Portrait of An Artist Who Believes in "Labor"
Nina Goksun SAY
Yener has a career of 65 years:
"Art can not be abstracted from human relations,
such as affection, societal order, truth, and science,"
comments Mümtaz Yener, who has participated in
nearly 60 group
and 30 solo exhibits throughout more than a half century
of his painting life.
A native of Istanbul, Turkey; 84- year-
old Mümtaz Yener had studied at the Academy of
Fine Arts in Istanbul with the great impressionist painters
Nazmi Ziya Güran and Ibrahim Çalli, between
1935-1938. Then, Prof. Leopold Levi, a prominent artist
from France, was invited to establish a workshop of
his own with qualified students at The Academy. Yener
was among the selected and studied with Levi between
1938-43 and joined the "New Painters Group"
- Yeniler - in 1940 with his classmates.
Social Realism and -New Painters
the art of painting, as in all visual arts, the only
duty of the artist is not the solidity or the grandeur
of the formal appearance. Yener says, and adds "The
formal and colorful side, the technique, and the adaptation
of the evolution of the art history to the art of painting,
can only be assured by a reliable understanding of life
and a humanitarian philosophy, which rely upon a socially
oriented sensitivity and excitement in the form of dexterity
In 1940, Mümtaz Yener and his friends, (Nuri Iyem,
Avni Arbas, Selim Turan, Agop Arad, Kemal Sönmezler,
Hasmet Akal, Turgut Atalay, Ferruh Basaga), came together
in protest against the "Group D"
asserting the necessity of strengthening ties
with the people and supporting the efforts of society
to improve their living conditions. Thus, they declared
their adoption of "social realism."
The artist says; "Our understanding of art
was new, more social, more inclined towards the struggles
of our people." They have criticized "Group
D" for isolating the fine arts from the majority
of the people, and thus breaking off with the general-
and positive- trend of the development of Turkish Fine
Arts. An evaluation of the history of fine arts in Turkey
indicates that the "New Painters Group" was
right in its arguments. They swept away the obstacles
to development of the fine arts; they also managed to
turn painting into a profession rather than merely a
hobby of the higher strata of society.
The subject of their first exhibition was chosen
as, Haliç-Golden Horn- and its Environs. Yener was oriented towards
factories, ship yards and docks.
Iyem was interested in the quays and the warehouses.
Arbas gave importance to boozing shops and wine-shops,
and the other members tackled with the boats, and other
shores of Golden Horn. The first exhibition of the "Yeniler
under the name "Liman"-Harbor-,
arranged in Union Press, Istanbul, May 10, 1941.
He worked with pleasure on multi-figured
compositions since then and he has been the only artist who stayed loyal to social realism till today
from this group called "Yeniler"- New Painters Group-. "This
was a very difficult job to complete a work needed quite
a long period of time. I was perceiving the struggling
men altogether, conceiving that, they were thinking
together, performing huge jobs when they come together,
and making a drive through struggle for life together
and was trying to transfer this poetical image on my
canvas. The individual coming close together to minimize
the distances among them, symbolized the concept of
power. This has been the main theme of what I have produced
so far and will continue to be so. My works as, Bakery,
Under the Rain, Reading Machinists, Bodrum Restaurant,
Fish Catchers, Feast of the Machines, can be cited as
Yener's academic paintings reached a new dimension in 1968
with his famed work "Ants are Coming." "My
later endeavors took me to the ants and their lives.
I observed the beauty of living together, the excitement
of accomplishing hard jobs together, keeping the social
order and mutual assistance at these tiny creatures"
he says. This painting received the first prize at the
"Golden Owl" competition arranged by the Society
of Turkish Painters and attracted attention abroad. His works Migration of the Ants, Red Ants, Love of the Ants, Blue Ants
can be cited as examples.
"The painter becomes a painter not by abstract
and meaningless concocted works but by a conscious knowledge
and a comprehension of concrete beings." says Yener
and continues, "In the year 1978, machines entered
my canvases among my crowded groups as a product and
a collaborator of them."
Yener believes that the man and machine relationship
is the main subject of the era, and he recalls the movie
"Modern Times" by Charlie Chaplin with great
respect. Yener continues; "Freedom depends on the
amount of domination on the machines by people. In my
painting `Band Machine', I protected the worker in the
way I believe he should be."
In this painting, there are three mechanical
figures playing band instruments and a worker in the
front who conducted the machines. "I do not consider
being mechanized as dangerous. On the contrary, I think
that the freedom, liberty and even the renaissance of
the countries depend on their rate of domination on
Mümtaz Yener has numerous works which comprise the man-machine
relations, such as Reading Mechanists, Marching Machines,
Feast of the Machinary, and Band-Machine.
He still creates his works with human crowds, ants, and machines in his studio in Istanbul with his best
friend and his wife Sadan Yener for 57 years. Their
only child, myself is also a painter, and lives and works
in New York. Mümtaz Yener's works are in Museums,
and in many private collections in Turkey, Europe, United
States and in Brazil, and he has numerous publications
dated from 1935 to the present.
Nina Goksun Say's e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org