1995. Pictures Interlaced...

Pictures Interlaced with Mysticism
by Tibor Wehner

1995. Exhibition in Körmendy Gallery

As regards to both the events that took place in the second half of the 1980s and the first half of the 1990s and the conclusions they prompted, but also with respect to the atmosphere and the mood – not to mention, perhaps, our overwhelming emotions – it appears that, in our search for post hoc explanations and solutions, we have a natural tendency to seek analogies and create causal relations between the chaotic conditions and the existential situation moving towards complete anarchy on the one hand, and the artistic renderings and expressions veiled in mysticism and imbuing with aloofness and somber fears on the other. With the help of his paintings, which will go on display at the Körmendi Galéria, Budapest, in the last days of October and the first days of November, Géza Németh invites the viewers to survey this system of relations, this artificial world driven by subjective impressions, which nevertheless offer us the opportunity to identify with them. Yet, if we were to study the entire oeuvre, and if we also disclosed the stories about the origins of the works that represent a creative period of about ten years, then we would come to the conclusion that Géza Németh’s art builds on motives realized through intricate, indirect channels and components organized around causes and effect. Géza Németh, now in his fifties, can look back on a career that was never as regular as that of his excellent colleagues. Not only is it difficult to tie him to a particular generation, but also it is almost impossible to discover any generational reference points, not to mention the attempts to associate him with official art or the Avant-garde attitude of an excluded artist who rigidly proclaims his outsider status. This artist carried out his artistic program as a loner. Géza Németh’s oeuvre is also peculiar in the sense that his art came of age in a country far from Hungary: the group of compositions he made in the United States in response to American inspiration can still be considered as the most important body of works within his oeuvre. The main part of this exhibition’s material is constituted by the Arizona pictures, which were completed only recently. This is why we should point out the importance of the realization of indirect references, suggestions and intellectual and emotional feedbacks and flashes, which are, and have been, manifested in the journeys and timeouts, the parallel American and Central-European motivations, the ebbs and flows, the departures and the returns.
A bird, a figure, an internal landscape veiled in mysticism, a vivid detail: the group of paintings, which presents a cross-section of the artistic output of a decade, is based on such a limited range of motifs. Sometimes we see a bird perch or fly, or perhaps attack, but sometimes we feel that only the abstract/ visual image of the flutter of wings is being conjured up. Sometimes a stationary figure is shown standing hesitantly; sometimes the same figure appears battered and bruised, turning towards the viewer; and sometimes it metamorphoses into a monster or a cripple. The landscape is composed of strange elements, as if it was a terrain combining natural formations and artificial edifices. While studying the paintings, we come under the impression that we have entered a world shattered to pieces and existing only in ruins, where nevertheless some kind of a reorganization has already gotten under way, although the outlines of the formations that are emerging from the wreckage are extremely coarse and barbarous.
In other words, what we encounter here is the treatment of a topic developed with a sovereign eye, the painterly qualities of which have been delicately affected by a number of major, one could even say essential, art movements of both the past century and the present period; Géza Németh’s artistic attitude keeps clear of the radical tendencies on the one hand, and refuses to sustain the conventions on the other. His canvases have set the scene for the combined presence of, and clash between, some expressive, surreal and symbolic elements and attitudes, out of which the expressive fervor and the compositional determination emerge as the principal agents. In all probability, Németh’s painting draws its power from the integration of the strange phenomena and complex meaning as well as the powerful emotions: living at the verge of figurativeness and abstraction, the contents balancing mysterious, callous and dreary elements come alive in colors; the visions of alienation are imbued with subdued greens, depressing browns and decadent pinks.
We know that the central motif of Németh’s painting, the bird, is a symbol heavy with various meanings: thanks to the irradiation of successive layers acquired during the centuries of building human culture, the most powerful meaning is the one that is associated with the celestial sphere shifting from the mundane to the transcendent, as manifested in the carrier of the soul or embodied in the relation between man and God. With Géza Németh’s birds, too, it is difficult to tell whether these are flesh-and-blood creatures or the harbingers of heaven: all we know about them is that they are tragically confused and that they flutter helplessly. Unable to question the validity of this sad diagnosis, of this worldview observed and presented in restrained drama, and of this resigned mood, we gaze in awe at Géza Németh’s beautiful paintings.

1995 Tibor Wehner