2005. A Journey towards

A Journey towards an Unknown Destination
by László Csorba

Exhibition 2005, in the Italian Cultural Center, Budapest, Hungary

When I first started to study Géza Németh’s works exhibited here, the title of a book written nearly one hundred and fifty years ago came to my mind. Entitled A Journey towards an Unknown Destination, it was authored by a former Home Guard officer, János Földi, who described his adventures during and after the 1848/49 War of Liberation. The book‘s content is immaterial from the viewpoint of our subjectmatter – but the title kept bugging me throughout my „journey“ through Géza’s paintings. As soon as I stopped in front of any of the paintings, a little voice in my head started to urge me – „Come on, enter my world, join me on my journey, travel alongside me!“ – but as to where this journey would take us, it was impossible to tell. In the words of the earlier-mentioned officer, it was „towards an unknown destination“.
I wonder if Géza Németh knows the destination that the viewers of his paintings are bound for. My guess is that he does not know it himself – in fact, he has no way of knowing it. When he conceived these paintings, he, too, entered their world and embarked on a journey towards an unknown destination. And now he invites us to accompany him. His method is based on one of painting’s oldest compositional techniques: he montages realistic elements in a previously unfamiliar configuration. In collecting the compositional elements, he relies on modern technology: he uses digital photographs edited on a personal computer. However, he throws into all this the archaic method of painting by hand and therefore produces not just an image, but also a genuine work of art.
In the midst of my journey I discovered that, in searching for a destination, my imagination has an instinctive desire to start out from those details that the artist himself had employed. Evidently, the paintings captivate us with their intrinsic beauty on first glance, so they thoroughly enjoyable even without prior knowledge of the source of the motifs. Nev­er­theless, I vaguely suspect that Géza Németh has no intention to keep us in the dark about the original sources of his inspirations. So, as soon as I had identified the imposing ruins that are clouded in blue haze in the background of his composition Renaissance as the Zsámbék monastery cathedral, the white drapery hanging from the doorframe on top of a flight of marble steps immediately transformed into a stage prop from a theatrical tragedy. All Hungarians feel the same way about the nation’s tragic history: the destruction of our wonderful Mediaeval and Renaissance cultural heritage during the subsequent cataclysms of our history fills us with grief. This particular poetic image by Géza reminded me of that communal grief. Similarly, as soon as I saw the columnated hall of the Fertôrákos stone quarry – an excellent subject for Cubist painters! – in the foreground of the composition Palace, I immediately became conscious of the Roman Empire‘s civilizing power, so much so that I could actually hear the stamps of the Roman legions marching on the Amber Road. Originally, the commercial production of the limestone of characteristic dark-grey color and dolomitic size began in Roman times, leading to the excavation of huge chambers, with meshed wire protecting the people underneath from the falling rocks. In the painting, Németh artfully extended the meshed wire to the floor, apparently taking great delight in interlacing the various textures.
This spectacular geological attraction of the Fertô area can, of course, elicit dozens of other interpretations. Nevertheless, I believe that the Roman association was hardly a coincidence. Moving from painting to painting, we increasingly come under the impression that Géza Németh is ushering us towards Italy. To me, Crevice derives its exceptional power from the fact that it is a Baroque apartment building in Rome, which is threatened by destruction. Even those can feel the internal tensions in Afternoon, who do not immediately discover that the Norman/Gothic helm roof on top of the Greek columns opposite to the bar’s terrace in fact belongs to the Palermo cathedral. (I did not discover it myself.) Or take the pessimistic view of classical culture in Sunken Centuries, for example! To read it correctly, one does not need to know that the aesthetic correctness of the painting is provided by another detail from the Palermo Cathedral, the dome and the arabesque scrolls of the corbel supporting the roof, as they both sink deeper and deeper into the sand with heroic pride. And, of course, the remote group of houses magically transported on the top of a huge arch of rock, a heavenly version of Jerusalem, in the composition City would have impressed me, even if Géza had not told me that he had modeled it on Ragusa, one of the finest pearls of Sicily.
In summary, the concrete details are irrelevant – but the overall impression is plain: the powerful experiences he encountered in Italy and Sicily induced Géza Németh to embark on a spiritual journey inside his own paintings. And when I discovered this, my desire to accompany him on his virtual journeys grew even stronger. And as we were meandering through these fanciful landscapes, I, too, was suddenly overcome by the loneliness of the seagull, as it tottered on the beach by the sea, on seeing that such an innocent creature, too, could fall prey to violence in today’s brutal world. Come on, beautiful seagull, spread your wing and fly away from here! I do not want to arrive at a destination, where you can get shot!
2005 László Csorba