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A Cycle of Paintings Synthesising the Oeuvre

Kovásznai lived mostly alone in the last years of his life, withdrawn in his spacious house, in the Buda Hills. He did not tell anyone for a long time that he was working on a monumental series of paintings, which he made and kept in a separate part of his house that he had transformed into a studio. Only a short time before his death did he show these works to his friends. He could have no idea of how much time he had left when his fatal disease was diagnosed in 1980, a short time before the premiere of Bubble Bath. What he must have felt, however, was a need to sum up the experience of his life, including his painterly work. From that point on, until his death on 28 June 1983, he was working on a series of paintings that served as a summary and a vehicle to look death in the eye. Although he did not conceive these works in terms of seriality, they should be treated as a series related through their content. No matter how loosely linked these paintings are in terms of form, their frame of reference is identical.

Just like the construction method of his films or his summarising essay Homeland Animation, this last cycle of paintings attests to his interdisciplinary mode of thinking. It is manifest in the metamorphosing painting style familiar from his films, in his picture construction method embracing the dimension of movement even within a still image, or in his freely soaring essays, with their symbiosis of a document and fiction. Even though the series in question is comprised of paintings that present figures and fragments of narratives, these pieces have been made according to a spontaneous and intuitive work method. Such an improvisational work process contributes to the dynamic and sweeping painterly character of his works.

Kovásznai's last paintings may be examined in the context of several painting styles pertaining to the 1980s. It is the visual world of neo-expressionism - the German heftige Malerei, or the Italian trans-avantgarde - that Kovásznai's restless works call to mind at first. Belonging to the 1980s' tendencies is the movement termed individual mythologies, which artists employed as a means to interpret cultural history, literature, religion, and ancient mythology, or as metaphors of values and value-producing processes. Kovásznai's individual mythology - based on his more specific situation - extends to a more personal biographical reference than that, since he incorporated several situations and characters from his personal life history.