Contemporary Art from Hungary 11.



Even though someone is not familiar with Márton Barabás’ oeuvre of the last 35 years, by only reading the painter’s CV, and exhibition titles (e.g.: Klavierskulpturen, Vienna Mechanics – Pianos Found and Invented, Piano Transcriptions, Sound Images, Pianos Dissected), it becomes crystal clear that music and especially the piano plays a crucial role in his works. A long list of works proves this assumption right and even the artist himself verified this in an interview in 2001: “I’ve learnt to play the piano and crossed this musical instrument throughout my life. It is interesting that once I was in Kaposvár to see a play in theatre and found a musical instrument thrown away. It was a harmonium, not a piano. Back then I haven’t got any solid idea to create a work of art from the mechanical parts of the musical instrument, this came later….. The piano is an absolutely abstract piece that bears fantastic connotations: the whole musical instrument can be evoked only by the means of two-three piano keys. This single fact incarnates the perfection of human manufacturing. Of course one should not forget about the musicality of piano keys, the unique rhythm, the contradictions, the ebony and ivory materials of the musical instrument itself. Through the piano, I can create parallel universes on the surface of the painting. One such universe was established through the piano key series. I’ve abandoned this recently, and I rather paint constructions and imaginary sculptures on my paintings. Besides this motif, the piano keys appear in a curving-bending form. I feel that contemporary music had a great impact on me, just as hyperrealism and conceptual art did. It was especially the repetitive music of Steve Reich and Meredith Monk that interested me, and always wanted to do something similar in fine art.” (These ideas appeared in the periodical Új Forrás and later in Keretek that contained ten interviews. In these periodicals the artist talked about the greatly misunderstood “piano burning action” that took place in the outdoor exhibition space of the University of Horticulture in 1979. Official art politics condemned this act as a scandalous and outrageous episode of Hungarian cultural art life; yet the artist ‘only’ wanted to evoke the spirit of Endre Ady (“... small melodies burnt in my soul”) by burning the forest litter in the piano.

We referred to Márton Barabás as a painter, yet this has to be modified: even though he graduated as a painter in college, and in one of his first exhibitions he showed paintings, and in certain creative periods he paints important oil/canvas compositions in his studio by traditional methods; nevertheless in the last 35 years he was always interested in space and non-flat compositions. Besides the traditional notion of art, Márton Barabás’ creative attitude can be characterized by notions such as: experimentation, independence from genre, form, discovery of unknown artistic and creative territories. This might be the reason for the peculiar order of Márton Barabás’ paintings: the viewer’s attention is caught by the unusual construction of images together with the unconventional ‘space-illusion-creation’ realization. In the mid 1990s the artist himself wrote it in a catalogue: “I try to depict objects in a flat dimension. The sculptures are the characters of my images. The imaginary space, depth and illusion often come to life through their presence. It is a great experience for me to create images arbitrarily.”

Barabás’ art is on the boundary of painting and sculpture. Paintings intertwined with plastic illusionism, painting-like reliefs all prove that one of the central aspects of the artist’s oeuvre is experimentation with space and the interpretation of the dichotomy of flat and dimensional notions. Barabás’ adventurous attitude lead to the birth of plastic rules, wood and plywood modules evoking acanthus leaves, snail and bidens motives of the 1980s, the pianos found and invented constructions, marking the art of the artist right from the beginning. The artist creates piano constructions and reliefs, box-pieces made of the mechanics of the musical instrument (roulettes, pedals, keys, music-case, cover, wires, and tuning-fork) which all become part of an extremely witty, plastic and musical world. The viewer is confronted with open air or relief like, or even sculpture like box compositions that can be characterised by circular and spiral motives, repetitive motives of lamellas, antennas and intertwining claws often combined with objects, such as table tennis balls. Besides the piano-dimensional pieces and plastic art, the third group of sculptures are the awkward, bending, curving, Möbius belts made out of wood that appear to be self-ruling lines running capriciously in the dimensional space. They transform their environment immensely. Márton Barabás consciously digresses the path of classical mass sculptural compositions, yet he reconnects to the traditions and renews them in his dimensional point of views. His works aim at possessing space in its entirety, while raising a tense but unified atmosphere of art and space. Márton Barabás creates self-determining new realities and spaces, where the focus is on the art work which is irreplaceable, approachable from all main viewpoints that emphasizes the dynamic power of space. The spaces created by the artist represent the touch of freedom itself. He elevates plastic objects into a dynamic ethereal sphere where freedom is glorified and boundaries are seen as absurd.

Besides his dimensional work, the artist also creates painted illusions: he realizes unique, organic, constructive, intertwining or solitary, regular or irregular geometric shapes and forms in his images. Cool objectivity fights transcendent visions in his works. The oil on canvas or wooden board pieces are born out of dynamic virtual movements, flows and feelings of levitation radiating colour. All of a sudden the unique swirl of highly contoured, closed constructions and images, piano key, and fragments of objects transform unnoticeably into decorative harmony.

Márton Barabás’ passionate and all transposing art is built on artistic atmospheres and dimensions, that are based on logically connected phases of creation of the past 30 years. He shows to the viewers the controversy of his images full of mysterious and their “mournful, poor destiny”-term coined by Endre Ady. The suggestive radiance of Barabás’ works will not let the viewer escape this confrontation.

Tibor Wehner

Born in 1952 Budapest

1966–70 Secondary School of Fine and Applied Art
1970–71 Zincographer retoucher apprentice
1971–77 specialization in painting, College of Fine Art; masters: György Kádár, Ignác Kokas and Imre Kocsis

Solo Exhibitions (selection)
1984 exhibition chamber of Kunsthalle (Műcsarnok)
1985 French Institute Budapest
1986 Galerie Steiner, Bad Rappenau, Schloss Babstadt
1987 Galerie Elf, Bielefeld (with Róbert Várady); Akhnaton Gallery, Cairo, Egypt
1988 Jipian Art Gallery, Knokke, Belgium; Lábasház, Sopron (with Kálmán Pollacsek)
1990 Exhibition space in Dorottya street, Budapest
1991 Palm House, Schönbrunn, Vienna, Austria
1992 Vigadó Gallery, Dialogue 2 (Barabás, Haverkamp, Lois, Reichert)
1994 Lyss, Contempo Galerie, Switzerland
1996 Picture Gallery Szombathely, Excavations in Consciousness (Barabás, B. Gellér, Gémes, J. Romvári); Berlin, Hungarian House (with J. Reichert)
1996-97 Dovin Galery, Budapest
1997 Merlin Gallery, Budapest; Polgár Gallery, Budapest
1999 Dovin Gallery, Budapest; Town Gallery Rozsnyó (with Albert Kováts), Slovakia
2000 French Institute Budapest
2001 London, Hungarian Cultural Centre
2002 Karinthy Saloon, Budapest; Pest Center Gallery, Budapest; Szinyei Saloon, Budapest; City Art Museum, Brasov, Romania; Picture Gallery Szombathely,’Statio Savariensis’; Repository of the Reformed College of Sárospatak
2002/3 Schloss Gondelsheim, Galerie Steiner, Germany
2003 ‘Gefundene und Erfundene Klaviere’ Haus der Musik, Vienna, Austria; Berlin-Schpandau, Citadella „ Wiener Mechanik- Klavierskulpturen”
2004 ‘Pianos Found and Invented’, Museum of Applied Art, Budapest
2004 Csepel Gallery, Budapest
2005 Delhi, Hungarian Institute (with Eszter Balás), India; City Cultural Centre, Athens, Greece
2006 Bad Rappenau, Galerie Steiner (with Zsófi Barabás); Hungarian Academy Rome, Italy; Szeged, Italian Institute (with István Haász and Szilamér Nánay)
2007 Stuttgart, Haus der Ungarischer Kultur (with Peter Riek and Zsolt Koroknai); Erdész Gallery, Szentendre
2008 Gyárfás Jenő Picture Gallery, Sepsiszentgyörgy; Hamilton Aulich Art Gallery, Budapest; Gallery IX (Screenplay-book sculptures) 47 Ráday street; István Pataki Gallery, Kőbánya (with István Orosz és Erzsébet Szabó Katona
2009 Festival Theatre, Palace of Arts; Conestabo Gallery, Trieste, Italy
12 January – 5 February 2010 Fészek Gallery, Budapest (Antenna sculptures and graffiti in space); 29 January – 10 April Kass Gallery, Szeged- Ferenc Móra Museum (book sculptures and plastic art); Neue Kunst Galerie and Staatstheater, Karlsruhe, Germany; Sesto al Reghena, Abbazia (Abbey) with Szilamér Nánay, North Italy; Stadt und Fachwerkmuseum”Alte Universität” „Klavierwerke” Eppingen, Germany

Prizes, Scholarships
1979–82 Derkovits scholarship
1984 special prize of the jury, 16th International Painting Festival, Cagnes sur Mer
1986 prize of Soros Foundation
1987 Scholarship and exhibition through the Cultural Ministry of Egypt
1992 scholarship of the Cultural Ministry of Norway, Ekkely, Oslo
1993 Art Revue Budapest (Design and fine art exhibition in the Budapest Congress Centre) shared 1st prize
1995 USIA scholarship, Phelps Stokes Foundation, USA
1996 Panel Painting Biennale Szeged, prize of the Cultural Ministry
1998 scholarship of the city of Frankfurt (Artist in Residence program)
1998 ‘Music for the Eyes’ exhibition series by Matáv, 3rd prize in painting
1999 Munkácsy Prize
2002 1st prize in painting by the Hungarian Pan European Union
2005 Nógrád county’s prize, Spring Exhibition, Salgótarján
2006 Kunststiftung scholarship, Stuttgart, Baden-Württemberg (organized by Budapest Gallery)
2007 Hungart (Visual Law Society) annual scholarship
2008 Édeske Prize (István Haraszty’s prize) Rákoshegy, (National wood small sculpture and sculptor drawing exhibition)