Katalin S. Nagy: About the pictures by József Gábos

As history of art testifies there are many ways one can become an artist.
In the early Middle Ages, in the guilds the artist had studied his craft for years and when he could solve a little detail – as the teenage Leonardo – and when this solution contained the possibility of the religious experience, the master pronounced him a painter.

With the passing of time, and because of the changes occurring in the function of painting Academies came into being and artists got a certificate about being an artist. We know so many Baroque, Biedermeier and realist works about which it is difficult to imagine that they were made by artists. In the 19th and the 20th centuries we had to browse through many exhibition catalogues to find an artist who is also well-known today. And if you like reading student registers of schools and academies of art you will be surprised or amused that only one or just a few of them became painters or sculptors.

And when we see the biographical data of good avant-garde artists it turns out that many of them do not have an art degree but talent, fantasy and original vision.

I am not saying that to deny the indispensable necessity of professional knowledge. Without professional knowledge it is not possible to create.

I say it, and I promise it will be the last occasion, because József Gábos by his degree is an economist. And partly due to this and due to his personal anxiety he hardly believes that he is a legitimately exhibiting artist, a visual artist because he has seeing eyes, a sensible mind for visual fineness, manual and technical skill. And the way in which he started out is continuously becoming wider, he makes it wider and his responsibility grows also…

I don’t want to speak about the language, the style or the tools although in the age of digital culture, in the world of computers and the Internet I could and should speak about them.

About this topic only a few words. Always, in all times the artists themselves and the elite public, the intellectuals have protested against new techniques and instruments, unusual processes. And later those who were most hostile to the new, new techniques and processes accepted and adapted the new techniques most quickly.

By the way, work. Can you see how much time and effort is there in a Gábos’s work? For example he polishes the frames for hours with patience, because the picture, which was earlier only set of fragments becomes a finished totality only with frames.

But I do not want to speak about this but about myself, my younger days, about the sixties when I was in my twenties and I began to go into studios, to Endre Bálint, Dezső Korniss and Erzsébet Schaár and so on. And in 1968 I arranged my first exhibition, of Lili Ország in Rákoskeresztúr, I knew that she was the best. And when I went up to Margit Anna at the opening show of her exhibition in Ernst Museum, that I wanted to write a book about her. That was my first book in 1971. And I go to my contemporaries who are today 60-70 years old, and I knew who the good artists were. And I knew not because of my studies in history of art at the university and not because I received a diploma and doctorate degree.

But I saw, I felt, something gave a signal in my stomach, that they were good artist. It is a shame that I have been dealing with contemporary art for 38 years and for 38 years I have been trying to solve the mystery: what makes a good artist. I have written a huge amount of works about this theme in the past 38 years and I received a degree of doctor of the Academy for this and as a chairman of a department at the university I can say nothing else but that something starts speaking in me that it is good.

And when I first began speaking with Gábos about these topics… I said these things before the public for the last time: I declare it with full responsibility that Gábos is an artist, and it is proved by this exhibition also.

What he does is simply good. Of course, you should not believe that everything that he makes is good and he should not believe either that everything is perfect. But István Farkas, who in my opinion is the best Hungarian painter, had unspeakably bad pictures, too. But he painted approximately 45 pictures from which if he had painted only two it would be enough.

At this exhibition there are minimum 3 pictures about which one can say that it is a work of art, a completed wholeness. So I would ask those present to help József Gábos to finally get rid off his doubts and only keep them to improve his work so that there would be more pictures among the exhibited ones of which we can say that they have justified the efforts.

Thank you.

[7 September 2004. Ferencvárosi Pincegaléria, Budapest, the opening speech at the exhibition of József Gábos.]