Brigitta Muladi: "Átlátások"

Before the material seen here was compiled in its entirety, we had a few occasions to engage in conversation with the artist, and the subject of the title of the exhibition arose as well. Presumably, it has not influenced, or is influencing the works in any way; it would exclusively provide points of reference to English-speaking visitors if the title of the exhibition had been displayed in English. It was astonishing to me as well when Agi explained that many of her native English speaking friends had been unable to find a fitting equivalent to the word ÁTLÁTÁSOK. Would the richness of expression be so pronounced in the Hungarian language? In Hungarian, the word átlátás contains a multitude of associations and specific meanings. Primarily, it refers to seeing through some kind of a surface or opening, or perhaps over something particular, or as “seeing through something/someone,” meaning a quest for truth through superficial appearances, or it might even mean the speedy recognition of a solution for a problem.

But in truth, the meaning is not at important, as the issue is precisely the degree to which the spectator can absorb the paintings as color surfaces without meaning, but not lacking content, or the degree to which he/she can enter the paintings, become a part of them – to match their slow pace. Átlátás might be important for the patterned paintings, where the artist imparts additional information alongside the color surfaces through the patterns.

It is undeniable, however, that the foundation of Agnes Kontra’s current exhibition is the expression of her intense relationship with colors.

In general and on a fundamental level, colors represent the greatest challenge for a painter, be it figurative, tárgyi festészet, or abstract painting. Once she takes a color from the shelf, in and of itself that act instantly defines many aspects. In painting, the pure presence of colors also means a kind of an intense preoccupation with artistic-painting internal problems and implied rules, or the spiritual level of thinking, where the painting appears as a symbol of art, and the artist seeks the purest opportunities of painting.

Even if the colors do not form anything, they still express emotions, sensations and moods, or evoke the same from our memories. Consequently, we can talk about cool/warm, wet/dry, loose/densely woven, airy/heavy, or focused/distant colors. And naturally, the colors of the environment also have an impact on our senses. All in all, works that influence us through the power of colors are more likely to hold us within our own world than figurative paintings. This is why the term “meditative” is preferred for these works.

Swiss art teacher Johannes Itten (1888-1967) spent nearly his entire career collecting and classifying his experiences concerning the properties of colors and their uses. According to his observations, everyone has their own color palette, meaning a toolbox of colors that on a component level are rather different from those of others and follow the natural proclivities of the individual. For example, that person’s own colors play a significant role in the selection of hair color, eye color, skin color.

In connection with the aesthetics, sensation and use of colors, he has made the following taxonomical finding: 
All of us are able to use and interpret colors on three levels: 
1 – sensory-optical – on an impressive level, when we choose the color ourselves, on the basis of visual stimuli.
2 – psychically – on an expressive level, when we let ourselves be guided away from our own state, and allow this factor to play a role in the selection.
3 – on an intellectual-symbolic, as in a constructive level, when we consciously select the direction to the subject matter. Such as, for example, the choice of the base color of air-sky-water, the sun is yellow, or red.

I would change the order set by Johannes Itten and put the intellectual level on top; I think it takes precedence over the other two. A crucial, important momentum is not present, namely playfulness, experimenting, an aspect that is freedom at a high level.

In his book title The Transfiguration of the Commonplace, Arthur C. Danto describes the story of Kirkegaard, who had had a snappy story with regard to a monochrome painting. He had received a red painting form an artist, who responded to his question of what it had depicted by stating that the picture showed the crossing of the Red Sea, once the Jews had already crossed and the Egyptians had already drowned. If he hadn’t given an explanation with the painting, the multitude of associations of the color red would have remained; blood, pain, fever, hell, passion, intense joy, the overwhelming miracle of a sunset, which probably continues to fill with color in lockstep with our mood at that moment in time or situation in life. In other words, the painting can change with us, free to shape itself through us.

Color – its saturation and shading - have one more important component, however: light. Naturally, the direction of the lighting plays a prominent role in the mode of action of Agnes’s paintings; this is natural, as colors are only perceived by the eye by conveying light. In other words, “Color is a sensation generated in the brain, it is the brain’s reaction to light.”.

In 1666, Newton discovered that a prism breaks white light into the various colors of the spectrum. “When we disperse white light through a prism, it breaks down to its component colors as it traverses it. Colorful bars of light appear on the capture screen in the following order: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet. This system of colors is called a color image or spectrum.”

In the exhibition, we can read a few written works and a poem that is the decription of the artist’s peculiar color spectrum, described through poetry. And poetry has something to do with these pictures and not only by amplifying the feelings that can also be expressed through words.

A monochrome picture – due to the reduced use of color – becomes defined as a result of the application of its own internal rules, meaning that it becomes the dynamic system of sensitive harmonies, unity, or of contrasts and rhythms.

This work is a constant struggle on the part of the follower; it is a fight with time, the time of day, mood and one’s own internal changes, significantly influenced by given light conditions and last but not least, spatial layout.

This type of work emphasizes openness: the fact that this is a clean, absolute form of painting, which does not seal, it has no concrete subject matter, it is not “iconic;” rather, it is metaphysical, which does not just abandon the depiction of the “image,” but also surrenders matter as a pure medium.

Although, let us admit that the paintings have something to do with reality, they are “close to reality” (just as I was reading in “ÉS” magazin the László Beke quoted words of Gizella Rákóczi).

The spirituality sensed here assumes the possibility of a repeat performance, a transformation in structure. This system – which is entirely Agnes Kontra’s – is permeable to patterns and organic motifs, acting as a kind of surface element to break up the monochromatism.

Additionally, I would share with you what to me is a surprising and interesting additional tidbit now, at the end of the opening, that Agnes Kontra did not get mired into the not minor – singular, artistic problem that is sketched bz the pictures shown here.

The modeling or absorbing qualities of colors also have not escaped the artist’s attention. This momentum is hard to integrate into the clean art seen here, however, so she began a unique experiment – which is of course enabled by her outstanding abilities as a sculptor – in which she examines how an object standing in space – in her case, surprisingly, a portrait sculpture – behaves, when it receives such colors and surface coatings, that are specifically intended to hide the sharp contours of shapes by the absorption of light.

Even though we cannot see these portraits here, only in her catalogue, which includes her recent works.

I would like to recommend this publication and at the same time, open the exhibition.

©2019 - Kontra Ágnes