Mira Dalma Makai’s Solo Exhibition
Tayler Patrick Nicholas
Captured in the deep blue, highly reflective glaze covering one of the ten bulbous protrusions of the wall-mounted ceramic piece titled Claws and Leaves XXVIII. (2018), the viewer appears in the midst of the artwork. Surrounded by a miniaturised mirror-image of Art+Text Budapest’s exhibition hall, the observer is diminished to a microscopic scale. Focusing on this impenetrable surface is rendered impossible, as the heterogeneous expressions divert our attention. As we lose our mirror-image in this inhabited microcosm of glazed ceramic and let our gaze wander around, unseen creatures emerge and dissolve.
Between bright highlights and dimly lit slithering reflections a group of sharply pointed gestures swim past in another piece from the same series (Claws and Leaves XXII., 2018). Focus, unfocus. The red and blue colours of the glaze on the claws ooze back into the depths of the yellow and pink leaves, creating a heated debate of colour. Makai collaborates with chance and the physical reality of paint and heat to create the most intricate details, making her opus exist on at least two distinct levels. The artistic decisions are finalised by the natural processes that are an inherent part of the medium. Due to this, the artwork can be read both as thing and process.
Makai restricts the tools she uses to her hands, to mould and shape the clay, and a simple butter knife to cut back the growths that sprout from the cylindrical or rectangle-shaped bases. Thus creating remnants of larger spatial gestures, cut sections that reveal the contrast between the luscious homogeneity of clay and the rich alterations of substance that differentiate the tactile reality of the surface. These subtractive decisions create instances of perfect flatness, discontinuations of organic form, an almost mechanic smoothness. An insight into the material: a wound. Makai complicates this by painting over these cuts, symbolically sealing and healing them, or contrarily opening them up.
There is a type of beauty at play here similar to the aesthetics of scientific photographs, which alienate and disembody the observed object. This is the “sea change” of the close-up: when what is in front of us turns into “something rich and strange” just by the sheer fact of our proximity. The dichotomy of strangeness and familiarity is also at stake in Makai’s personal iconography, letting every element become identified as something similar to claws, leaves, shells or gems, but never precisely named and thus remaining ambivalent: somewhere between the unknown and the materialised.
In the main room of the exhibition, there is a group of artworks titled Columns. The installation of these magnetic monstrosities suggests an autonomous space for the viewer to interact with. They are built up from modular units, but all of them display distinct characters. Due to the gashes that tear up the walls of the sculptures and the open top in some cases there is a communication between outside and inside, that lets us peek into the depths of the columns. It seems impossible to leave our gaze in this darkness, as we are drawn back to the exterior, to the myriad of glistening and radiating glazes. This surface is not without danger. We are caught again.
Art+Text Budapest Gallery
14th November 2018 – 7th December 2018