The view from an armchair: on the brink of a season that never existed
József Pinczés’s Solo Exhibition at Villa Lívia
Tayler Patrick Nicholas
There is a brown leather armchair in the corner of the smaller exhibition hall in Villa Lívia. Behind the armchair, a number of paintings depict knick-knacks, figurines and toys: monkeys, bunnies, putti, ballerinas and other memorabilia. The artist’s usual place of introspection – the armchair – is installed here as a found object. Nearby, on a coffee table, next to a framed picture, a heat-driven metal wolf races above the flame of a candle. All these personal belongings further contextualise the exhibition space as private territory. However, instead of projecting a soothing domesticity, the toys in Pinczés’s paintings become actors of an uncanny vision.
In one of the paintings, titled The Night Watch (2018) toy figures emerge from the sombre surface of the canvas. They are not revealed in pristine detail but are partially hidden by the oscillating materiality of oil paint. These still-lives are meditations on visibility, on the realisation of something other than the sharp outline, that would draw its final conclusions. In the painting Hide and Seek (2018) a porcelain polar bear points towards a curled-up angel: silver looking at gold, a personalised alchemy. The unusually wide format of the composition makes the viewer follow the invisible line of the horizon, creating a slowly forming narrative between the figures. In the similarly expansive composition Nature Morte (2018) a toy aeroplane’s vivid colours loom up as an afterimage, as a set of gestures that swim across the surface. The objects which are scattered across, gain their gravity through the creamy substance of oil paint.
Due to the personal iconography of Pinczés (that he has been consistent with in the years), there is always a conversation between the discernible temporal layers. A giraffe, a balloon, a magpie can appear as a symbol of the artist’s presence: connecting the oeuvre not only on stylistic grounds but also symbolically. In the painting Master and Student (2018), Pinczés depicts a robot mouse – the exact object that served as the starting point for Zsigmond Károlyi’s painterly investigations in 2005 – in the company of a slightly asymmetrical, playful toy monkey. This image can be read as a double-portrait of the master and his student during Pinczés’s time at the Hungarian University of Fine Arts (2002-2008). Pinczés found these two toys at a flea market, consequently, even if the objects were transformed by the act of painting, they still possess the magical power of the “objet trouvé”, the element of surprise. The double-portrait is surrounded by a monochrome background of grey, a no-environment at first view, a painterly expanse at closer inspection. Articulation is not at its clearest moment, Pinczés deliberately works with the material’s unstable, transient nature.
It is pictorial space itself that becomes the centre of attention in other cases. Two miniature figures reveal the illusionistic dimension of the luscious, painterly surface in the case of the picture titled Bridge Builders (2014-15). Here the figures build a bridge in the seemingly undivided landscape of painterly fabric. In a video piece realised in collaboration with Barbara Lukács under the pseudonym of “Joseph Barbara”, a giantess reshapes the topography of the cliffs. The vast, desolated stretch of shore is miniaturised when the giantess steps on the cliffs turning them into soft mud – a microcosm of material – bringing attention to the feet and the destructive creation underneath.
In other paintings, there is no figure, and thus the viewer becomes the only human witness. Böcklin’s island refigures itself in front of our eyes like a mirage that can take many forms. (The House of the Ferryman, 2018; The House of the Mute, 2018; The Island of the Living, 2017). An island, a house or even a giraffe is hallucinated into the amorphous mass floating in the sea. The island becomes an idea that can be aimed at, but for some reason never reached.
Joseph Barbara: The Creation of the Giant’s Island, short film | video courtesy of the artist
Painting is just as much about distance as it is concerned with proximity. The closer we look at the tonally rich surface, the more aware we become of the unbridgeable distance that is illusion. The unthrown skipping stones that are attached to some of the canvases in the exhibition give an alternative in how we could reach these removed places. By throwing these skipping stones in fantasy into the expanse of the canvas, the depicted sea shows its depths. First horizontal, light above the water – then vertical, deep. The skipping stone sinks.
22nd of January 2019 – 5th of February 2019