Iván András Bojár
The Unhinged Realism of ATTILA SZŰCS
Earth - cosmos. Where is Attila Szucs’ place? Indeed, where is it? He is a methodical, meticulous artist. He keeps his studio tidy; the documentation of his pictures, catalogues, articles and references wait in effective order, so that at some later point in time, when there is another organisational purpose, they will be at hand without delay.
Szucs always sets out with the impulse for his pictures to relate, evoke or conjecture a story, but that story then stalls. The punch-line never comes. The point is precisely for each completion to come with a gentle thud, or perhaps not quite with a thud after all, but to simply settle down almost soundlessly. To abate. The beginning of the story, explanatory sentences reversing direction are simply omitted. Pictures. Thus, the protagonists move in some sort of ethereally translucent, but dense, slushy space. They come from nowhere to arrive no place. They simply are. And this aimless existence of dead dynamic is overgrown with anguish and fear. Familiar fear. That of loneliness.
This is not the loneliness of the elderly, but rather of the newly born. Held by the feet, s/he dangles toward the centre of the Earth. With a head gone crimson, s/he gasps for breath, until finally, with a great hectic awkward choking breath, s/he howls. This is already loneliness, the solitude of her/his own life. Expropriated territory.
Able to be enclosed in an exclusive and selfish mode. In clothing, in a coiffure, in the objects chosen, in furniture, parcelled in a house, even portable solitude that can be unfurled and set up among wildflowers from the yawning clearing of the depths of a forest. The individual may take that anywhere at all, everywhere s/he remains just bitterly alone. In the lobby of a Sicilian hotel, on the Island of Riflemen in Prague, on the chair next to Mary, on a terrace, at the seaside somewhere between El Jadida and Agadir, in the last row of a tourist bus, just as it turns onto Red Square, and even on the basalt stones of the small square before the Tours Cathedral. In November, …on a weekday, …in the rain.
What does a professional viewer see, in these last days of the millennium, and what might another see in another two or three millennia, when s/he takes stock of these pictures? Our approach today might be arbitrary, subjective – since the approach to the contemporary necessarily lacks the historical perspective of evaluation. One cannot have an overview at her/his disposition, not even with the precise knowledge of intellectual correlations, if s/he would wish to draw the borders of the milieu in which the pictures of Attila Szucs are embedded. First and foremost in the personage of Attila Szucs, certainly, as in the autonomous character of an artist disposed of internal processes, but the epoch is beyond the individual, as it is in the texture of the art of the period, and in the mood of the momentary condition of the world, in its quality, which Szucs experiences, recognises, grasps, and moulds into his own pictures.
What can explain Szucs’s obsessed realism? Which is, of course, not realism either in the philosophical sense of the word; on the other hand, the rhetoric of the Szucsian depiction is after all based upon a realist method and the problematic of the grip on reality. Szucs paints from photographs. He finds, collects and examines interesting pictures. He carries with him, in his memory, the preserved uneasiness, and suddenly, out of the blue – after some drawn studies – the pictures are transformed into paintings. The photograph is the mechanical mapping of the spectacle of reality. In the pictures of Szucs, there is the act of selection, that indicates the interesting elements of the spectacle of reality for him. As much as he intends to adhere to the mechanical image, the act of painting introduces personal elements. In spite of the endeavour for realism, the picture becomes opinion. Communicated. Thoughts kneaded into sentences, when yet they are unspeakable through the sounding of words and the brain’s capacity for sentence-formation. Only through pictures. Only in pictures.
Szucs does not stand completely alone today with this obsession. There exists also in Hungary a living painting tradition, whose sporadic emergence and internal correlations have not yet been groped from one end to the other by the domestic science of art history. Perhaps some later rhetoric of Nazarene representation, those from Gödöllo, or later the oeuvre of the Roman schools touched by the Novecentismo could have touched this off, and flowed into the Realism warmed by the pathos of Soc-Real. And then, with Csernus released from the narrow-minded emptiness of the official art, the potentialities of the epics of Realism were accomplished. (see Csernus: from whence did it come, and to where did it arrive?) And there, where the propaganda art and the ennobled commercial advertising-realism of Pop Art found each other, i.e., in hyperrealism, some kind of truly essential problematica ensued for us Hungarians. Méhes, Sándor Bernáth (y), László Fehér et al. circled around reality and the interchangeable truths of the image. Then there was silence. From this circle, only Fehér kept up a deliberate pace on his enormous surfaces during these years.
Szucs came forward with his complete and mature world. Szotyory, Szépfalvi, Baranyai, Kupcsik et al. collectively create now a special local outlook, (I myself refer to it as the Budapest eye) whose evaluational sphere is drawn around the oeuvre of Szucs. And in a wider-reaching view, Szucs’ painterly practice is likewise expounded, rebutted, evaded or described by the pictoriality, sensitivity and way of seeing of 20th century European art’s Cagnaccio di San Pietro, Otto Dix, Dejneka, Edward Hopper, Lucian Freud and Balthus.
Szucs stands alone – of course. The intellectual network, hotbed, the culture itself, in which he lives, generates. To what is added. His autonomy is above all justified by the immanence of his painting, his method of seeking new truths for his internal truths, built from inside. His balanced oeuvre and the force of his distinct visual universe can perhaps be best explained by this embeddedness. His pictures are immediately familiar, with the feeling that „I have seen these somewhere before”, operating with the mechanism of the experience „as if they would be my own memories”. That is, they build upon our own common basic experience.