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An interview with Dániel Erdély, Maria Lavman Vető and János Vető

Noémi Forián Szabó

The exhibition Domain#2 by Dániel Erdély, Mária Vető Lavman and János Vető was on view at the ffrindiau gallery in Budapest between the 10th and the 21st of November 2022. The material for the exhibition came from Sweden, where it was shown in 2021 at the Rostrum Gallery in Malmo under the title Domain. We talked to Dániel Erdély (1956-), a visual artist and inventor living in Budapest, Maria Lavman Vető (1960-), a visual artist and painter living in Malmö, and János Vető (1953-), a visual artist, musician and poet living in Copenhagen and Malmö about the collaboration.

Dániel Erdély – Maria Lavman Vető – János Vető: Domain ╱ 2021 ╱ Galleri Rostrum, Malmö ╱ Photo: János Vető

Dániel Erdély – Maria Lavman Vető – János Vető: Domain ╱ 2021 ╱ Galleri Rostrum, Malmö ╱ Photo: János Vető

Noémi Forián Szabó: Last fall in Malmö, you exhibited together at gallery Rostrum. The exhibition’s title was Domain. Now you are installing this exhibition in galeri ffrindiau in Budapest. Maria presented a new series of paintings, Dani the new artworks of Spidron and János a new video and a noise generator, which he used to connect with Dani’s artworks. I understand that the exhibition was Maria’s concept. What was exactly the concept?

Maria Lavman Vető: I got very curious when János introduced me to Daniel’s works – before and – at his exhibition at FUGA in 2018. In 2020 we suddenly got the possibility to make this exhibition: to find out what would happen in between our works. A meeting point for limited forms and different systems and coincidences. János connected me and Daniel and he chose to develop that connection also in the exhibition.

NFSZ: Dani, you had several Spidron exhibitions at FUGA. What is Spidron?

Dániel Erdély: It is a modification of the Euclidean plane, a version of the plane broken by edges, which, because of its structure, constructed like a vortex from a series of similar triangles, makes the plane capable of surprising transformations without stretching or distortion. The surface becomes changeable and adjustable in such a way that, while preserving some of its specific properties, such as the central symmetry of its repetitive components and the rigidity of the sheets that make it up, it allows for the creation and movement of a wide variety of reliefs and spatial shapes. The incredible variety of spidron shapes also opens up a myriad of practical applications, from energy installations to construction elements, acoustics and image resolution. One of my latest developments is a building structure and modular system that reduces the damaging effects of earthquakes, which will be on display at this exhibition.

NFSZ: You took three of your sculptures exhibited at FUGA to Malmö, where you also created new sculptures. How did you further develop the concept?

DE: My three, large-scale wooden sculptures are the basic elements of a greater constructing system where I used the cubic axes as the main directions of the space. The nodes are looking as simple cubes but their inner world enriches the possibilities as every Spidron bisection of the cubic node triples the directions. My aim to construct buildings and different structures based on this innovation.

NFSZ: Do you see a connection between the Spidron and Maria’s new paintings? If so, what is it?

DE: No. Only the deeper geometric structure and the concept of variability has some linkage between them. But Maria was right. After reducing the colours of my statues, our artworks fitted nicely to each other. My colouring before more of an educational purpose.


Maria Lavman Vető: Portal#1 ╱ 2021 ╱ Domain#2 ╱ 2022 ╱ galeri ffrindiau, Budapest ╱ Photo: Maria Lavman Vető

NFSZ: Maria, please tell me about your new paintings! Based on the photos, the colour scheme is extremely consistent and very fine-tuned, which appears in variations on the individual pieces.

MLV: It’s just a result of working with painting and digital images. Working with colour mixing in pigment versus light. I wanted to make a series of paintings where the basic composition was simple and complex at the same time. Inspired by Josef Albers’ idea about his composition Homage to the Square as a stage. A stage where the colours can perform. 20 triangular shapes, or rather 10 rectangles, all divided by a diagonal into two parts. The right part is a mirror image of the left. It is also upside down to create a kind of equilibrium as a starting point. The 10 diagonals in each image are angled in different ways intuitively during the painting process. At first glance, the pictures appear to consist of the same composition, but if you look more closely, the positions of the diagonals are slightly different in all the pictures.

NFSZ: Is it the result of experimentation or is it based on colour theories?

MLV: The colours were intuitively determined based on a certain method. The procedure was as follows: in the graphic design application, Adobe Illustrator, four red, four blue, four green and four yellow layers were placed over each of the (20) white shapes in the picture. Intuitively, I changed the transparency to varying degrees in the different layers. Layer after layer, I removed the material until I obtained a 20-colour-palette with colours which where quite similar in tones and denominations. The digital colour code was transformed to NCS – Natural Colour System®. The paint shop then mixed 20 cans of acrylic paint. Time to start! Each can got a number; 1-20. A colour may only appear once in the same shape. The first portal was made from the existing sketch from when the colours were chosen. The second was coloured in the reverse order. In the third, I intuitively tried to achieve interesting colour encounters. A few more were the fruit of such, in the classical sense, „aesthetic” or „artistic” decisions. After a while, a numbering scheme was prepared to ensure that the rule above was followed. A couple of pictures related only to the number scheme. The final ones in the series focused on the gathering light or dark colours in the centre of the image. János call them “sleeping paintings”. At dusk, two forms sometimes merge into one. The eyes then have to get used to the transition of the shades.

NFSZ: How many pieces were made in total? Does each image have a separate title?

MLV: “Portals” consists of a series of four paintings from 2020 and a series of ten paintings from 2021. The titles are Portal North South, Portal East West, Portal North West, Portal East South and Portal #1-10. There is a continuation.

Dániel Erdély – Maria Lavman Vető – János Vető: Domain#2 ╱ 2022 ╱ galeri ffrindiau, Budapest ╱ Photo: Péter Janesch

Dániel Erdély – Maria Lavman Vető – János Vető: Domain#2 ╱ 2022 ╱ galeri ffrindiau, Budapest ╱ Photo: Péter Janesch

NFSZ: I saw on your website the Abstrakt Konkrete exhibition in the Olseröds Konsthall too.
What is the correct term for your paintings: abstract or concrete or abstract concrete?

MLV: I was invited to participate in the exhibition Abstrakt Konkrete with three younger artists at Olseröds Konsthall. We were all influenced by the over 100 years old “abstract art” and “concrete art” traditions where form and colour in itself effect the viewer.

NFSZ: You studied art in Stockholm, then at the Danish Academy of Arts, and then at Malmö University. You first exhibited in Hungary in 1990 at Műcsarnok (Kunsthalle) in Budapest, and most recently at Budapest Galéria in 2012. Do you pay attention to Hungarian artists? Is there a Hungarian painter whose concept or pratice you feel akin to?

MLV:: I became familiar with Imre Bak’s works for the first time in 1990 at the exhibition Triumph: The uninhabitable where we both participated. After that I have seen his works in several exhibitions and I feel akin to his interest in colour. I have been inspired by Molnar Vera for the last 20 years and the last few years also by Maurer Dóra. There are many interesting artists in Hungary, for example Erik Mátrai.

NFSZ: János, how do you participate in the exhibition?

János Vető: After seeing Dani’s exhibition in Budapest at FUGA, Maria decided to invite Dani and me to an exhibition with her in Malmö in 2021. Her idea was that Dani primarily should use the floor, she the walls and I the acoustic space. I immediately felt a connection.

Dániel Erdély – Maria Lavman Vető – János Vető: Domain ╱ 2021 ╱ Galleri Rostrum, Malmö ╱ Photo: János Vető

NFSZ: What connection do you see between your works?

JV: Since I’ve been mostly concerned with sound for a while, I accepted the challenge. I was looking for an acoustic solution to connect the works of the two artists. The basic concept was structures arranged on vibration, which reminded me of the art/scientific world of both artists. But on top of that, Dani came with small 3D-printed, super-bricks and Spidron block elements, so the familiar vibrating sand was replaced by salt and the two building elements were tested in vibration, forcing the audience to interact. The little super-bricks gave up soon enough, and the walls built from them collapsed. The spidron elements, on the other hand, proved their worth and withstood the wildest vibrations. A tweeter mounted on the motherboard and a small synthesizer attached to it shook like an earthquake as the salt began to form into shapes and change places, and the little brick walls cracked and crumbled over time. The sound excitation and wall-building was left to the audience, but I myself often demonstrated the phenomenon to visitors. I made a black and white video of Dani’s delicate object, which I named the Spidron Dragon. Projected onto an object hanging from the ceiling, the moving doubling of his own shadow provided my other „connecting” work. The Spidron Dragon in rotation evoked the shapes of Maria’s paintings.

NFSZ: Dani, you presented the model of the earthquake-proof brick unofficially at the Dubai Expo this year. I understand that your grandfather and father also dealt with bricks and masonry technology. How does your invention relate to theirs?

DE: It is a very serious undertaking. They argued against each other because the jealous context of the 1950s and 1960s didn’t allow them to get their invention to become a product. My grandfather payed the patent fees until his death without any real result. I want to make them proud and I stand for my earthquake-resistant Spidron Brick. I hope it will serve for humanity.

NFSZ: What do you think about the connection between science and art?

DE: Art is a valid branch of epistemology. As soon as I postulate an exercise, both parts of my brain are activating and a discourse takes place between them. I don’t care whether my „work” (I hate this expression regarding art, because it presents a first-class joy for me) is an object of art or a demonstration of a scientific novum (invention). Characteristically my intention is to explain something to the public, that is NOT trivial but vital. Science itself IS an illustration of nature, reality and our thinking. Perception makes models, not „illustrations”. But, for me even the concept of „illustration” is not a strange or humiliating category as we are all illustrations of something that is ideal.

NFSZ: Maria, according to the text on your website, your images „wake up the mirror neurons.” What does this mean?

MLV: You read the text “Portals” on my website by the poet, writer and close friend Jörgen Gassilewski. During working on the ten paintings, I had conversations with him which resulted in this text. To answer your question above, I think Jörgen writes in his poetic way about perception… the paintings activates mirror neurons through the process of perception.

NFSZ: Maria and János, how interested are you in science? What do you think about the relationship between science and art?

MLV: I was studying interaction design (master) at Malmö University 2001-2003 and got then closer to research-related themes. Since then, I often start a project by setting up a new set of rules and methods to formulate a content.

JV: In the immediate wake of pioneering artists tearing into the unknown, pioneering scientists are flying at high speed. There is still some minimal communication between the two dominant driving forces. That is what I learned from Prince January (János Baksa-Soós) and that is what I think myself. The two groups are exchanging their results, using them to pull and carry forward the great common spaceship, our common Planet, from which new pioneer artists and scientists are constantly breaking forward. Their achievements are being taken up and trickled back to the inhabitants of the planet by the politicians flying in their wake.