The age of world wars – our days

My art, throughout the various series, contains a multitude of themes and dynamics. Undergirding much of them, though, is a sense of the connection between the past, present, and the way that memory plays a role in shaping our understandings of the connections between temporally disparate times.

Time, in my paintings, emulates a specific vision of history and the way that it repeats itself, shaped by undulating waves of new iterations of previous motifs. Much in the same way that Nietzsche talks about the idea of eternal return – and the brutality that Robespierre would be if he repeated ad infinitum – we can see a play with these themes throughout much of my work. Cycles and a sense of timelessness therefore play a significant role in my paintings. The history of humankind cyclically repeats itself; as consecutive waves upon the shore of time. These repititions cane be seen in the styles of the nouveau and the passe. These reiterations and similarities can be seen in exquisite form between the thirties and the present that we live in. Through the use of scenes from the thirties, and their atmospheres and auras and the evocation of that time, my paintings give reference to our the connection between past and present, and the linkages that memory can bring. While playing to elements of memory, the paints seek to avoid depicting these periods – both the past and the present - in a non-nostalgic fashion while paying attention to a sense of realism

For one example of this, one should look to my series Charon’s Boat. In it, one can see people held in captivity, specifically prisoners of war. The prisoners clothing is painted white, alluding both sailors’ and an idea of innocence. Who is innocent, who is guilty? Throughout, one gets a sense of the presence of politics, power and simultaneously defenselessness, seen by the fact that they are blindfolded. In the paintings the eyes, the mirror of the soul, are exceptionally important. No matter if they are closed or open, sleeping or awake, blind or blindfolded: they are always linked sharply to visions. They look to a somewhere, may it be outwards or inwards into ourselves. Their eyes may be blindfolded to not to see secrets, to keep them from information, but we are left unclear about the meaning entirely. Throughout the series, a sense of in-betweenness comes into focus, presenting another vision of the linkages between the hic en nunc and that which is already past but not yet in the past temporally.

Through the idea of vision, one must begin to question what one is seeing and how it is that the images are inflected by the various elements in front of us. Similar to exploring the past, the idea of ‘vision’ allows us to explore the connections between perception, reality, and that which is outside of our awareness. Are the characters in the series simply freed prisoners of war, who have escaped out of harms way? How are we to see the portrayed boat, where does the ferryman take us? To redemption, or to death? Death (or simply the invocation of death) often allows people to be more emotionally expressive, seeing kindness in the light of darkness. The connection with death gives individuals a feeling of being touched by and sensing their ghost-like nature. Every act may be their last one – there is no face that would not dissolve like a dream. Amongst mortals everything has a value, because everything is had only once, and this singular is itself a risk. To death, to a shaded-life where there are no memories, as believed by the ancient Greeks, or into a new (another) life. The water too, which is - in connection with Charon - the Léthe river, is also a reference to cyclicality and the ever changing connection with the world.

It is not solely history that repeats itself though. Buddhists believe that with reincarnation we all go through cycles, until the soul realizes itself and reaches nirvana, free from happiness and also from misery. Yet one may also become a Bodhisattva, returning back to earth to show others the way towards enlightenment. The ego/personality is dissolved. The meditator – the individual person and their persona – is diverted from their own thoughts, feelings and personality, and focuses on another center (God). In this, eventually another center completely fills the mediator’s mind and the “original” personality of the meditator disappears. This point, though, is not a simply a lose, but is also when one truly finds themselves because they are completely filled up with God. Life’s equation with suffering in the Buddhist religion(s), which is in a way reflected in the essence of reincarnation and consequently, in the attitude that aims to stop this cycle via nirvana (a reflection on one’s inner world, meditation), does not facilitate one’s turn towards nature.

My work explores the intersections between Eastern and the Western worldviews, their different ways of thinking. In connecting the cyclical understanding of history gained from the Western Englightment thinkers with that of nirvana from Buddhism and Hinduism in Eastern philosophy, one is able to grapple with these concerns through the application of seemingly disparate tones and methods in art. Through science a globalized world has advanced in unprecedented fashions, changing our world broadly for the better in many ways. While these scientific and technological advancements have driven humanity into the 21st Century, religion and philosophy still play a crucial role in formulating the cornerstones of human understanding of itself and its place within the broader continuum of past and present.

In various series the motifs of Western and Eastern cyclicality comes through in hues of the red of monks’ robes, and the ripples in the subtle shades of blue of the water playing. These elements are cast in sharp relief against open expanses of the canvas and paper, allowing for variation of readings and imaging. My art seeks to bring to the surface the tensions of contemporaneity and ideas of modernity with notions of memory and the circular elements of history.

During the spring of 2013 I returned to the city of Berlin where I began drawings for two new series; on the basis of the drawing made on the spot later, I worked in my studio in Budapest to create the paintings for the series. Into this I also incorporated the impressions I gathered during my previous journeys to Germany. While in Berlin I made brush-drawings for myself to capture my experiences and my feelings about the similarities between our everyday lives now and the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s. My stay in Berlin coincided with the British themed weeks of the Berliner Philharmonic. I was fortunate enough to have friends who play in that orchestra was able to sit through many of their rehearsals. The music evoked the 1910s, the 1920s and the consecutive some years. The orchestra played the Sea Symphony, which is based on the poetry and the free poems of the American poet Walt Whitman. Being there I felt my whole being and body (which did not actually happen) move with the music, giving me the feeling that I am drawing and my hand is guided by the “sea and the momentum of its waves”, the emotions, the passion of it. As the music stopped and I stepped out of the building, I stepped headlong out of the 1920s and into the modern city of Berlin, the harsh contrast of it just fell on me. I was reminded of Walter Benjamin’s book Berlin Childhood around 1900, where he says: “Not to find one’s way around a city does not mean much. But to lose one’s way in a city, as one loses one’s way in a forest, requires some schooling.” In much the same way as he transposed present with the past, so too did the music and the street abut one another as the now does with the before.

During my travels, besides the experiences that I had in the “present” days, I created brush drawings, often in a diary-like fashion. As always, I observed people, and the relations between them: the Berliner paintings; paintings from England and London; and the Frieslander paintings. Drawing from the archives, I focused on the past with the intent of bridging these elements in my drawings. Then, after arriving home, I created the oil paintings themselves.