2010. március 29., hétfő


És jön a Kert, akár az álom, / és növekedni kezd az éjben, / lélegzik, párál, szétliánoz, / mint rák a testnek erdejében. / Megfejthetetlen rétegekben / nő útvesztője: titkos ábra, / épül, pusztul, fölépül újra / hold-ütött mohos arca mása / a boldog Botanikának...

And the Garden comes, as if in a dream, / and begins to grow in the night, / breathing, misting, spreading its vines, / like a cancer in the forest of the body. / In unfathomable layers
grows its labyrinth: secret diagram, / erected, ruined, erected anew / moon-struck ancient face – replica / for happy Botany…
I am searching for a time, but in vain; yet it would have been good to find it, so that I don’t have to cite by heart the story, the often-quoted tale in which the painter puts down his brush, steps into the landscape, sets off among the bushes of the freshly painted picture, on one of the meandering trails into the distance, and disappears into the dusk setting over the garden, or is swallowed by the fog enveloping the labyrinth. The aerial perspective – as the jargon has it. He is lost before our external eye, but of course the internal eyes follow, since there within us he continues to stroll on; lost, or simply not found for an eternity. He promenades in the labyrinth that is transformed into cerebral furrows. It is not even necessary to take great pains to readjust the form: it is easy to see a labyrinth in the convoluted coil of the Moebius-strip of grey matter. There he roams; the wind subsides about him, and the birds fade away, as suits the nature of already drawn pictures. In a word, I would begin with the tale of the painter lost in his own picture, though the original has to be found in the precise quotation: needle in a haystack. Searching through the bookshelf is doomed to hopelessness, since the cardinal leading principle goes like this: “there is still a space large enough to accommodate the selected third volume of Borges”. Something like this has a greater chance of emerging from the drawer for bed linens, or from behind the refrigerator. I could say that we live on a gallows; in fact, I will say it, because it will come naturally to my writing on labyrinths. In a word, a place of loss. Please, just read (because we have nevertheless returned somehow to the bookshelf) the section of approximately a half-metre of spines: Kafka, Tamás Morus, Joyce, Santarcangeli, M. C. Escher, Umberto Eco, Szentkuthy, the Odyssy and another Borges. As it happens, exactly that which contains The Garden of Forking Paths, as well as The Book of Sand, in both of which it is just as possible to get lost between the letters as in a veritable labyrinth. The garden is eternal nostalgia. It is a summons of the desired world, and a resurrection of Paradise. The order presumably designed in Creation also casts its imagination onto the Garden of Eden, and this is why then, alongside natural forces, the laws also appear. The geometric networks are projected onto the garden, and the labyrinth takes form. Accompanying myths, religions and rituals, it is one of the most ancient motifs. As far as desire for order is logical, just as human is the wish for freedom, which often precisely in return for order, manifests itself as the contrast of geometric, symbolic and allegorical representations of order. The enigmatic point of the labyrinth is the crossroad, and the constraint to choose that appears at the intersection: this is the blessed and cursed emblem of man who yearns for freedom, and who is condemned to freedom. The possibility of going astray, the knowledge that at any time, we may decide in error: this renders the wandering in the labyrinth at once beautiful and desperate. The enter through the gate of the labyrinth means simply to step out of time, to break away from the world, to accept solitude and to surrender ourselves to the unknown forces of destiny. To its severity or its benevolence. But to err in the labyrinth is both a cultural lesson and an intellectual adventure. S/he who undertakes it can feel s/he winds Ariadne’s thread together with Plato and Dante, with the cathedral-building Freemasons, and with Piranesi, Gaudí and Picasso. The most beautiful garden experiences are related to Italy: in Tivoli the Villa d’Este Gardens, Prince Orsini’s garden in Bomarzo, or that of the Pitti Palace in Florence: the Boboli. It is not difficult to recognise that these gardens exist also within time: the trees grow with broad spreading branches, ivy runs along the walls, the fountains are overgrown with pond scum and the statues with moss. It is to no avail that I see them in their youth as projected onto the monitor of my imagination; the romanticism of fallible, ancient gardens is more fascinating. Kicking at the forest litter, I hum with Csokonai (Mihály Csokonai Vitéz: “To Solitude”): “Delight in such a place to roam / And for a poet to feel at home”. And for my type of draughtsman. The beautiful Baroque gardens blur with the gardens of my childhood: the promenade in Kecskemét with the tramping of football, the oak forest in Szepezd with the rustling of the wings of stag-beetles, and of course, the park on Hargita Street, where the densest, most velvety nights seeped from the boughs of elderberry. I know that it is not easy to convince that these gardens are in my drawings; yet, I would even swear upon it. They are all there, separately and simultaneously. The gardens, or at least the aberrations and solitudes learned from them. Their invisibility corroborates them. And the secrerts with which they entrusted me. The face of Happy Botany. The ancient verse, which I invoked above is painfully true: the fountain, the angel, and perhaps I am also real in it:

… Valahol ott kell lennie / e labirintus köldökében, / rejtelmesen és feketén, / oly feketén, akár az ében, / a mélységes, nagyodvú kútnak. / Egy angyal minden éjjel ássa, / hallatszik benn, surrog, sziszeg / csillagok fénye zuhanása. / Ott él egy teknősbéka lent, / nő ezer éve elfeledten, / mit beleejtett a fiú, / ki egykor talán én lehettem.

...Somewhere there it must be / in the navel of this labyrinth, / mysteriously black, as black as ebony, / the deep, hollow well. / An angel digs it every night, / it is audible within, the whiz and sizzle / of the light of the falling stars. / There lives a turtle below, / growing for a thousand years forgotten, / what got into the boy, / who once might have been me.

Should I continue to search for the tale of the painter who disappeared into his picture? The origin of the story? Perhaps I would only arrive at crossroads opening onto each other. Once, when I read about it, I always happened upon newer entrances. X wrote that he knows it from Y, and Y heard about it from Z. Accompanying was an infinity of allusions, and perhaps there, in infinity, where the paths of the labyrinth straighten out to become parallels, the wind subsides, the waters cease to flow, and gravity is exhausted, there the painter ambles along, dragging his long beard, as an ancient likeness of our future wise grandchildren, and his breath made visible casts a wrinkle on the translucent glass block of eternity.

Time Sights - a short animation about my gardens and labyrinths - please see here.
Mazes - you can find an other animated film here.

2010. március 21., vasárnap


Corner house at the intersection of Andrássy út and Népköztársaság útja. Those familiar with recent Hungarian history can determine precisely, on the basis of the title, the verbal paradox concealed in it, just when the etching would have been made. It is not easy to decide whether the picture represents a corner house, or a courtyard, if the lines indicate convex or concave forms. We might call it a question of viewpoint, entrusting judgment to the psychologists: whether we were born for freedom, or rather for slavery.

Andrássy út (street) and Népköztársaság útja (People's Republic Street) are the same. Budapest's most elegant boulevard was first called Sugár út (Radial Strasse) in 1883, Andrássy út in 1886 (Gyula Andrássy was a Hungarian prime minister and statesman), Sztálin út (1950) the Magyar Ifjúság útja (Hungarian Street of Youth) in October 1956, Népköztársaság útja (People's Republic) in 1957, returning to the name of its founder, Andrássy in 1990.

2010. március 5., péntek


In certain drawings, there is something dormant, something we might call apollonic, as suggests a kind of otherworldly eternal melancholy. Maybe it is the irresolvable and enigmatic sorrow of geometry that this feeling derives from: the sublime loneliness of symmetries, the always present doubt that dwells in images reflected by a mirror, or the hopeless platonic love of the infinite. Paradoxical worlds, unconstructable buildings, improbable spaces – at least, that is the label attached to them, though they are unimaginable only for a traditional mentality well-defined by convention. In a more artful interpretation, from an anamorphic or spiritual viewpoint, these images are by no means unreal – furthermore, they might even help us understand the messages of Atlantises sunk under seas or consciousness. On the seventh day, whilst the Lord took some rest, man crept right into the middle of a mirror-maze called Creation. Wherever he looks, he can see only the reflection of himself. The grass, trees, stars and all other creatures are at an angle of 90 degrees (perpendicular to?) to his visual ray. Unable to see, feel or perceive anything besides himself, he correlates all experiences with his ego. Should he be able to change just a minute in this ancient, egoistic situation ciphered into his genes, the rays reflected would not return to their source so much exhausted on this never-ending and meaningless route of the pendulum, but could be reflected further beyond, towards new and yet unknown surfaces, flashing and zigzagging into the indefinite, through webs of geometry. Then it could be transformed into something cognizable, something even the imagination of which is prohibited by his present state, being enclosed in a mirror. Anamorphosis, a representation in perspective forgotten several times over, then used again and again, is a somewhat naïve and mystic wilding – to achieve ab ovo impossibilities with its oblique visual angles, the solution to the original mirror situation – at least under theoretical, or if you like, laboratory conditions. The viewer of anamorphosis not only completes the work – to quote Duchamp’s notorious saying – he also completes himself to be identified as viewer. While looking for the appropriate viewpoint and recognising the image distorted so that it once again becomes meaningful, he also defines his own spatial co-ordinates. The viewer of anamorphosis does not focus on the image projected onto his retina, but rather the correlations between the work and himself. He has to concentrate on where the work of art – or rather, the visual rays branching out of it – is located in the space it creates and defines, also staying aware of the modifications its movement brings about in the meaning of the image. Whilst engaged in this in the physical space, he involuntarily perceives the reception upon himself, or if you like, observes the psychological mechanism of ‘artistic pleasure’ in the spiritual space generated by anamorphosis. One who comes into contact with anamorphoses will feel more self-contained, yet also more vulnerable: upon recognising the exchange of roles and place, one has to realise he is no longer at the centre of the world. On the one hand, he will feel the wonder of the creation of an image; on the other, he will know he has been left alone with this illusion that does not even exist in reality, but is rather a projection appearing only in his own mind.

Illustrations: István Orosz: The Labyrinth of Theseus (India ink, aquarelle, chrome plated brass pyramid), Dionysos (India ink, aquarelle, chrome-plated brass cylinder)

2010. március 4., csütörtök


The first free parliamentary election, held in May 1990, was a plebiscite of sorts on the communist past with the Hungarian Democratic Forum (MDF) winning 43% of the vote and the Alliance of Free Democrats (SZDSZ) capturing 24%.
The memory of the first free election is closely interlinked with a poster: “Tovarishi konyets”. The poster shows the back of the neck of a Soviet official.
Though used to promote the MDF and put up by MDF activists, Tovarishi konyets is popularly known as the poster that summons to withdraw the Soviet troops from Hungary – Tovarishi konyets means Comrades, enough. It was designed in the eighties, it was printed and pasted all over Hungary first in late 1989. The printed size was a 70x100 cm. format and included the MDF inscription. (In that time the MDF was one of the major unofficial parties at the so called Round Table discussions that helped force out the Hungarian communists. József Antall, the head of MDF, subsequently became Hungary’s first democratically elected Prime Minister.)
In early 1990 the poster was reprinted, with a much larger MDF sign, and in two sizes, 50x70 cm. and 70x100 cm. and was meant as an election poster. (The first round of Parliamentary elections took place on March 27, 1990.) Later on a lot of reprint was edited and it became known to Hungarians as the “change in regime” poster, and the most canonical image in
the iconography of the East European democratic transition.

In the artist’s own words (translated by J.Sz.):
Ï didn’t need to do any research for the poster, I saw many Soviet officers at close quarters on the other side of the fence of the school I attended at Kecskemét, where the children of the “temporarily stationed” Russian soldiers also studied. The white gravel of the school yard resounded with the sound of boots. […] The design of the poster was ready a couple of years earlier, when Hungarian intellectuals gathered to protest various moves by the Hungarian as well as Romanian governments. I’d shown the poster to one of the founding embers of the Hungarian Democratic Forum, who put it on his wall, though at the time the text above the officer’s head read Tovarishi audieu in Cyril letters. My friend suggested that I change auieu to konyets, everyone will understand it, and he would see to having it printed. Then he asked everyone in the room to keep it a secret. He was afraid that the other leaders of the Forum, which was not yet a party, would consider it too radical and would vote against its publication. The poster, which later became known as the “change of regime” poster, owes its success to the fact that it was printed in huge numbers, and was put up all over the country practically overnight. It became known so quickly and by so many, that it was too late to call the artist or the Forum to account. When it appeared in Time Magazine, a friend wrote from New York that if I need to flee, I can always count on him. I signed the poster with a pseudonym (Utisz), but he recognized my style. Not much later, when the Forum became a party in its own right, even Russian soldiers showed up at the Forum to ask for a poster. Since then, I’ve been invited to the U.S. for a conference on posters of the East-European posters, while the poster itself has appeared in a variety of books and magazines and they say that it was received with applause in the neighboring Lithuanian parliament, has shown up in documentaries, and has found its way into museums.