Balázs Feledy : The Part and the Whole

Let us stop and quiet down for a few minutes amid the strides of an important ceremony commissioning a building, as we want to focus sharply on a picture, a painting. My selection of the phrase 'quiet down' is not a coincidence, since quietness, at least the way I interpret it, is one of the atmospheric features of painter Ágnes Kontra's picture on display here, while, simultaneously the painting also emphasises tensions.


That is an apparent paradox since we normally associate quietness with calm, but the stresses hidden behind the quietness of Ágnes Kontra's painting is exactly one of its novel effects. That is to say you will share those distinct impressions when your scrutinize Ágnes' painting, which I invite you to do. Ágnes' quietness is manifested in shades of blue, yet her blue hues participate in a vertical – almost numbing – shower-cum-burst. One tends to ask: what is it that showers down or bursts from below? Is it water? Is it gas?  Is it air? The relevant answer is precisely that it does not matter! There is no need to find an answer to the perpetual quest for the specific of the human brain, no, we must freely come to terms with what we see, that it is a unique motion of the immaterial, of perhaps the ancient element where striving to ascend is just as relevant as plummeting from above. No, indeed, we need not think in terms of tangible substance, as the painting is not figurative, on the contrary, it is meditative, which – and let me refer you here to the title – attempts to capture the spiritual rather than the materialistic dilemma of parts to a whole.

Ágnes Kontra's strengths lie in giving shape to questions about existence, which boil down to unique collisions or harmonies between rest and movement, soaring and downfall, wakefulness and sleep, reality and vision. The painting presents a variety of opportunities for interpreting the part and the whole. Anyway, the artist does not wish to be suggestive, she only desires to be indicative. She let us be (unlike most paintings around us which deprive viewers or recipients of almost all of their liberty...). The artist trusts us to join her in the upward momentum or the reverse cycle, but one thing is certain: her choice of colour is definitive, the shades of blue will, after all, give direction to our associations. What is that direction? Well, as Johannes Itten puts it in his expressive theory of colours: Blue is always shadowy and tends in its greatest glory to darkness. It is an intangible nothing and yet presents as the transparent atmosphere. In the atmosphere of the earth, blue appears from lightest azure to deepest blue-black of the night sky. Blue beckons our spirit with the vibrations of space into the infinite distances of spirit." The way he puts it is brilliant, and we are witness to that brilliance here and now. "Blue beckons our spirit with the vibrations of space into the infinite distances of spirit." All of that is extremely relevant. Blue, along with its shades and tones share the same beckoning character in Ágnes' painting, only because of her mastery and skill. She embarks on creating the image after extensive foundation work, she finalises the surface with multiple coats of paint. Her canvas is always elaborate not because of the richness of applying colour but through her exceptionally complex painting technique.

Ágnes Kontra can paint a picture that hits all of our senses whilst she also distances herself from sensual forms of inclusion by stressing intellectual connection. Even the size of the picture is suggestive. Although large paintings are a fad these days, Ágnes' painting does by no means jump on the bandwagon of current trends. This painting has to be of this size to make its complex mental and physical impact. And while the painting is now posted in what is a truly temporary setting, I would like to console everyone that it will stand up to the expectations it met earlier on even after it is exhibited at a permanent site.

It is a pleasure to have here a painting by one of the leading representatives of young Hungarian artists, one that presents us with plans using spectacular solutions in being sublime rather than thunderous:

Let this painting enter the treasury of the institution, it’s a symbol of sorts and is one of the important reflections of contemporary Hungarian art.