2007. Face Space

Face Space by Katalin S. Nagy

Face-Space, exhibition of the Vigadó Gallery, 2000

In 2000 Géza Németh had his series of seven paintings entitled Face-Space (1994–1995) exhibited along with the Stations of the Cross-series in Budapest’ Vigadó Gallery. Each piece is horizontally elongated, painted in acrylic on canvas. Unlike in other series by Németh, the picture sizes vary: only five of the seven run into the length of 200 centimetre, and only three are of the same height, as the differing roles demand differing sizes.
In the portraits every protagonist could be identified by the initials of the models who the painter had taken photos of as a point of departure for the paintings. The monograms are added by a profession in the titles thus helping the viewer to interpret the compositional elements of the paintings. As the titles themselves suggest, the painter seeks to find the individual, the personality but also the typical, the unifying in his portrayals. The central arrangement focuses on the face and the character represented, but the spacious picture surface around it is of similar importance in describing features of character.
The first portrait is that of Painter K. K. (1997, acrylic on canvas, 147 by 190 cms). The person seated in the foreground is seriously concentrating on something, his clasped hands enhance the meditative and contemplating effect of the face. The ageing painter with greying hair and beard is closed in a triangular compositional elements, which reappears more than once in the background. By applying the composition of Renaissance devotional pictures, Németh may wish to indicate the sacral nature of the painter’s activity. The forms on both sides resemble palettes, the sign of the profession, in the background three figures emerge faintly, and a fourth in the distance – the personal world of the artist: the painter and his muses or models.
Architect P. M.’s stern spectacled face (1997, acrylic on canvas, 130 by 200 cms) is set against a compressing space of construction elements, the paraphernalia of his profession. The strong construction, obviously a direct attribute, is crushing and gripping him in a vice, not letting him go. Behind the blue glasses patches of red are accentuating the sharply watching blue eyes, while a sharp bluish-grey form is threateningly close to his forehead.
The follow two men in the series, Poetress G. N. (1996, acrylic on canvas, 130 by 200 cms) is the portray of a middle-aged woman. While the man face the viewer, she is showing her profile on the right field of the painting, nearly in golden section. With her back to future, facing the past she is contemplating bygone times with a long cigarette-holder in her hand. Her hat and shawl suggest how outdated she is; this person is not surrounded by the palpable environment of a painter or an architect. Her world is a non-figurative cavalcade of streaming colours and patches of paint, dreams and illusions.
The Couple (1996, acrylic on canvas, 130 by 200 cms) is the most puzzling piece in the series. We see an ugly and rude man towering above a nice, sweet romantic lady. The tragic air created by the couple is made even more menacing by a dark figure, an unknown person nearly pressed out of the composition. Could he be the ugly man’s shadow, a portrait made of him earlier, or the ‘third one’, the monster in every couple’s relationship? The central figure is no doubt the man whose body recalls the manifestation in so many of Németh’s paintings: you cannot tell if it is a living or a lifeless figure. The apparition on the right side that seems to have no solid body is not connected the couple, his phantom-face is not any more likeable than the malformed features of the male protagonist. Yet the two men are related more to each other and less to the woman, who is only there to tolerate them. The reddish-brown twirling patches turning dark behind the phanto, suggest an air of obscure conditions to stand for, perhaps, the painter’s devastating opinion of human relations.
The fifth portrait is that of Painter G. N. (1996, acrylic on canvas, 136 by 186 cms) , the smallest in size of the series. The painter’s own figure is placed in the very centre as are Painter K. K. and Architect P. M., but the dimensions are smaller and the space around him is more airy. The greenish-yellow face evokes similar feelings as the man in The Couple. A sad, introvert face, which might equally belong to a boy or and old man. By increasing both dimensions of the background, the painting sharply differs from ordinary portraits, here the half-length presentation takes up only one-third of the whole surface. The darkness of the huge background is counterbalanced by the white patches of light on the face. The red forms that grow out of the greyish black surface seem to be fragments of letters, messages or signs creating a strange effect behind the face. This self-portrait differs significantly from the one that came out in different colour prints in 1978, as this one is more mature and bitter than the one reflecting the features of a 34-year old young man twenty years earlier.
Sculptor L.T (1996, acrylic on canvas, 130 by 200 cms) is portrayed in front of a triptych with the copies of figures created by the artist on the two side panels. On the left there is a distorted body, the two faces on the right seem to have no sights. The thin figure and swollen face of the sculptor are held together by blue contouring lines against the blue background. He is an airy, other-worldly being in contrast to his earthenware sculptures, golems, clay men. Those who knew the artist, Levente Thury, whose name now can perhaps be revealed as he passed away in 2007, will need no explanation to accept that thecreator of earth-coloured sculptures is painted blue in this portrait.
The seventh piece, a three-quarter length portrait of a woman is entitled Sociologist K. S. N. (1997, acrylic on canvas, 145 by 200 cms). The seated figure with a face of an Asian touch is turning to the left. Her pale face is framed by blue hair, the dominant colour of the painting to refer to the model’s intellectual preoccupation. The general bluish tone is to symbolize the intellect, contemplation and a transcendence. As applied in Christian and in more distant mythologies, blue is the colour of female principle. In a surrealistic, imaginary fashion a sharp-featured man’s face emerges in the background, the easel beneath undoubtedly belongs to him. Above the bookshelf packed with books there hangs a realistic painting. The blurred figures are but indications of the real surroundings. This representation is as markedly characterising the model as that portraying Scupltor L. T.
Géza Németh has always been concerned with rendering human faces and characters in his paintings. When he created his cycle Dictators, his main interest was the human face as changed by human roles. Five of the models being artists themselves in the Face Space-series could have been urging for the painter to focus on painterly values beyond actual representation. .

2007 Katalin S. Nagy