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Temporality in Cross-Section
Liquid Slices of Time — Female Artists from the MNB Contemporary Collection

Alex Kovács

The House of Arts in Veszprém —taking advantage of the attention directed towards the city due to the European Capital of Culture programme— is devoting several of its current exhibitions to art created by women. Among these, the first joint exhibition of the House of Arts and MNB Arts and Culture —the organisation managing the collection of the Central Bank of Hungary— entitled Liquid Slices of Time is a unique arrangement curated by Kinga Hamvai, head of MNB’s division dealing with the institution’s contemporary collection.

Veszprém, Dubniczay Palace, 15 April – 11 June 2023

Kinga Hamvai

Cover Image
Erika FábiánQuiet Rituals ╱ 2019–2021 ╱ 400 pc painted wooden cubes ╱ variable dimensions

Exhibition interior with the works of Ilona Keserü and Margit Szilvitzky ╱ Photo: Orsolya Egressy, courtesy of MNB Arts & Culture

Exhibition interior with the works of Zsófi Barabás and Ilona Keserü ╱ Photo: Orsolya Egressy, courtesy of MNB Arts & Culture

The collection of MNB currently exists as a professionally managed contemporary collection, where professional acquisition principles define the expansion procedures. One could claim, however, that the logic of this collection is almost too precisely constructed and engineered. The abundant material of the Neo-Avant-Garde generation forms an unquestionable qualitative basis for the collection, while the work of the young- and middle-generation is built on this to clarify and accentuate the collection’s character. At the same time, the collection is not held together by a monolithic structure but by highly networked interconnections developed along differentiated poetic and aesthetic principles. The exhibition further confirms this; starting from any one artwork or artist, a clearly visible associative narrative can be traced out. The real strength of the exhibition lies in the creation of well-functioning moments of dialogue: the curator has selected pieces of the artists’ oeuvre in such a sensitive way that the presented linkage is, already at first sight, perfectly clear.

The exhibition, Liquid Slices of Time, is named after a series of works by Orsolya Lia Vető, which at first reading, sounds like it might have been translated from English into Hungarian. Aside from this linguistic bump, the title is very suitable as an interpretative mirror for the totality of the exhibition: besides creative visions and aesthetic principles, an important organising principle of the show is the presentation of various temporal perspectives — whether in the form of master-student relationships or in the lineage of the creative approach.

Exhibition interior with the works of Rita Koszorús and Anna Eszter Tóth ╱ Photo: Orsolya Egressy, courtesy of MNB Arts & Culture

Exhibition interior with the works of  Margit Szilvitzky ╱ Photo: Orsolya Egressy, courtesy of MNB Arts & Culture

The exhibition is located in the Dubniczay Palace in Veszprém Castle. The building of the former canonical Baroque palace does not directly connect temporally to the exhibition in terms of era and style. However, it adds additional layers of meaning that make the exhibition, or at least certain parts, impossible to recreate in another location. The dialogue between the fragmentary frescoes revealed on the walls and the paintings on display provides an additional conceptual layer elicited solely by these spaces. It is this relationship that gives depth to the exhibition’s title: the translucence of the former Baroque murals, painted a quarter of a millennium ago, creates a fluid, intrinsically magnificent and lyrical background for the images, a surprisingly harmonious atmosphere that not only allows the works to be seen but helps them to assert themselves. A gently undulating slice of time — the relationship between the walls of the chambers and the surfaces of the paintings provides a clear solution to the riddle presented by the title without contradicting the aesthetic core of the title-giving paintings.

Unfortunately, not everyone has benefited from the building’s specific features, as the spaces were not designed specifically for exhibiting. Erika Fábián’s works are perhaps the most sensitive in the exhibition. Fábián, who graduated from the Department of Graphic Arts, is an artist who incorporates her own being and an astonishing amount of work into her pieces. She does this with tenderness, tact and discretion. The abundance of hand-painted dots on the white canvas reflects a profound, meticulous and slow creative process. This monastic, spiritual-meditative attitude relates to the notion of activity as a form of ascetic devotion, which is reflected in the work. The most profound revelation in the monotonous work’s movements drives the organic, vaporous pulsation of the images, which is created by the unending condensation and dilution of coloured dots. This performance, balancing on the edge of visibility, takes its place in a wider area of the lobby, designed as a place of withdrawal, where the many sensory noises —that hinder its authentic assertion— are wedged between the necessary attunement of the audience and the works.

Exhibition interior ╱ Photo: Orsolya Egressy, courtesy of MNB Arts & Culture


Exhibition interior with the works of Vera Molnar and Judit Horváth-Lóczi ╱ Photo: Orsolya Egressy, courtesy of MNB Arts & Culture

The first two large chambers of the exhibition, which present the exhibition’s centrepiece, highlight the works of Ilona Keserü —the curator’s tribute to the artist, who turns 90 this year. Ilona Keserü’s presence in the exhibition is easily justified: she is a significant artist of the Neo-Avant-Garde generation of the mid-1960s, who worked consistently throughout her life on tangible artistic themes and who, in addition, had a profound influence on younger generations of artists as a teacher. Ilona Keserü’s paintings are exhibited alongside her student Zsófi Barabás’s works. Keserü’s position in the exhibition is further contextualised by transgenerational connections. For example, Orsolya Lia Vető was a student of Péter Somody, who was also a student of Keserü.

Barabás and Keserü’s works create an extraordinary sense of dynamic and musicality. The visual articulation in both cases is organically abstract and reflects their common, deep knowledge of colour theory and many common traits. Yet, what unfolds is the collaboration of two independent, fully-fledged artists who support each other in their quest for self-expression. In addition, Keserü’s and Barabás’s works interact with the resurfaced frescoes, heightening the exhibition remarkably.

Exhibition interior with the works of Orsolya Lia Vető ╱ Photo: Orsolya Egressy, courtesy of MNB Arts & Culture

Exhibition interior with the works of Judit Reigl and Orsolya Lia Vető╱ Photo: Orsolya Egressy, courtesy of MNB Arts & Culture

The following sections present a chain of interlocking pairings: the collage-esque visual construction method and the fabric-like quality link the works of Rita Koszorús, Anna Eszter Tóth and Margit Szilvitzky. Szilvitzky’s collage-like textile images evoke what was once considered —in a derogatory fashion— to be a female art form. In contrast, Eszter Tóth Anna’s abstract work, reminiscent of piles of patterned textiles, recalls the fundamental but unspoken experience of female fate, i.e. the invisible work of housekeeping, carried out without lasting results or the reward of respect. Tóth’s ‘laundry’ motif forms a gateway to the next section, which focuses on the dialogue between Judit Reigl and Orsolya Lia Vető’s paintings, which further develop the layering of disparate qualities that clash in the visual representation of the tectonics of time and space.

A subtle, translucently layered, vibrant aesthetic is apparent in Bea Kusovszky’s canvas images and Gizella Rákóczy’s unbound colour-study series. These two paintings, which might not appear to be Op-art at first glance, point to the essence of how Op-art works. This forms a parallel with the aesthetic principle behind glass artist Zsuzsa Kóródi’s works, which are animated by the kinetic movement of the viewer and should have been thus exhibited here — it is currently installed in such a far-away corner that it almost drops off the exhibition.

Ilona Keserü: Song ╱ 2010 ╱ oil on canvas ╱ 140 × 170 cm

Exhibition interior with the works of Katja Pál, Dóra Maurer and Bea Kusovszky ╱ Photo: Orsolya Egressy, courtesy of MNB Arts & Culture

Exhibition interior with the works of Bea Kusovszky and Gizella Rákóczy ╱ Photo: Orsolya Egressy, courtesy of MNB Arts & Culture

Rita Koszorús: schMERZbild TRS 90 ╱ 2021 ╱ acrylic, oil, ink, canvas ╱ 130 × 120 cm

One of the most impressive spaces in the show is a tetralogy of two avant-garde purists juxtaposed against two young contemporary artists whose work explores the relationship between body and spirit. Dóra Maurer and Katja Pál’s self-referential colour fields and shaped image surfaces evoke the tradition of concrete painting, which Pál transforms into a constructive composition through visual elements that imitate the damage of form. Vera Molnár derives her series from mathematical abstraction —elaborating on computer-based algorithms— which she challenges with built-in errors, while Judit Horváth Lóczi’s abstract, modular composition is a tribute to Vera Molnár. In this group of canvases, the interplay of the pieces points towards an abstraction of intellectual clarity, and the curatorial concept explicitly refers here back to the issue of invisible work, which emerges as the exhibition’s ideological axis.

The exhibition tells volumes about femininity through female artists’ works in a way that avoids thesis statements —which, by the nature of the collection, are not difficult to avoid. The visual manifestations of a feminine, creative sensibility towards existence are perfectly balanced by the presence of a female image of fate subtly woven into the exhibition, sublimated by the elegant curatorial arrangement culminating in Erika Fábián’s almost monastic work. The limits of the collection do not allow the exhibition to speak of femininity and womanhood with fleshy themes and poetics. Instead, the selection and composition of the material on display reveals femininity in all its inner strength and dignity.

Erika Fábián: Pink diptych II. ╱ 2018–2019 ╱acrylic on canvas ╱ 148,5 × 148,5 cm


Liquid Slices of Time
Dubniczay Palace × MNB Arts & Culture
15 April – 11 June 2023
Curator: Kinga Hamvai