Three Exhibitions in Mai Manó Ház

Tamás  Féner, Gábor Arion Kudász and Jutka Rona –  as seen by an unprofessional (February-March, 2014)

Years ago I came across the name of photographer Tamás Féner at the photo section of a news site by accident. Being absolutely not an expert in the field of fine arts (meaning I am a total dilettante), my approach towards and representation of it is far from professional and rather impressionistic. However, despite not being an exact enthusiast when it comes to visiting exhibitions, from time to time, there are artists who catch my attention, so I sometimes give it a go to come to grips with visual arts.
The exhibition I had originally intended to visit was that of the above mentioned artist, so it came as a bit of surprise that with the ticket bought for this event I could watch another two (of which I had known nothing about) – no idea about the reason for it, but it was a generous gesture anyway.

Féner’s exhibition is entitled simply ‘1952 – 2013’, so one could assume it is a kind of retrospective collection. So, the only expectations I have are based on the title of the exhibition and a series of photographs featuring Roma villagers living under strained conditions – seen a long time ago, so I only have some vague ideas as to what to expect. As perhaps assumable from the date, Féner is an experienced professional. As I learn, he had a similar exhibition (‘Potpourri’) in 2009 at the same venue, on the occasion of his 70th birthday. The similarity of the two exhibitions lies in that they both span the artist’s oeuvre, but not exactly in the usual retrospective manner, rather in a representative way: they are selections, not collections.
It is all black and white, gelatine silver print images; distinctive, uniform in appearance, which creates the feeling of intentionality. This is further enhanced when I find out he insists on using the analogue technique to this day, as he considers the process of producing an actual photograph essential part of the picture. Passing through the rooms, it is a large variety of modes and genres we can find ourselves exposed to: ranging from allegedly amateur snapshots of the moves of the Revolution, through intimate captures of painters, poets, dancers amongst others, to seemingly bare and uneventful but still talkative landscape images.
For a start, the surprisingly short display showcases pieces shot during the Revolution of 56’: a handful of tiny stills capturing what was going on the streets he walked as a student. Following up, we are faced with his numerous portraits of artists (often, friends of his) commencing from the era when he started working at the weekly art paper Film Színház Muzsika.

Portrait of poet and visual artist Lajos Kassák


As far as I could observe, pieces of his social documentary collections seemed to be absent. I really hope it is not because I missed a room or two. Nevertheless, after the mostly close-up, somewhat naturalistic portraits (there are a pair of nudes, as well), there comes the final stop with four large, geometrically interesting landscape shots, with one for every season. Shot in 2013, these are the latest additions to his work on display, and somehow they round up the whole exhibition just well.


‘Spring Meadow’, 2013

There follows the first additional showing of Gábor Arion Kudász, ‘Memorabilia, quasi paying tribute to her late mother, painter Emese Kudász. His concept was to collect, organise and present pieces of her personal belongings left behind after her death, so as to capture her in time.
This concept and the exhibition that grew out of it is quite thought-provoking: is it a viable idea to grasp someone’s fading existence through the objective selection, organisation and (re)presentation of their objects, or does it inevitably mean an outside intervention, thus, by definition modifying and subjective?

ImageAn instance of what is to be seen: ‘Wardrobe – 28 shades’ presents a nice compilation of the artist’s clothes

The second bonus exhibition, freely accessible to anyone, has a surprising venue: I am told to look for it on my way out, in the bookshop of the gallery. Therefore, it is in a somewhat more casual, less rigidly ‘arty’ atmosphere, with the shop assistant having his lunch and a visitor avidly reading some book, that I familiarise myself with another topic, possibly the most serious of all: that of the Holocaust of the Hungarian Roma people. Jutka Rona’s ‘Survivors turns to and depicts those equally affected by the cruelty of an earlier era, still, probably less talked about.

In the tiny collection, it is everyday instances that are shown of Roma survivors and their descendants, accompanied with objective, yet compassionate captions, explaining in a few words who is seen in the picture. Reaching out for these people is the result of the artist’s intention (herself affected by the Holocaust) to give them some justice, to remind the majority of their history that is often neglected, maybe to make a step against the exclusion of these people.
Having completed this extended tour, I still haven’t spent more than an hour in the gallery, but have seen three exhibitions, and can pride myself on having got a little bit closer to contemporary photography. Even though I am not convinced I would become a specialist of fine arts anytime soon, this amount of novelty was educational and entertaining, too; definitely worth a try.

by Galambosi Dóra


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