The Artist and his supporters
STRANGE LIGHT, work by Attila Szűcs and Alexander Tinei in the TAJAN
From february 9th. to 17th.
The artist and his supporters is pleased to present Strange Light, an exhibition of paintings by two Budapest-based painters, Attila Szűcs's and Alexander Tinei . The title of the exhibition refers to both artists’ ability to convey a strange, otherworldly light in their paintings. In Szűcs’ work this manifests itself as a kind of aura that surrounds his subjects. We associate kinetic energy with motion, or with tensions and elements that might normally remain unseen but can nevertheless be felt, such as the force of human emotions or of chemical and biological reactions. Indeed Szűcs’ protagonists are often captured in the midst of a particular activity that either requires great physical or psychological exertion.
To a certain extent, the subject matter of Szűcs’ paintings is concerned with power struggles. This is manifested in the interactions he depicts between the individual and society, in the exploration of frictions between the conscious and subconscious mind, and in his focus on the manipulation of relationships; who is the victim and who the victor? Sometimes Szűcs uses an object as a metaphor for the outcome of these relationships, but more often his work is concerned with the tension surrounding what the individual can see and what they imagine. Mass crazes - such as the recent phenomenon known as ‘planking’ in the US, where people would just suddenly stop what they were doing (even in the street or at work) and hold themselves prostrate and still, inches above the ground, and then, minutes later resume their normal activity as if nothing had happened - fascinate Szűcs. So too do experiments in science and psychology; both have been the focus of many of his works.
It is not easy to convincingly portray the unseen, yet painting affords artists a means of linking the imagined and the real. This, combined with Szűcs’ deliberately measured and consistent palette and style, render his worlds both plausible and engaging: due in no small part to the artist's empathy for human nature and comprehension of the power of what it is possible to feel or believe, even if it is not visible.
Unlike Szűcs’ subjects which are surrounded by light or auras, Alexander Tinei’s figures appear to glow, as if they’re emanating light. Known for his striking portraits of tattooed young subjects derived from magazines, photographs and 'live' sittings with friends, over the past three years Tinei has become increasingly concerned with the phenomenon of instant global visibility and the exposure of people's formerly private moments on the internet through social networking sites. Using his traditional academic art training and painterly style to stage and submerge these 'icons' of cyberspace within the traditional context of portraiture, Tinei has created a series of theatrical stages and intensely dramatic, unnerving depictions that are somewhere between reality and fiction: projections of the self's desire to connect with others and to experiment with issues surrounding identity and the boundaries of social 'norms'.
While still drawing from new media sources, Tinei has begun to intersperse these 'finds' with iconic images from art history; particularly from Greek and Roman mythology, the Italian Baroque period,19th Century French and German Romanticism and Impressionist painting. Tinei’s recent adoption of a bold chiaroscuro exudes something of the fantastical theatre of the High Renaissance and Baroque periods, and the intensity of exchange between artist and his courtly or clerical protagonists.
The sense that many people today inhabit an 'other world' online in parallel to their ordinary 'real' lives is beautifully conveyed by Tinei's treatment of his figures. Their skin is strangely white, almost ethereal, as if not fully human. Contrasted against darkly unfathomable backgrounds, they pose in their alternate universes for 'friends' only known to them in this realm. In a way Tinei is playing with fiction and inventing stories that re-connect him with the inspirations of his youth. Growing up in Moldova he spoke Russian and accepted Russian heroes such as Dostoevsky, Repin and Serov, while not being actually Russian himself. Looking back the artist now feels he accepted unquestionably the imposition of another culture, an alternate reality imposed on Moldova when it became part of the Soviet Union.
Tinei's subjects are marked out, maybe wounded by life. There is a strong sense that in this strange other world of his paintings, there is a kind of safety zone where no matter how damaged, or strange, the subject is accepted for who he or she is. Their skin glows as if illuminated by a benign, supernatural source. This could be taken as a physical manifestation of hope or of light in the darkness. It isn't entirely clear, and perhaps Tinei is being intentionally ambiguous, pushing the viewer to spend time in front of his paintings with their strange hybrid subjects, performative actions and dark undercurrents. A recent work features a group of bathers, their backs turned towards the viewer, which makes them appear more vulnerable. Instantly evocative of Seurat or Manet, it is also strangely timeless and poignant; serving as a metaphor for humanity’s helplessness against the might of nature, the tide of time and the all-enveloping blackness of a universe that at times seems to squeeze the very light from the day.
Hope though, is at hand, the strange light that surrounds Szűcs’ figures and is exuded by Tinei’s, reminds us that human beings are not merely creatures of flesh and blood, but pulsing with energy and quickened with spirit. So long as there is life, there is light in the darkness.
Catalogue text in „Portrait of Power” Prague Biennale 5.
Attila Szucs's works are concerned with power struggles. This is manifested in the relationships he depicts between the individual and society, in the exploration of tensions between the conscious and subconscious mind, and in his focus on the manipulation of relationships; who is the victim and who the victor? Sometimes Szucs uses an object as a metaphor for the outcome of these relationships, but more often his work is concerned with the tension between what the individual can see and what they imagine. In the case of a masked figure the subject is a patient, so caught up in their own world that it has become more real than the world around them. Experiments in science and in psychology fascinate Szucs and have been the subject of many of his works. Often his subjects are surrounded by a strange aura, perhaps suggestive of kinetic energy or of tensions and elements that might normally remain unseen but can nevertheless be felt, such as the force of human emotions or of chemical and biological reactions. Fields of energy and of emotion find physical expression in Szucs's work; a task that is not easy to convincingly portray. Yet because of the consistency of his style and palette and also because of his dedication to his subject matter, Szucs's 'worlds' are highly plausible, even engaging: in no small part due to the artist's empathy for human nature and comprehension of the power of what it is possible to feel or believe, even if it is not visible.
2011 05 29