the Central Bank of the Republic of Turkey collection. This selection actually complements the New Quests, New Trends post-1980 section, with one exception. This 1922 statuette of Atatürk in the exhibition is significant in this context. Osman Kemal has depicted Atatürk in military dress, true; yet he stands in a humanistic scale instead of the crushing figure more conventional in monuments.