Miklos Sulyok: Waiting

Undoubtedly many of you have experienced that visual hallucination when we experience objects – the entire environment, really - coming towards us with a peculiar slowness after a long trip spent on a car, bus or train and were watching footage of the countryside roll by for hours on end. The motionless state, while it is visibly in one place, still appears to be moving. The exhausted retina and optic nerve play a joke on the observer.

The apparition of a peculiar, dare I say, impossible movement tickles our fancy on the paintings on Agnes Kontra. We are seeing a billowing, but one in which it is impossible to determine whether the fog is about to lift, or is in the process of coalescing; whether it is the countryside, or the horizon that is about to be unveiled, or about to disappear. Can we see motion in the painting at all, and if so, how?

Agnes Kontra’s art appears to be pure, sensual, visual concept driven painting.  She is not flirting with still present, although no longer relevant conceptualism, with the trend that was the strongest proponent of opposition to artistic objects in the last quarter of the twentieth century. Painting, always existing in parallel with conceptualism, previously playing a starring role in European art, but once again strengthened at the beginning of the eighties, has been returned to its rightful place by the movements of transavantgardism and “új vadak”.

Of course, this is painting after post-avantgardism; it is not story-telling, not genre-style, but rather art that utilizes an abstract vision as a spiritual instinct. In other words, as human senses instinctively compare abstract forms to specific shapes, like a child reading animal and human shapes into the shapes of driftwood and the strange forms of pebbles, in the same way, the painter entrusts the viewer with the conclusion of the painting by creating an undefined shape and venue.

It may appear to be a daring statement, but let us observe the paintings displayed here. On the paintings of Agnes Kontra, the horizontal line splitting the image field inevitably appears as the horizon of a distant region, to which we – still inevitably – associate the darker, lower ground-strip and the above, lighter sky-strip. Thereafter, the paint and color layers, partially covering each other, create a three dimensional situation, and thereby we are inclined to perceive a small landscape on the painting. Indeed, Agnes Kontra was interested in the problem of the landscape before, but not in the context of painting nature, rather as it pertained to the issue of a spiritual landscape. This is how we can call the genre existing in Hungarian painting since Mednyánszky, where the countryside becomes suitable for the expression of spiritual states. We are not thinking about romantic or surrealist psychological analysis, but rather of Mednyánszky’s vast landscapes of mountains or rivers. Let us not forget that the biggest painting problem of József Egry, one of the greatest and most original Hungarian painters,  was exactly the coordination and attachment of the mood of the landscape and of the human spirit. It is still us who put the landscape together with Agnes Kontra, but as the form elements that evoke a landscape are so simple and dense, they evoke the basic events of sensing and spiritual movements. In other words, we can state that these paintings are meditative pictures. It feels good to view them, they lead not just our gaze, but also our souls, while we create the image in our soul as well. And this creation of a vision is actually imagination, as we recreate Agnes’s paintings with with our own internal content.

All good art speaks of something of which the tongue is silent, just as it happens in the case of good music and architecture. Still, one is inclined to tell another what he/she had seen at the exhibition. What I see on these paintings is that they are not about ordinary days, but rather about something that goes beyond them. About spiritual, emotional content. They evoke venues in us, the former and might-have-been venues of our life.

I have already had the opportunity to say elsewhere, but I consider it important to point out that Agnes Kontra’s atmosphere art is not alone in Hungarian painting; her efforts can be related to the art of Miklós Szüts, Erzsébet Vojnich, Dezső Váli, Attila Szücs. We can encounter the mysteries of spiritual realms in their work.

Contemplating the title of the exhibition, the spectator also awaits what might appear, what the mysterious fog might on the paintings of Agnes Kontra might turn into.

Miklós Sulyok