Nothing Is What It Seems To Be – Interviewing András Bernát | Three Generations of Bills | A Show by Painter László Fehér
Ágnes Bihari: Nothing Is What It Seems To Be – Interviewing András Bernát
András Bernát has recently changed his gallery-base but not even after twenty years has he parted with his stock motifs. After exhibiting first with Hans Knoll and then with Judit Virág, he now presented his works with Erika Deák. We talked at his show which closed on 30 July.
ÁB: József Bullás, István Mazzag, Zoltán Ádám, András Bernát – the foursome had worked in the same studio at the Arts Academy and came subsequently to be mentioned in the same breath for long afterwards.
AB: Back then, in the 80s we were surrounded by a strange intellectual effervescence stemming from the Painted Afresh exhibition and its aftermath. The four of us had indeed set up several joint exhibitions, and were taken for one solid group but in fact we were never part of a solid group. I, for example, never took part in the shows organised by Loránd Hegyi as did the rest of the foursome simply because I was undergoing a slower phase of life back then. In my graduation studies I tied up female nudes with landscapes which resulted in pseudo-landscapes as Loránd Hegyi used to call them.
ÁB: Please, tell me how those pseudo-landscapes had given rise to the works of your subsequent period.
AB: I used to have a recurring dream which put me into a certain emotional state which I then tried to transfer onto my canvasses. At least this is what has happened many-many times since. This intangible, yet definite wreathing or billowing something that I have painted over and over again comes from that particular dream of mine. In the early 2000s I turned to a rather perfectionist use of a single colour, or at least very few colours. My paintings started to look like statues. I was branded a “monochromatic” painter. It is true that tones of colour and light and shade have always meant more to me than colours even though the present exhibition is quite rich in colours probably because recently I have tried to find a way back to my early landscapes of the 80s, maybe this is why I use many more colours than before.
ÁB: You have a technique that you have used for many-many years. You must have carried it to perfection by now.
AB: I have mixed metal powder in my paints. You see, viewed from different angles, metal powder reflects light in highly different ways. All this dates back to the early 80s when we were all touched by the New Wave. We were all experimenting with fluorescent materials like silver or golden felt, various sprays used by graffiti artists, etc. I first used silver paint to reproduce a shadow in a second grade compulsory job at the Arts Academy. Undoubtedly, I have long been preoccupied with things that look like light from one angle, and shade from another. Which means that nothing is what it seems to be; positive shapes can somersault into negative ones, and conversely, making the whole process look highly uncertain and even transcendental. This is how I came to paint shapes first in an architectural, then in an organic way.
ÁB: And the sheer excitement of this hasn’t let you go ever since? There has always remained a combination of colours or a change of vantage point to test?
AB: Yes, I have painted these shapes for almost 10 years.
ÁB: How many have you accomplished?
AB: Almost 600, i.e. 600 objects.
ÁB: 600 what?
AB: Objects. I call and number them as objects. With this term I try to distance myself from my original dream simply because my experience of the basic dream has become more or less objective over the years. In any case, I make them at a single go which requires a lot of concentration and physical effort. You see, you can only work at the surface combing it for waves while the paint is pliable. As soon as it hardens in app. 2 days, you cannot meddle with it. Whenever I work on a large painting I have to paint it for three days running with very little sleep.
ÁB: Isn’t this somewhat like fresco-painting?
AB: Maybe so, but paint there is put on in smaller portions. With what I am doing, you have to put on the whole amount at one go because the finished painting is a single wreathing surface, if you stop somewhere, the whole thing can fall apart. I have probably chosen this technique because I have always been very clumsy and I simply needed the challenge involved. But there are always a lot of preliminary studies, sketches, drawings, and works on paper before I start working on the painting proper.
ÁB: Why do you think critics have taken a liking to your works? You are certainly what you can call a successful painter. Why do you think you have had such reassuring feedback over the decades?
AB: I have to acknowledge without being unduly modest that people do like my pictures. This is how I make a living, and my paintings have been taken away to many-many places. I have long lost count of many of them. As to why this happens, perhaps in our age there are no single interpretations of the world we live in. An artist can only offer his or her own interpretation which sometimes chimes in with the inklings of certain of his or her spectators. The world can never be understood as a whole but there are a tremendous lot of interpretations around. I would like my pictures to express this strange multiplicity.
Three Generations of Bills
30 July – 30 October
Modern Gallery – Vass Collection, Veszprém
Located in Veszprém, László Vass’ private collection focussing on geometrical Abstract painting now presents works by three generations of the Swiss geometrical artist-dynasty Bill. The oldest of the artists, Max Bill was a towering figure of the Constructivist movement started by the Bauhaus, a movement aiming to link up art, science, geometry, maths, theories of light and colour. This is his first appearance in Hungary since 1986. The show will doubtlessly thrill both professionals and ordinary visitors.
A Show by Painter László Fehér
27 July – 13 August
Jesuit Church, Veszprém
Launched recently, Veszprém’s Óváros (Old City) Gallery has performed an ambitious venture by introducing painter László Fehér to local lovers of high art in the pure white space of the recently refurbished Jesuit Church of Veszprémvölgy. “My figures”, the painter has said, “owe their existence to shades lending presence, consistency, and duration to us”. Indeed, one of Fehér’s constant themes is how space and Man become visible through Time. His melodramatic contours of human figures transcend the frontiers of Time. The large sized pictures evoke new interpretations and cultural experiences in the sacrificial space of the Jesuit Church.