2003.Metamorphoses in Rome

Metamorphoses in Rome
by András Mengyán

Exhibition Oct. 13 – Oct. 31, 2003, Accademia D’Ungheria in Roma

We can say it with some justification that “Rome is the city of perfection”. This is suggested in the media; this is confirmed by the flocks of tourists visiting the place; and this is also how Rome lives in the minds of all those who know it only from reports. Those who live here, or those who come here to visit, find it is easy to lose themselves in Rome and get stuck here forever. Rome is preordained by its history, its monuments, its size and its places of interests to occupy such a place in the world of culture. In order to re-evaluate these heavy “burdens” and to present the place from a new angle, an artist needs a certain perspective and distance. One needs great courage and utmost determination to “stir up” such a hornet’s nest.
Géza Németh’s “vacation in Rome” has paid dividends in the form of the numerous visual transformations of his ideas. As it has already been the case with so many other artists, the six months he spent there on a scholarship proved both very inspiring and – judging by the number of works he exhibited here – very productive. In contrast with – or as an extension to – his earlier works, he has broadened the range of his artistic activities by adding a new repertoire. His earlier portraits – depictions of deformed faces elevated to the realm of the grotesque or the absurd – gave way to the creation of a new environment, achieved by the use of the best-known motifs of Rome. In these compositions Rome becomes an “open city”, where the cathedral reaching into the sea is shown to exist in peacefully co-habitation with a few chairs magically transported to the streets from an antique shop, as well as with a number of tourists with the heads of angels, all presented in a manner that has nothing to do with reality and only appears in the artist’s imaginary world rendered in the painting. These invented locations trigger new ideas and new associations in the minds of both the artist and the viewers.
Németh’s non-existing metamorphoses rouse some intellectual and professional issues of great importance. Those who have not yet been in Rome could even take the locations shown in the paintings “for granted”, accepting them as real. But those who have seen it will find that there is something amiss about the compositions. The paintings compel us to meditate. Something is definitely wrong here, the viewers would say. The pictures arrest us; they instinctively arouse the viewers’ attention and have a disorientating influence on them. All the objects, buildings, figures and landscapes actually form part of the city, but not in the same relationship that they are presented in the compositions. Yet, these relationships could, in principle, exist in reality. But again, in which reality, and in whose reality, do they exist? Is it real for those who have already seen Rome or for those who still have not seen it? And how about those who construct their own image of Rome in their minds? Which is the real one? Is there a real one?
These invented, incompatible and unreal situations often make us think, in which case they create an entirely new environment. By mixing the locations, they create a new reality that is entirely different from the one, which we are familiar with. It is not only the objects of the different locations that are mixed up; the spaces organically linked to these locations are also jumbled through the use of such artistic devices as overlaps and transparent, multiple layers, thus helping to expand our conventional concept of space.
In creating these situations, Géza Németh relies on the compositional method of montage, enhancing the effects with the help of various graphical techniques and unreal tones (colored photographs). Through this method, the artist creates absurd situations, with the implication that the viewers can never be sure what is real and what is fictitious. This is what makes Németh’s work so exciting and so meditative.
Németh’s artistic credo can be summed up in the following question: If the artist is not driven by curiosity, and if he is not motivated by the search for knowledge and the desire to discover new interconnections, what is the value of the artworks he creates? Through these compositions, Németh has addressed that problem, and the answer is evident from the great importance he attaches to experimentation and the visualization of new combinations in arranging the elements. As with every experiment, the chance of hitting a dead-end can never be discarded; at the same time, the chance of unexpectedly discovering a treasure house of new possibilities is equally real.
Németh’s present works definitely tip the scales in favor of the latter option: he is well on his way to discover new possibilities.
András Mengyán
Artist, Professor at the College of Fine Arts
and Applied Arts in Bergen, Norway.