2004. Prophecies

Prophecies by Attila Szepesi

Exhibition 2004, in the Budapest Gallery, Budapest, Hungary

II wonder if you have ever heard of Ozymandias. In Shelley’s poem he is presented as a leaning colossus of stone in the deserts of Asia. Around him there is nothing but dust and destruction. Still, on the statue’s decayed pedestal there is the proud inscription: I am the ruler of the world, the almighty Ozymandias, who is feared by all.
I cannot explain why, but Géza Németh’s pictures have always reminded me of the meandering lines of this poem, with its system of symbolic meaning – an intricate work despite its apparent simplicity. If I wanted to put it more simply, I would say: stones. Or I would say: curves and indentures. Evocative tones of moss-green and ash-grey, which, as we know it from Béla Hamvas, are Inca symbolic monuments of stone in the desert, concealing man-made forms, motifs of extreme simplicity and complexity, points and lines, spirals and mysterious wings.
Géza Németh has seen half the world, or better still, the entire world, in order to rediscover himself. On this occasion he has surprised us with two lavishly tinged cycles of pictures – if the word “cycle” is the appropriate one here. I would hesitate to use the word “period,” because, as far as I know, the two pictorial worlds were created parallel, and in fact, on closer inspection, the two are not two at all. The joint title of the exhibition is Prophecies; it sums up the essence of the two systems, which occasionally – well, quite a lot, really – converge, in the Ozymandiasian sense of the word: space and time (at the symbolic, and often not so symbolic, cross-road of which we live) abounds in both memories and revelations, dreams and anxieties – in honey and bile, soot and blood, if you like.
Imbued with cyclic memories, the present time of Prophecies – as Contamination, a picture featuring birds, will confirm, along with all the others: the Shaman lost in introspection, the Dancing Angel and the wounded Faun, the clown and the Magician who is Moses himself, the Samurai and the Green Bird, to select arbitrarily from the list –, so the present time with its mixed timeframes seems to suggest (although the painters do not waste time on fabricating ideologies, thank God for that!) something that the poet Pilinszky described as follows: “Perhaps it is the evening, perhaps it is merely the dusk. Whichever, it is certainly late!” It is, indeed, late. But since the beginning and the end meet in the spiritual mind, it is impossible to say for sure (think of the eternal festivities of the carnival!) who the clown is and who the prophet, the hermit or the jester. Why, the mediaeval experiences of the world turned upside down is of the same age as the enlightened man who is engrossed in the study of the sacred and eternal symbols, and whose name is already given in the second cycle: Buddha, the man who rises through the stages of the spirit, from a prince to the chosen one to see the light, similarly to his European counterpart, Heracleitus of Ephesus, himself a young prince turned into a lonely prophet.
In one of his essays, the French philosopher René Guénon ruminates about the point that “the settled peoples mostly work with visual symbols or, to put it differently, with pictures of various visual elements pasted together. By contrast, the nomadic peoples use acoustic symbols.” Guénon, this strange philosopher who eventually converted to Sufism, then proceeds by saying that the plastic art of the settled peoples points in the direction of crystallisation – he used the word “fossilisation” –, while the aural art of the nomads moves in the direction “vaporisation”. This chain of thought, which I was able to recap only in fragments here, seems to suggest that we, who have the dubious pleasure to be alive at the turn of the 20th and 21st century, inhabiting cities frozen in stone, where even poetry, originally an aural form of art, is being fossilised into books, and only very rarely recited out loud, and where everything that ought to be music becomes a visual experience; so we have to come to terms with the “fossilisation” of our world, and it is not only the space of our real lives that this “fossilisation” twists around us according to its own laws, but also our thoughts and dreams, the system of symbols of our anxieties and desires, in much the same way that you study them now in the form of pictures hanging on the wall.
They say that seven times as many people live in the world today than lived in the time of our grandparents. Members of the younger generation may feel free to replace the word “grand” with the word “great-grand” or “great-great-grand”. As a result, the world has become a more densely populated place, but that does not mean that it has also become a more pleasant place. There is no doubt, therefore, that, in Pilinszky’s words, “it is late”. But there is also no doubt that man – and this is something that has never been, and never will be, different – is at the same time the beginning and the end. He is at the same time a green bird and a dancing angel. He is Buddha and the clown, a shaman and a faun, precisely as Géza Németh’s paintings show him to us.
April 2004 Attila Szepesi