Art Colony 2007
It seems that the 19th century initiative shared by artists who withdrew from large cities and from their institutionalised and stressful artistic life, seeking and making their own way, wishing to clarify and take on ideas of those who shared the same mentality, which in turn led to the establishment of artists colonies all around Europe and America has grown deep and long term roots in Hungary. In Autumn 2007 an exhibition in Szentendre showed works of the painters (including Hungarians) who attended Barbizon, the ancestor of such artists colonies. A large exhibition at the same venue displays outstanding former and current artists colonies in the Hungarian history of art. Some small exhibitions, simultaneously, show this year’s works from the latest artists colonies (from Élesd and Nagykáta, displayed in Budapest, from Szolnok, Miskolc and Sóvidék, shown in the respective cities), including works from this year’s Cered- Salgótarján International Artists Colony, gathered together for the 12th time.
From the viewpoint of Budapest’s art life it is worth nothing that artists nowadays prefer to move out to nature, often to villages virtually unknown to the public, to ind an open and welcoming fellowship where nature, community and art can interact to their mutual interests without the need for mediators, explanation and interpretation. Instead of the often cited estrangement of art and audience or spectacular events to bridge the gap, coexistence within nature offers a relaxed opportunity for a wide range of creative works. It is certain that cultural centres, in contrast to the freedom of creative work in an artists colony, must keep to established procedures and a strict scale of values. However, you must note the contrast between freedom and values, as well as the restrictive nature of value terms and the aversion to free and unpredictable creative work. I believe the time is ripe to occasionally draw together a large national selection, which is a ine opportunity to show what is going on in our artists colonies and is a way to bring the concepts of art critique closer to the art itself.
Artists from Hungary, Slovakia and several European countries meet every summer in Cered, located in Nógrád County and close to the Slovakian border. Ars poetica of the artists colony is, from year to year, deined by actors and ilm people in addition to artists. The artists colony’s open-air “Log Theatre” and Box Gallery are places where works are reined in public. The results are regularly shown at the Nógrád Historical Museum in Salgótarján.
You may ask: why Cered? What is in Cered? Well, nothing and everything. This year was the second occasion when returning artists found a common program and subject. Last year this subject was the wood, while this year it was the canvas. Cered has plenty to offer from both, therefore the 23 participants gave diverse answers to the current subject. Hereafter I will focus on the works which can only be summarised within one train of thought.
Considering the current popularity of the art of painting and paintings themselves, you may readily think that the artists colony became a colony of painters. However, the founding group of Cered art colony includes some passionate painters who have already painted everything therein – doors, walls, furniture, any objects or rubbish. Painting is therefore not a novelty for the participants, so the canvas did not inspire them to paint. Old homespuns (non-patterned, striped, checked clothes, sheets, bed linen, fruit-picking linen) and embroidered outits kept by the Cered inhabitants in their cabinets however implicitly motivated creators to seek the origin of the relation between canvas and picture. It seems that all artists have relected to this relationship, each in his or her own way. No wonder, because a barely striped cloth itself has been deemed a picture since the appearance of minimalism and its procedures aiming to re-explore visual concepts. This origin is clearly seen in Csaba Fürjesi’s double picture titled “Cered Tones” (Ceredi tónusok) which consists of two framed fabrics, which seem to be alike, but are in fact different. The Belgian Emi de Graeve builds on this; she created a tructured and plastic suspended canvas hanging natural variations of textile stripes (ribbons and wires) in front of it. This movement of planes is an autonomous artwork, implying that the history of Cered clothing is not yet complete as due to their former essence (i.e. usability) they need further care and attention. Similarly to the objects of so called “high art”, former handicraft products are treated as pieces of art, but are also deemed to be open for any interventions that are similar to canvas processing methods known from the culture. Resulting from this, the artist’s response to objects is integrated into the object itself. Emi de Graeve’s suspended set is a lag-like object. This opportunity was explored in a different way by László Sánta, who used grain storage sacks to make pictures that are similar to procession lags. His pictures include painted and applied details, showing everyday objects and items from the life of the village and the artist colony (for instance wells or the Ars Longa label) each with equal significance, sacralising and profaning their function at the same time.
The ancient version of all canvas imaging methods is the vera icon, Veil of Veronica. This is found in several works made in Cered, however it is not a painted picture but a print of the face of Jesus. Artists nowadays make prints on materials other than canvas, and the human body has been rarely used as painting device since the body prints of 1950s and 60s.
This may be the reason why prints on Cered clothes are so different and ambiguous. Csaba Fürjesi’s huge heads – inspired by different tones of Cered clothes and made by various colour pressing techniques – are variations on contemporary heroic icons and today’s popular (photo-based, authentic) icons seen on many different objects: an unidentifiable, linoleum-pressed face (derived from a drawing) is looking out from a twisted, grotesque body. This generic, non-speciic portrayal can be regarded as our authentic portrait. (Again, another common icon is seen in Gábor György Nagy’s work titled The Money Bag (Pénzeszsák), where he reproduced the missing image of money using frottage techniques. Printing on canvas is not the only technique used to represent icons. Ágota Krnács used drawing ink with walnut stain and drew a set using rapid movements entitled Expressive Eyes (Kifejező tekintetek), which, in contrast to the neutral style of advertising photos that give the impression of perfect people, shows characteristic and emotional faces, which are more realistic than photographed faces often said to be authentic. Klaudia Kosziba’s conceptual and artistic visual approach wants to step over the transitions between a real picture and an artistic picture as illusion. While she enables you to see the structure, the minimal ornaments or the seams of a homespun (i.e. results of a traditional cultural practice), she also produces illusion like painted pictures. Her still life consisting of a canvas bottle, a canvas knife and canvas bread placed on a canvas table cloth materialises the illusion produced by the painted canvas. This queries the authenticity of artistic illusion, moreover your concept of reality as well. Just like her other work titled A Lake Like a Hundred (Egy tó mint száz), where thousands of prints of the same igure piled upon each other produces the illusion of the sea, but the yellow canvas ish Swimming in front of it brings spectators into reality… and also from there into the lively imaginary world of children’s toys. So the problem of the collective application of cultural traditions and ordinary painting techniques becomes the relationship between art and cultural practice. True to the raw material, the creator treats the “high art” and illusions of any visualisation with irony, catching the essence of culture: the open operation of human abilities, (intellectual and emotional). Reference to things other than “high art” is a conscious creative work, and can also be construed as a new cultural practice, a suggestion to an anthropological art concept. If so, and if the memory of textile and homespun can be recalled, and former creators can also be recalled, you can understand and experience the objects in their own meaning. You can experience this in the shawls on Attila Bobály’s giant wooden woman, or the shirts, camisoles and eiderdown covers in different installations.
Cecília Kun’s Harvest Festival (Aratóünnep) consists of four female camisoles hung in a circle. The composition is suspended so that you can see it slowly rotating, like Palóc dancers on the painting of Zoltán Réti from Balassagyarmat.
Rothman Lenke from Sweden put an embroidered male shirt on a cloth, decorated it with ribbons and surrounded it with a small suitcase (that indicates escape) and photos taken from a ship’s window. This composition is the historical remembrance of the deported artists, who were forced to leave their home country. In his work titled First Communion (Elsőáldozó) Jozef Suchoža put also a roll of cloth to add its aesthetic quality to the camisole.His composition becomes complete by a sculpture, a ceramic chalice consisting of two hands (interpreted as the Palm of God). Giving meaning to an object as artistic process to create something new without adding to the number of artworks. This method is often used by contemporary art, which is sensitive to the civilisation, original function and context of objects re-qualified to artwork. Cecília Kun lived with this opportunity in her work titled Eiderdown’s Dream (A dunna álma) when reviving an eiderdown cover illed so that it resembles a human body. She did the same in her other work – made together with Klaudia Kosziba and Ágota Krnács – titled (Szeméremkajak), where creators, citing a common sexual reference, anthropomorphised (feminised) the eiderdown of a marriage bed by putting the feather mattress so that the opening used for illing it was face up. In his response to this female art (body disclosure) subject, Jozef Suchoža created a special setting: looking through the profane opening of the eiderdown case you can see a holy picture (Madonna). The key of holiness and profanation (the interpretation depends on your openness, culture and viewpoint) lies in the creator’s viewpoint (Secret Prayer). Despite the profanity of glimpsing (or even due to that) the meaning of the hidden picture, the other vera icon (Madonna picture), remains, moreover gets stronger.
Canvas displays, sewing, pressing, painting or stufing are procedures that are not (necessarily) related to art, rather to a culture and its history. Sheets, cases, towels, shirts were originally made for consumer purposes in relation to the human body, with ordinary or ceremonial use. The processed canvases contain the past (the weavers, embroiderers, and the female life itself) and – resulting from the creation process – contain artistic relections alike. The result is ceremonial. Canvases and settings illed with body and soul claim the same authenticity of human contents that were their raw material – the homemade canvas – otherwise represented.
“Think with the senses, feel with the mind” – goes the motto of this year’s Venice Biennale. Considering the history of art this sentence may sound banal, but Cered artists colony truly justifies the motto’s timeliness. A culture, which has been so far locked in cabinets and drawers, opened and fertilised the thinking of the creators. The little village (so far considered to be at the world’s end) and the actors who moved there in the summer, or just sent canvases there, gave sensitive responses to articles of a culture, re-explained and enriched the concept of value and art, while meeting the universal need existing in the art world. Instead of creating a difference between centre and periphery, they have proven the existence and signiicance of the freedom of art.
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