EITHER/OR. András Baranyay, Self-Portrait with Jane Morris

Cabinet exhibition at the Hungarian National Gallery (Building D, 1st floor) - 13 May – 25 July 2021

“Sometimes when you have scrutinised long and persistently, you seem to discover
a second face hidden behind the one you see. This is generally an unmistakable sign
that this soul harbours an emigrant who has withdrawn from the world in order to
watch over secret treasure …” (Søren Kierkegaard, Either/Or)

András Baranyay (1938–2016) was a perhaps lesser known member of the so-called IPARTERV generation, a loose grouping of neo-avantgarde artists who started out in the 1960s and defined Hungarian art for the following decades. He graduated as a painter, and later as a restorer. Even during his years at the Hungarian Academy of Fine Arts his interest was directed towards the graphic arts, which he later taught at the same institution for a number of years. From the early 1970s, the key role in his art was played by photo-based works, in particular the “classical genres” of still lifes and portraits, and he always remained within the frames of figurativeness. With the passage of time, the significance of his œuvre has quietly and self-evidently become an increasingly important and unavoidable point of reference.

This cabinet exhibition offers a selection of his main works, which reveal the intellectual and philosophical basis that defined the artist’s choice of themes and motifs and his handling of time and space, as well as associated sketches, variations of his works, and related documents. The pieces in his œuvre that are of especial importance are connected to the guest exhibition from England being hosted by the Hungarian National Gallery through the figure of Jane Morris (1839–1914), who was also a popular model among the English Pre-Raphaelites. The photos of this Pre-Raphaelite icon that were taken in 1865 by John R. Parsons (1826–1909) – following the instructions of Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828–1882) – provided the basis for the dual portraits that Baranyay made in the early 1980s, in which the artist – deviating from the œuvre-defining works where he utilised himself as his model – produced montages combining his own self-portraits with those of another person. The version showing the figures leaning on their elbows daydreaming, which – it seems – was the artist’s favourite, was exhibited as early as 1981; the photo that served as the starting point for this work was also utilised by Rossetti for his work entitled Reverie (1868). The four-part constructions that arrange the “common” self-portraits into a single composition (1982) followed the logic of the animated movie produced as part of the Experanima project (1982): they could even be regarded as mini-screenplays or as distillations of the episodes in the film etudes that make up the movie.

By interweaving fiction and reality, the dual portraits, which recall photos of mediums and pictures of auras, oscillate between past and present, merging and separation, concealment and revelation. The two human figures, removed from their own space and time, become each other’s “contexts”: they speak timelessly of emotions and their unfulfillability. Picture is projected onto picture: two figures in 1:1 proportion, in the same frame – covering over and complementing one another –, somewhere on the border between presence and absence, in an abstract space whose fundamental properties are uncertainty and multiple meaning: the visuality of either/or. Behind the portrait duets, it is possible to discern a quartet as well: Rossetti & Jane Morris & Kierkegaard & Baranyay. The possibility of this system of interrelationships – which is philosophical, art historical, and simultaneously emotional as well – is “verified” by the conjunction of constellations of desire, analogies of life situations, and perspectival parallels that are recorded in works (and in texts). The history of the replicated figures that is played out on parallel planes is only a “coming together” when seen from this side. Photographs and shadow images are superimposed: a semblance of reality, dream visions in the internal theatre of imagination. Within this fiction that remixes elements of realities from different times, spatial and temporal relations are governed not by the conventional rules of making images (perspective, identifiability), but by the variable constants of senses and emotions. Their viability is ensured by the unique technical basis, which moulds together the solutions and ways of seeing taken from graphic art, painting, photography and cinematography.

The curator of the exhibition is László Százados.

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