The Art of Time (Part 1)

Time, and its passage, is a popular subject for the arts. Painters, musicians, filmmakers, sculptors and contemporary artists have interpreted time in countless ways and used it for inspiration to produce a variety of pieces of art.

In today’s blog post, we’ll look at some interesting, and unique pieces of time inspired art…

On Kawara – Date Paintings

Japanese concept artist, On Kawara, produced thousands of “Date” paintings. Each piece consists only of the date on which it was created, but whilst seemingly simple, they were meticulously crafted taking hours of work. Kawara used numerous coats of paint and hand-drawn lettering on each piece.

The language used to express the date on each painting was always that of the country Kawara was in at the time, and the finished piece was then placed in a custom-made cardboard box, lined with a local newspaper from that date. If a painting wasn’t completed by midnight, it’d be destroyed.

Kawara painted nearly 3,000 paintings in his dedication to the “Date” series, right up until the 12th January 2013. Kawara died a year later. The Date series uniquely illustrates the passage of his life and that of the wider world.

John Cage’s 4′ 33″ – The Sound of Silence

In 1952, American Composer John Cage produced an unusual piece of work. Cage’s three-movement composition consisted of, well, nothing. Entitled 4′ 33″ (Four minutes, thirty-three seconds), performers of the piece ready their instruments and proceed to play nothing until it’s completed. Whilst the composition itself may be silence, ambient sounds make each performance different and for just over four and half minutes, allow the listener to appreciated the sound of ‘silence’.

You can find a performance of 4′ 33″ by the BBC Symphony Orchestra Below, with the conductor clearly finding it a physically demanding piece to perform…

Tehching Hseih – The Time Clock Piece

In 1980, performance artist Tehching Hseih punched a Time Clock, every hour on the hour for a whole year, taking hourly pictures and documenting the event. Afterwards, pictures from the year were compressed into a six minute film, demonstrating the relentless passage of time and the repetitive nature of life.

Hseih could only sleep or leave his apartment for under an hour, and missed relatively few hourly punches during the year, either through technical or human error – perhaps an illustration of failures in life too.

The Time Clock Piece wasn’t Hseih’s only One Year Performance, he also spent a year in a wooden cage, a year only living outdoors and another year tied to a fellow performance artist by an 8 foot long rope!

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