Borbála Kováts: The present on top – the past below

Table of content: writing, scribble/ code writing/ again and again/ structure, surface rhythm/ overwriting, change/ build and search simultaneously


In our case the writing is a surface, a row of signs, structure. Gestures, nota manus. The writing is personal and individual, which cannot be taken for anybody else’s manifestation. The writing is a necessity, it must be walked through, thought over. Discovery, self-examination, self-determined way, confession. It seems as if he were forced by an external power, but it is a task by him, for him. It must be done from the beginning to the end monomaniacally, again and again and anew. It is a task, a duty as in the case of the codex copying monks. Even when he writes his own text.

In some boards the text is repeated, which gives an integral rhythm to the picture. They are heavy, chanted, endlessly repeated sentences as a lesson in the school, penance. If we repeat it many times, finally we lose the meaning, only the form remains and the gesture of the infinite repetition.

Wall to wall writing, no margin – the text covers everything. Line spacing determines the size of letters which give different accent to the different inscriptions.

Code writing

It is a system known by nobody. The author turns in to himself, from outside only the secret can be seen. There are no words only feelings, only moods, only presentiments, but no knowledge. Maybe only he can decode it – in this case the writing gives evidence to his loneliness. However, if there are still a few who can read the picture then it is about them.

But the artwork, the code writing, in spite of being intimate and concealed, works differently when exhibited. It turns into provocation. It says: You do not understand it or me, you are an outsider. But it is also for you, decode me, understand me. And there is also calligraphy which does not fit in the till now discussed turning inside, it brags, flirts, calls the attention to it. The author conceals what we can see, codes what we can decode.

And the use of code writing means another thing also: the search for an alternative. Perhaps another new communication system can be discovered, which has not yet been distorted by the participant, where the meaning does not have unpleasant, vicious associations attached, which is unknown for those who reinterpret and monopolize everything.


If we meet a code writing it is hardly distinguishable from the scribble. The scribble is a gesture, the means of invalidation, overwriting. It remains visible that there was something there, but it is not valid anymore.


The simple is not enough. It seems weak, powerless, unpretentious. It is not timely. It needs another layer. But the previous one also shows through. The general effect changes, becomes more complicated. No, it is still not enough, we need something more. Let us put some writing over it, so that it can be blurred again. One more layer, a new quality. New writing, new scribble, new base. Overwriting.

In general: who knows where the borderline is between the multitude of the signs and the surface? Here the writing merges gradually into the background, becomes part of it unnoticed. In another case the new text is mixed with the older one and we cannot distinguish between the layers.

The story is told in chronological order, the present is on the top. So the past is below with all its accumulated deposited remnants. The present is built on more and more complicated bases. It changes every minute, becomes past and joins to the previous layers. The past also changes with it. The overwriting is the mapping of the process of changing.

Build and search simultaneously

He looks for something. The writing is the task, the marked out road is about the same: it must be found. Because something is secret to him also, but not the meaning of the writing. Something to which he gets closer and closer. But it is not yet grasped. That is why he begins it again with other means, with other materials, with other colours, on other surface, with other signs. It has not been found, so he overwrites it. It has not been found, so he covers it up. He paints, draws, scratches, works on it.

He tries everything. While the layers of the pictures are deposited on each other, he follows with attention, studies and analyzes it. He searches for an answer, he looks for the solution. He searches among signs, words, languages, surfaces, materials and means.

He does not do it with a computer. This work can only be done manually. Because not only the eyes and the brain are searching, but the hands also. It must be touched, you must get dirty you must submerge in it, you must become part of it.

Maybe the work itself is the solution. And this can only be done alone in a concentrated and meditative way.

[Spoken on 5 June 2015 in Lovas, at the opening of the exhibition of József Gábos at the Gyula Nagy Gallery.]

> Írt képek / Written pictures 1 (2011–2015)