2007. Stations of the Cross

Stations of the Cross, 2000,
by Katalin S. Nagy

Face-Space, exhibition of the Vigadó Gallery, 2000

Géza Németh exhibited his Stations of the Cross (2000, a series of seven paintings) and Face-Space (1995–1996, another series of seven pieces) in Vigadó Gallery of Budapest in the spring of 2000. The Stations of the Cross found its ways to Sziget Gallery in 2001 to come out with a catalogue of seven paintings with free verses or short essays by seven authors, in the order of numbers: philosopher György Papp, painter Kálmán Kecskeméti, sculptor Charlie Farkas from Rome, who is the son of painter István Farkas, painter Pál Gerzson, art historian Tibor Wehner, ceramic artist Levente Thury, economist György Rózsahegyi (the texts run parallel with the reproductions of the paintings).

The title tells as much of the paintings as that of the Buddha series. Each of the seven pieces are painted with acrylic on a quadratic canvas of 90 by 90 cms. Each of them is painted in grey or greyish blue with a touch of white. Everyone familiar with Christianity will know what the title means, as it has been accepted to represent the seven – later fourteen – stations of Christ’s passion on the columns erected along the paths leading to churches or churchyard chapels since the 15th century. Representations of the stations were also hanging on the walls of churches for the pious to follow the history of the passion of Jesus and to identify with it emotionally. Far from the city of Jerusalem, anyone could live how Christ dragged himself from the palace of Pilate the procurator to the scene of his crucifixion on the hill of Golgotha.
Németh’s intention is not to adhere to traditional iconography by painting Jesus on his last way carrying the cross. But the title is so compelling that no viewer – believer or not – familiar with Christian religions can stay untouched by this row of events, as the history of passion has been represented on thousands of painting by hundreds of artists.

We see seven suffering faces, or six, as the seventh is dead. The first is looking at the viewer, the second has no sight. The fifth is trying to open his one of his eyes one more time, the other is not more than a white whole. The sixth face is blind, on the seventh painting the head is dropping. One and only face in the different phases or stations of passion and humiliation, when the rest of signs of being expire. It would be too hard to describe the tragic feelings graved in the grooves of these faces of suffering and the emotional effect they make on the viewer. Any appropriate description would be too poetic – appropriate comments are given by the authors of the verses and essays from all walks of life, who are connected by their friendship with Németh and the emotion evoked by the paintings in the series. Despite their strict compositions and the restricted number of colours, the painting are expressive but not Expressionist.

The number seven has several meanings and enjoys an exceptional role in the traditions of Christianity. God took days to create the world, a week is constituted by seven days – seven is a principle that creates order as is also proved by the seven virtues of Christians. Those who wish to get close to God must climb seven floors or mountains and pass tests seven times. The painter divides this series into six plus one, which act carries the symbols of initiation and transcendence in myths and cosmic interpretations . Here six of the seven faces are those of a living being, the last one belongs to a dead man. Are not we initiated through death? Or is transcendence the final goal of initiation?
The colours – sad and painful, cold and reserved greys saturated with agony and repudiation – are subordinated to the substance of the Stations. Grey, as we all know, is reached by mixing white and black, chastity, perfection and the light emanated by God are represented by white, while the notions of death, contempt and humility are expressed by black. It is to symbolise wisdom on the saphira of wisdom on the life-tree of kabbalists, a transition between any colours and as such, man’s colour. In Németh’s paintings the seven human faces, depressing and depressive, hopeless and lonely, tortured and humiliated, are becoming assimilated to the phases of Christ’s carrying the cross. Grey, however, can symbolise boredom, ordinariness and inferior quality (as used by poet Endre Ady as a reference to mediocrity). In this series grey is by no means the colour of ashes, fog or indifference; it is to express the wide range of suffering. The small amount of black and even less white that are applied are further accentuating the contrasting contents inherent in grey, the cold blues melting into grey evoke uneasy, annoying feelings. The touches of brown in the background of Stations 4 leave no doubt about the scene being the earth. The increased amount of white paint in Stations 7. is the final proof of this face belonging to a man tortures to death. Among the faces falling apart the dead man’s is the most strictly structured one.
Deep scarves, sharp lines, protruding elements and formations recalling the elements of nature dominate the surfaces. No sky appears in the background, which is rather filled with lifeless craters. This wasteland is not inhabited by any kind vegetation, not even patches of green warm up the sight.
Charlie Farkas’s interpretation comes closest to the spirit of this vision. ”The awakening of rock-concealed consciousness and its struggle in the ascent to adulthood? Possibly, but maybe it is only that looking at the rocks for long enough basking in the sinking sun it’s begun to take the shape of a human face.”

What else can be the essence of painting than metamorphoses of this kind, the rock-stone-face configurations of Jesus? Transitions from one way of existence into another, transformations that are created by lines, colours, structures on the surfaces for the eye to grasp.

December 2007 Katalin S. Nagy