Contemporary Art from Hungary 6.


Fractured surfaces, broken forms, human torsos, mementos of the eternity of human existence and the relativity of the body. Anti-aesthetic expressionism and lyricism emerging in decay – these might be the juxtaposed notions characteristic of István Drabik’s sculpture art. Although his pieces of art might be irregular, instable and even brutal they carry a certain enigmatic aestheticism that represents an alien beauty aiming at unveiling the very essence of things.

Since his graduation from the Hungarian University of Fine Arts (1996) István Drabik has created his unique style based on traditional and figurative tendencies present in sculpture art. To manifest his style he formed the human figure of iron. At first glance his sculptures might seem to be made of bronze, even though the coarseness and soft silkiness of the rich surface foreshadows the presence of a different material. Drabik’s experiment with iron, which is considered a hardly workable material and thus is rarely used in artistic and sculptural circles, led to fresh innovations in sculpture. This novelty lies in the artist’s way of making his sculptures work like gesture. The difficulty of a method built on spontaneity and automatism lies exactly in the direct workability of iron; the artist consciously creates and constructs his sculptures, then ravages and decomposes them with a welding torch and plasma cutting machine. He diminishes or supplements them until the point when the blending and springing, randomly thriving body parts melt into a unified composition or a figure. Drabik’s art is virtually the illusion of sculpture as art since the classical sculpturing steps of creating a classical bronze sculpture (such as the making of the framework, modelling, casting) are missing.

István Drabik’s early works in the mid-1990s were characterised by rather static, vertical-oriented, framework-like figures; later in the new Millennium his concept changed and he created more shell-like, figurative, even lyrical sculptures. In his recent works the figures are more fleeting as the compositions become more complicated and dynamic. Here the human body is nearly over-simplified; what often remains is just a thin shred of callus, a tiny reference, a solid contour, while finally it is the void itself that generates the form. The torsos’ instability is caused by this negative form, which is the imbalance between the non-existent parts and the existing figure fragments. Drabik’s sculptural mischievousness is accomplished through the figure’s open and closed nature, the massive and ethereal character of iron examined. Consequently, the interpretation of his oeuvre brings forward the term “body-shell”. The hardly recognisable body-parts in their shell-like reality have the impact of that of the mummies of Pompeii frozen in bizarre, just-about-to-move positions caused by an unexpected tragedy. Drabik’s present style elaborates on the expressive features of figurative sculpture art.

One should not forget that iron, the grotesque, ravaged, and seemingly defective figures’ basic material, plays a dominant role: it produces spontaneous effects, uneven, rough and multifarious surfaces. Sculpted iron generates an artistic, sensitive texture and hardly noticeable minute light and shade effects. That is the very reason why Drabik’s sculptures hardly ever have any polychrome colouring; the wrought iron’s raw silver-grey colour and its ensuing erosion provides for the sculptures’ patina.

Besides the moving or simply gesticulating torsos, a confinable group of more static head shapes could be identified. The perfunctory, coarsely-formed busts exist by showing the absence of absolute perfection, a phenomenon so highly esteemed in our time. The most difficult thing about them is to decide whether they radiate torment or contemplation.

Drabik’s intellectual and formal precursors could be traced back in the post-war Hungarian and European sculpture art. Drabik’s sculpture art was highly influenced by the grotesque, over-stretched and pain-radiating sculptures by Tibor Vilt and Erzsébet Hann Forgács, members of the European School. Moreover, the abstract expressionism of the late 1940s present in Europe, especially with its French representatives (including Germaine Richier, Giacometti), and the existentialism of Jean Fautier’s cramped or ultimately insubstantial figurative works also had a great impact on Drabik’s work.

Drabik’s works sway on the verge of existence but at the same time they possess a certain scope, and they even generate space. Drabik creates iron sculpted gestures that staunchly seek to discover the lost harmony of the part and the whole. The artist makes his figures impersonal and asexual to make sure that, by discarding all superfluous formal and contextual irrelevances, the human being could finally be represented as a fundamental essence. These works of arts are archetypical-archaic torsos whose existence does not depend on time or a given age, but eternity.

Noémi Szabó

Text by: Noémi Szabó
Layout: Gábor Gerhes
Content: 68 + 4 pages, with 56 colour-plates
No. of Issues: 1000
Date of Publication: 2008