Thoughts on the Lakeside
An exhibition of MNK’s works
József Egry Museum
August 29 2015
I have the honor to welcome the artist, Ms MNK, who, following a number of exhibitions both at home and abroad, is today presenting her works in the József Egry Museum under the title Thoughts on the Lakeside.
Human beings designate themselves points of orientation in time and space for preserving values. The one-time studio-home of József Egry is one of these points: a sacral venue of modern Hungarian painting. A memorial place that has, for decades, been surrounded with especial regard, and distinguished from every-day places by having been canonized as a museum. We have invested it with special significance as we consider that the spiritual power and quality of the oeuvre linked to it elevates our human existence into a higher sphere.
For an artist, it is professional recognition and responsibility – and, not least, motivation – to have their works in an environment like this. It especially applies to the current case, as the subject-matters of MNK’s paintings are purposefully concerned with similar quesations.
She began her art studies in Budapest, 1973, in the art circle led by Ádám Misch. Besides the educational and exciting programs provided by the art circle, it was the years spent at Ady Endre High School in Ráckeve, led by Miklós Losonczi, that had a great impact on her approach to art. From 1976 on she studied at the Juhász Gyula Teacher Training College in Szeged, majoring in graphics. Having taken her degree as a teacher, she was teaching in schools both in the countryside and the capital city, holding drawing and art circles and giving lectures on art history. Starting from the 1970s she was working in various art colonies. She is member of the National Association of Hungarian Creative Artists and the Symposium Society and regularly exhibits with the Folyamat Society.
In contrast to her early figurative pieces, we now can see her landscapes mainly inspired by the lake and the backwater of Szigetbecse. On the pictures there appears the reflection of the sky and the vegetation separated by a horizontal line, or, more generally, the basic structure of the lakeside landscape, all depicted with a personal tone. Like in her figurative pictures, instead of the concrete objective formations, MNK rather formulates the general substance, accomodating – with an allusion to Werner Hoffmann’s concept – ’pre-material formal contents’. Her loose series of pictures, with a tone reminding of the spoken language, base the landscape experience on a characteristic color sound or color contrast. The intimacy of the motif, its relatively low spatial depth, the narrow picture cut, and the reflection disrupting space, all favor the spontaneous gestures of the spatial organization of the picture that’s mostly held in plane. The color patches and the tonal values of the coordinatively treated picture surfaces are pulsating horizontally and vertically, recalling the monotony of the landscape depicted. Depending on the light changes of the different times of the day, the treatment of the material varies between dramatically contrasted and humidly blurred. The works done in acrylic or crayon virtually allow an insight into the creative process. Both materials easily lend themselves to the brushwork resembling handwriting. To achieve her goals, the painter does not hesitate to use the tools of modern and contemporary art, which originate from earlier stages of art history but have been accepted since then.
Exhibitions normally provide more opportunity to discuss the artist’s personality and the spiritual and psychological factors of the creative process, and less to go into the questions concerning the language of painting. While in fact, between the artist’s intention and the reality of the finished picture there is the specific manner of artistic speaking carrying its own semantic contents, which exists through the nature of the painted material and the way it is handled.
Landscape, the inexhaustible treasury of opportunities for painters, has served as a starting point and motivator for the artistic program of countless masters of the painting art. The infinite formal richness of the ever-changing landscape and its ’chaotic forms’ /Ruskin/, the amount of information forces the painter to creatively ’select’ the items that are useful and important from an artistic point of view. ’Nature is a dictionary, but nobody has ever written a novel having a dictionary in hand’, goes the teaching of Delacroix. Turner, the impressionists, even Kandinsky, used landscape painting as a springboard for renewing the range of artistic instruments and forming the modern concept of ’picture’. According to Maurice Dennis, ’A picture, before it depicts a war horse or anything else, is, above all, a surface covered in colors’. This discovery and recognition of the color patches and lines and their own inherent value has launched movements that are active and effective till this day. The art of József Egry, Aurél Bernáth or Erzsébet Udvardy also, this way or other, feeds on this approach. What this sort of painting aims to utilize is the immediacy of the spoken language, the power of personal emotion and the force of the gesture of the painted picture. The artist Ádám Misch, the one-time art circle leader, had also opted for this type of painting, building his works on the articulated consonance of textural effects, freshly painted color patches and lines.
This is the formal foundation and aesthetic credo which MNK transforms into pictures, filtering it through her own personality. In the process of working, she reaches the balance of the factors belonging to different dimensions – such as the vibrating color and form combinations of the lakeside experience of Szigetbecse, the tactile impulses of the texture and the technology dictated by the paint, and the momentary personal dispositions of the psyche – through the motoric gestures of the creative impulse and the pleasures given by treating the materials.
Says Kandinsky, ’Technologically speaking, every work of art is created in the same way, the way the cosmos came into being, the instruments finally turn the chaotic thunder into a symphony: this is called the music of the spheres’.
The most prominent feature one may notice about the art of MNK is its vitality that is most conspicuous in her monochrome works, and which, in addition, I also like best of all.
What impacts me as a nice and generous artistic gesture is the spontaneity that she uses to transform her momentary spiritual condition into pictures. Her gestures give us an insight into the way how all artists must exist, which should not be interpreted as though I was flattering her, as she stands way above this level. We are not, of course, illustrators having to cater for the appeal of the public, but artists who are supposed to show our mental state as convincingly as she does through her artistic movements. We are supposed to express our own self with convincing power. A gentleman named Socrates was once asked what creativity was, and he answered that it was the thing that shows itself only after the work has been completed. This statement carries the truth.
It is the all-embracing nature of her gestures that most grasp my interest about her art. She does not put up her brushstrokes based on a precisely designed concept, they are reflections of her frame of mind
MNK should be seen as an artist who never presents us with a one-to-one image of reality, but shows us the contemporary condition sociale.
Read on May 8, 2015, at the opening address of the exhibition „Connessioni-Connections"
Persorso Museale, Varese, Italy
„Next day but one the Lord said…”
The title of Mrs. Nógrádi Magdolna Kiss’ exhibition confused me. Since the text “Next day but one the Lord said…” is seemingly a biblical quotation, however, according to the Genesis
God created man on the third day (“to our portrait, similar to us”), then God took a rest on the seventh day. In the sense of the Book of Genesis it was on the third day when (earth yielded plants growing green, which cropped according to their species, and trees ripening fruits…””
However, in her works there are only human beings, figures. Speaking clearly: her words are not from the Bible, the text just refers to the Bible. Nevertheless, divine creation is in pair with artistic creation, but there are several ways to interpret a work of art, as a professional colleague, an art critic or the spectator himself may do it. Many a time it contrasts with the original intention of the artist, but the essence of an authentic work is, over the aesthetic experience, to make us think, to stimulate us to interpret it. I can tell only my own version. Well, if Genesis was a conscious process, as it had to be, then God’s final intention was man. The Creator could see the realization of his plan in advance, thus on the third day He created the fruits of the trees in order to be eaten by man, and this way the Fall tempted man by the apple. Practically it is not important, that the title is intentional or it is only the game of the subconscious: by all means it makes us decode the text..
However, the sub-titles of the series are telling: Metamorphoses is an unambiguous reference to man, created from nothing, while the Invocations, the Dialogue and the Dialogue Failed refer to the situation that there is some kind of dialogue between men, or they just fight with its absence. After the title, let me mention some parameters concerning the technique, the material, the form, the world of colors of the works, and last but not least the thematic, the intentional or hidden message of the artworks. All these large and medium-sized works were executed on paper with acrylic paint and China-ink, and in some cases the artist applies both material within one surface. The way of representation is figurative, though one may find amorphous, abstract marks by the intentionally rough-and-ready, emblematic execution. Man himself is the subject of the twenty-five black-and-white and colored works. Choice of the theme refers exclusively to the human figure. The black-and-white works and the colored ones are exhibited in different rooms, though all these are about man. The figures form a group every time, sometimes only three of them make a sort of community, another time, similarly to the Apostles, there are twelve figures in the picture. The artist has given us only a clue to help in interpreting her works, that is a quotation from the Gospel of Lukas, that is: “Why are you frightened, why does doubt arise in your heart?” (Jesus said it when appeared before the apostles.) Well, in the human figures of Mrs. Nógrádi Magdolna Kiss there is fear and scare, but I dare see other features of these figures, too. In our case the story is not about concrete actors, persons, but about man himself in general. Still they exist in the pre-phase of creation, they are not shaped yet, they are still formable. There are no eyes in their empty, blind faces, we cannot look into “the mirror of soul”, they have got no arms, hands, their lower trunks did not divide yet, in a word they are torsos. We can interpret it that they are in a “semi-finished” phase, their vegetative beings still can be linked with the vegetal life created on the third day. However, we can comprehend it the way, and I prefer this version, that these figures, torsos are chatting, talking with each other, whatever their communication is about. At the same time, they are grouping in vain, as silence and emptiness can be felt. The Lonely Crowd, written by David Riesman, published in1950 in the USA, comes to my mind as this book has basically changed the course of sociology and social sciences. The easily executed, sketch-like figures many times turn toward each other, bending in a form which reminds me of Gothic windows. It is not the bow of the head of the humiliated and conquered people, but rather the mark of respect, the gesture of love and salutation, a motion symbolizing the democratic acceptance of others. The large-sized black-and-white pictures (and also the smaller ones) make flash several shades between the two colors. The body itself is white, while the contours and the easily painted foreground/background are black. The arched, flexible posture of the body, the ball-shaped peak of shoulders and head are counterpointed by the rugged, angled shoulders and the vertical stripe-like lower and upper trunks. Therefore, by the puritan handling of colors, over the opposites of black-and-white, the counterpoint of the form is present as well. Execution is rapid, improvised, and it also refers to the smaller pictures, though in the latter case the actors are worked out more precisely. Many times the vertical lines are combined with stains, spots, dots, amorphous islands. Many a time figures are standing like antique columns. The verticals, stretched longer than human dimensions, set together heaven and hell, the ethereal and earthly worlds. In the “color room” red, green, blue, yellow colors take a breath side by side, while there are also pastel works, restricted in colors, and two pictures are painted by lilac, blue and purple colors. In some of the pictures the easily painted black contours are enriched with yellow, red, gray islands and splashes, spray-like, granular fields. And the evidence of the desire for unity, fusing, togetherness, cohesion also appear, while in the virtual space of the picture the hiding, covered figures can be permeable by transparency. Body unites with another body, soul with another soul..
Opening speech held on 6th September 2013 in the Gallery of the Ferencvárosi Helytörténeti Gyűjtemény.
The peculiarity of Magdolna Nógrádi Kiss’s paintings is that in them vanishing, dematerialization, transparentisation, morphing and simulation play a significant part. What we get to see is an identical signifying medium, the scale is barely different either. In this environment, although patterns of behaviour can be changing, I still feel that the movements, the standing and bearing of the characteristic figures are carrying common features. The formal many-sidedness of the pictures, the idolic nature of the figures, the monochromity as well as the multicolority, are all assisting reception, arousing the curiosity of the recipient to find out what it is that can be meaningful for them, thus enabling them to discover their own world and portrait in the world depicted by the painter. In depicting the figures, the artist powerfully emphasises the structural elements: empty and filled-in spaces and planes. Harmony, perfection and beauty are forced into the background, or at least they appear differently from the way we would expect them to. The repetitive rhythm of the near-identical elements would sometimes distance us from the picture, it occasionally soothes our attention and makes us indifferent: OK, I have seen this before. But this is delusive appearance. The variability of the construction, its internal tension and freedom are the factors that keep up the spactator’s curiosity. This means that the elements can be transformed into each other, that they are mutually interchangeable. The key is the violation of symmetry, the distribution of the material is not symmetric in rotation. At places, there are sharp apexes, elsewhere round curves, encountering or parting. Man has always had this basic craving to be able to experience the transcendental within the conventional circle of personal human observation. The idol-like visualization of divine forces, thus making them personally addressable, was meant, by all probability, to satisfy this need. On the other hand, through the emphatic allusions at the negative stereotypes, Magdolna Nógrádi Kiss manages to sensitively indicate the relationship between the earthly and the celestial worlds, their getting interwoven, at other times their breaking away, or the conflict of duality itself, that in spite of all this, the reality of our earthly life is built on experience we witness day by day, and that this experience is so utterly different from the desired world. The paintings, the groups of figures emphasize the inevitability of community and tradition. The artist avoids inaccurate generalization referring to a group, but enables us to see condemnation and stigmatisation. Idol worship appears on the paintings as constant news and fight, by way of depicting the figures as non-acquiescing and struggling with internal spiritual frustration. The pictures tell us about the preservation of the entity and the identity. This question seldom appears in the media with a sober and evident formulation. We rather tend to recognise distorted faces, irregular phenomena. We are looking at ourselves, and others in a similar situation, as victims. We perceive individuals as members of groups that, by definition, possess certain qualities, and we are ready to draw far-reaching conclusions compared with the information accessible about them. Heidegger says that visuality is the combination of the world of images perceived by our ’glance’ or ’eyes’, which are dialectically shaping each other , and the constructions of our own spirituality. The faceless figures of Magdolna Nógrádi Kiss do see, they possess the ability of vision, as the chosen artistic form, the positioning of the figures in space and their dynamic relationship ’make up for’ the eyes and face, bringing the internal, spiritual life to our sight..
Élet És Irodalom, LVI.Évfolyam 9.szám,2012 március 2.
The Hieroglyphs of a dream world
On the drawings by Magdolna Nógrádi Kiss
Being uninhibited and, at the same time, full of inhibitions: this duality characterises an artist who unintentionally depicts and paints emotions. Confession and seclusion – it requires the self-exposing method of abstract antropomorphism to amalgamate and display this contradiction. Intangible thoughts and hardly conceivable messages are concentrated in these extremely simplified figures. The elegance and coarseness of the cave paintings could be another explanation, amalgamating another pair of contrasting notions, for the timeless and unmovable silhouettes, for the levitating figures burned into space. To carry on with the dualities: linking therapy and art by means of an ancient and symbolic technique for leaving one’s mark; hieroglyphs. But the homogenity of the figures overwrites the linguistic instability of the interpretation. The archetypical form, and the core, of the human form reduced to the simplest mark known from prehistoric times is the abstract dynamic movement. The bodyless and faceless beings of the sketchy outlines are no longer simple human beings from an earthly existence. Hunters, peasants, wizards and mythical creatures get mixed with cosmic signs, astrological symbols, weapons, tools, animals and plants. The signs, unified with the schematized figures, used to be almost visually readable hieroglyphs in the mythical eternity. Magdi Nógrádi’s simple gesture-figures reminded me of the puritanic human signs of bygone ages, but while the magical figures existed embedded in the universe, depending on the cosmos, their counterparts here are clinging together and get interwoven, struggling to escape from their solitude. The sameness and the difference between the old and the new feeling are clearly discernible, in place of the old-type embededness, the freely moving figures are rather rootlessly floating. Their acts are undefinable, the figures exist per se. Undescribable feelings, the uncertainty of levitation, both suggest a rather anguished state of mind. Having separated from earthly reality, the souls are floating in an intermediate space. The are but unconscious depictions of dreams and ephemerality, as they are rather emotion-driven involuntary body hieroglyphs. The most puritanic automatism, the impersonality and the abstract rythms of the movement of the lean figures already leads to a world beyond the ego. This is a world where the emotions so far controlled by socialization are only able to come to the surface in a stylized form and are free from rational antecedents and any form of rational planning..
You fix what is unfixable… with one motion Eszter Forrai
Despite their graphic size, Magdi Nógrádi’s paper paintings make the impression of panel pictures. What elevates them into this category is their spiritual dimension, which makes them, as objects of meditation and also as decorative spectacles, focus the spectator’s attention on the ever more independent thought. This thought seems to be stepping out of the story, the story about the birth of the ornament, or, approaching it differently, about the creation of the abstraction, also differring from the latter; about the organic interrelation of the figurative and the non-figurative, ie. about origin, the primary object, as well as conclusion, of any and every sincere and sensitive intellectual analysis – The starting point is clearly the outline of the human figure that gets abstracted, through three or five memory images, into sizeable spots, which are arranged first into a rare, then an ever thicker stripe pattern, though not in keeping with the rules of the classic hard edge stripe-painting. Subsequently the stripes become more and more airy, in a way reminding of the dripping technique – elegantly relying on the white of the supporting surface, thus softening the color orgy of the stripes and adding a little fine tuning to the primary intention – The above mentioned historical approach also includes playing with formation, as the outlining of the figures is not only firm, it is often doubled, sometimes red and blue are used to draw with gesture-like brush-strokes, then the gesture gets more and more liberated, its significance is no longer to accentuate memory images, rather to furnish the space of the picture. The broad stripes drawn into and over each other associate mass; on the one hand they might refer to a colorful crowd of humans, while on the other hand – and this seems more relevant here – it is a space-filling pictorial mass of forms, a reaction to passion, to expression, and the opportunity offered by it: the opportunity of tactfully shaping the order of free formation, the opportunity of the adventure of beauty, which is not quite without its dangers – The most dangerous adventure of beauty is trying to look nice and sweet, and the refined taste of our painter is also proven by the fact that she never, not even for a moment, slides into it, she continues to tell her story with her brush and palette without a moment’s hesitation, organizing into pictures visions born from views, and views born from visions. It is also possible that the consistent vertical direction of the forms (either conscious or unconscious, it does not matter, considering the result) also adds a metaphysical touch, enforced also by the strongly accentuated color-pair of blue and red, simultaneously evoking the heat of nearness and the cool of infinity, the dialectic unity of the opposites, the elevation of the flat picture matrix into virtual space, including the construction and the deconstruction of the picture in basically the same structure; And the strory will continue on and on opening toward the infinite…
Magdolna Nógrádi Kiss has exhibited nice and exciting works. We are shown pictures having an appealing rhythm, each of which expressing deep and intimate emotions. We are witnessing multiple repetitions of vigorous and firy blue and red rhythms that generate force and tension, which do not necessarily suggest positive feelings. They can rather be traced back to an internal tension that finds its way to the world of the painting. In Magdolna Nógrádi Kiss’s works, the figures are born of an abstraction by which the picture constructs itself, and builds a totally new dimension, a whole new world. Through depicting the simplified figures and motions, what gets to be really important is what she is able to express with these perennial forms, rhythms and gestures. We may be looking for the faces that are present on the picture even though we do not actually see them, as each one represents a gesture that is probably known to everybody. Each of the motions expresses a content, and when these motions get solidly rooted, it is the resulting permanence that evokes this ancient element in the pictures. I have discovered a lot of drama, and, simultaneously, a lot of subtlety in Magdolna Nógrádi Kiss’s pictures. The artist’s right to depict the world in the way she believes is luckily hers has to be accepted. Powerful artists would not even let anyone change this world in the least bit. This is what makes the artistic oeuvre a uniform whole. It is important that the most possible people get acquainted with it..
József Gaál - Introduction, Message Catalog
On the works of Magdolna Nógrádi Kiss
The most ancient picure is a shadow born of blazing flames. Daylight is the everyday reality of the confident man of action. Twilight is already opening doors to a mysterious world, man turning inward feels that, as the dark comes, internal delusions melt together with the mythical world of nature. In the darkness one is bound to experience the seamy sides, the weaknesses of human existence. The figures of Magdolna Nógrádi Kiss emerge from the dark, or levitate against a white background. The spectator does not feel the solid ground, the mobile figures create their own space, like on prehistoric cave paintings. There is no basis for comparison, they might be cosmic creatures as well as tiny signs, antropomorphic calligraphies, drifting creatures molten together but never reaching one another. This can be considered as poetic continuity with primaeval sacrality, the faceless mythical figures are now not hieroglyphs of universal divine beings, but messages of the hiding human being. The messages are delivered not by depicting flash-and blood bodies, but through displaying elusive images of the spiritual creatures that are abstract, perpetually mobile, thrust on the canvas as a gesture, and existing in the state of eternal transformationThus, like the magic deed of the old times, it evokes the transubstatiated spiritual man, which at the same time, is the exteriorization of the personal emotions having obtained their form through internal perceptions.
The human signs turned into gestures can be compared to prehistoric pictography, but their dynamism reminds of the stretched-out figure of the cosmic man rushing toward infinity, as well as the vulnerable human locked in the den of his imagination. This duality ensures the broader interpretation of the meaning as the schematic man deprived of his personality also means the purifying change, the moment in which the human spirit is able to push off from everyday reality, from the lower province. Indicating that his etherial body is floating in another dimension. On the contrary, the beings thrown in the reduced world suggest the struggle of the deserted man, the feeling of being thrust out of the universe. The feel of floating in depressing emptiness, instead of the cosmic spaciousness. It expresses the lack of the other person, the mutually interwoven conflicts of the drifting figures.The perpetual flow of the spirits now nearing, then breaking off from each other. The world reduced to the extremes widens the room of interpretation, thus it gets interpreted rather as a gesture, as a set of psycho-active antropomorphic signs. They are carriers of vague perceptions and emotions, and the space of the picture becomes a permanently changeable, still timeless dimension, where encounters between creatures of this world and of the hereafter may occur. The words of the painter also support the above:
’Most of my figures are sexless and faceless beings that carry, at least according to my intentions, signs of eternity. So as to spot these primaeval messages and decipher these secret signs left to us in the form of images, which are still understandable for the community, one had to explore wild and unknown places and dark, hidden corners. Just like Dante’s character in Divina Commedia wandered all over every corner of life and death. Wandering through Hell, the Purgatory and Paradise, he proves how the human soul can be purified of sin and can reach the utmost good and perfection. This same will guided me when I was trying to find a visual way of displaying the process of facing my demons.’
Nothing is what it seems to be. Here, at the exhibition, you can seemingly observe a set of artistic exhibits. But I claim that we are participants of a sculpture exhibition. If you look at it, you will see that this material depicts human figures. The central subject of Magdolna Nógrádi Kiss is Man. These ’asexual’ and ’faceless’ creatures are struggling to leave the earth. They ascend from the earthly being into a higher-level existence. Actually we have to do with transcendental existence that is apparently centered around a partnership. Seemingly we are given to follow the relationship between a man and a woman, a yes and a no, night and day, winter and summer, or between cold and warm. But this is just deceptive appearance. At places it is not just the story of a couple, the third party also steps in. Looking at the totality of the pictures, a crowd comes into being, a mass marching out of the earthly existence. We are witnessing the sight of a mass departure.
Dr. Róbert Nátyi opening speech 2018. Szeged,visitor center
I would like to cite an artist from 19th century German romanticism. A painter named Carl Gustav Carus, a physician by profession, who was in correspondence with Goethe as well as with Gaspar David Friedrich. In 1831 he wrote a memorandum in which he was arguing in favour of the primacy of the elevated landscape. In it he states that landscape paintings need not follow any historical guideline or narrative, what they should depict is the evolution of the soul. As for me, I think if Gustav Carus were alive today and saw the works of Magdolna Nógrádi Kiss exhibited here, he would certainly snap his fingers virtually. For these pictures are, in fact, about the history of the development of the soul. As it is well known that since the beginning of the 20th century, since avantgarde or non-figurative art has been around and has been subject of learned conversation, painting has been nothing but the reflection of the soul, which means that pictures can be interpreted as soul-landscapes.
Ever since that time, numerous artists have been thinking within this spiritual matrix. These pictures supply evidence, and I hope you will not misunderstand me, that art also has a therapeutic function. It is a special kind of self-healing process in which experiencing the world and living the totality of life is a sort of ’peak existential state’ of Man. As a result, many artists create works which convey different messages to us. In the 1960s Umberto Eco published a marvelous book titled The Open Work of Art, which placed the interpretation of works of art, and also the reception of contemporary works, on a completely new foundation. Since that time generations of art audiences have become aware that works of art are really open.
When I was asked to open this exhibition I spoke to the artist over the telephone. We didn’t yet know each other personally at the time. She told me to look at the pictures she was going to bring up here on her homepage ... Most of the critics think in terms of narratives, some sort of literary stories, when analyzing these pictures, which, of course, is natural, as every analyst tries to find the clues according to their own experiences and knowledge. This, however, is at the same time a trap, as the paintings by Magdolna Nógrádi Kiss do not have any particular narrative or any stories the way one can see in biblical or mythological narratives. They are neither historical adaptations nor genre paintings.
But let me just get back to the question where the trap really is? As we can see human beings in the pictures, we tend to link them up with stories. However, these figures are very mysterious, they are hiding from the spectator cryptically. They are hard to unravel, they just exist in the unchronological, painted, virtual space. The artist has repeated several times, and this can also be observed on these works, that these figures do not have gestures, their faces do not express emotions, which is likely to embarrass spectators. Her figures or creatures fill the space available for them, they all but force the frames open. This, of course, increases our embarrassment even further. It is kind of like sitting in an imaginary incubator, a closed world whose dimensions we cannot perceive. The picture frame will, of course, be the physical limitation, but we feel that the frame is not so much a limitation, and that the perspectives of the picture are really opening up into the infinite.
What we can, however, perceive is that there have already been artists in Hungary as well as in European art, who had similarly built a kind of private mythology. They developed a style, they thought in terms of series and sets, and they stuck to these theories that they had linked to them consistently all through their life work. Magdolna Nógrádi Kiss thinks in a similar way to theirs. These sequences, just like the links of a chain, virtually join with one another. Her paintings are organized as though we we watching a film, or as though they were notes from a long diary, or, one can also perceive them as illustrations freshly jotted down in the excitement of an experience or a vision. These day-to-day notes link up over the years and the sequences get to constitute one or another chapter of an imaginary book.
A further question arising is whether these bodies are genuine and existent? For they resemble what one might call astral bodies. Árpád Tóth had a poem published in Nyugat in 1919, in which he speaks about souls weaved from shadows. It seems as if these creatures were also weaved from shadows. These characterless figures are balancing on the border of abstraction, but remaining within the frontiers of recognizability. It is easy to recognize the taller figure as a man and the smaller one as a woman who carries the identifying features of the female principle. The fog-like beings are swaying like flowers in the meadow, with their heads bowed down, in the narrow section of space. They are present and genuine, still they are volatile, they are there in their physical reality, still they are intangible. Both literally and spiritually.
The atmospheric effect and the magic of the colors prevail simultaneously. In the series exhibited here the artist builds on the symbolism of primary colors (red, yellow, blue). We saw the same strange couples (or just pairs? – we are given no clue) appearing in bare space, against the neutral background in the series titled Offbeat and Melancholy. The series Offbeat, maybe due to the effect of the colors, seems to break with the tragic tone of the former monochrome (black and white) world and the figures, after emerging from one block, become more individual and more harmonious, swaying more mildly and smoothly.
Watching the exhibition in Szeged, several analogies from art history spring to mind. From the history of Hungarian art the figurative painting of the later period of Mattis-Teutsch, the mummy-like bound-up figures by József Benes from the 1970s and ’80s or the bodyless creatures by Péter Kovács should be mentioned as parallels. Also the ascetic silhouettes of Rodin’s Calais citizens appear in our mind’s eye. They remind us of torsos or bound-up figures that are trying to escape from under the impact of some paralyzing power. Speaking about sculpture, one cannot help realizing that Michelangelo’s statues of slaves also belong to the spiritual predecessors.
The paintings of Magdolna Nógrádi Kiss quite surely have a background strory that can be deduced from the artist’s own life, from the events and effects of her life, but the paintings will not tell us these stories. The pictures continue to be secretive. The exhibited paintings will have as many interpretations as many spectators they have. I wish you all would have a share in the spiritual adventure which I had this afternoon. I do hope each of you will find your own keys.
Thank you for your kind attention. Congratulations to the artist.