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On Eszter Sipos’s exhibition „How Far Will You Go?” – Viltin Gallery, 7 March – 21 April 2012

Striving for convergence is an entirely logical reaction in contemporary art to the fragmentation and emerging structural uncertainties experienced in the social and political domains. We have buried the great narrative, but it has turned out to be the same kind of human need pertaining to sustainability as doubt itself. Canon writing operating with flexible reference points (which, naturally, no longer is canon writing) has become its own preparation in an even shorter time than street art: a practice – and market – inspired by post-colonialist principles1 would just not grow strong, given the fact that conscience and altruism are not traits of the market; the survival of supremacies justifies the survival of the hidden narrative. In the place of private mythologies that do not communicate, relational aesthetics has foregrounded human relationships as an artistic form and purpose; on the other hand, reflecting on the authenticity of the personal experience has long been used instead of technical jargon as the plummet of image creation. These are the issues through which Eszter Sipos connects to her time.

She is a consistent artist who elaborates a work form meticulously over several years, starting out with so-called events that are not abstracted from her subject, but instead of building a private mythology, she adopts the republication of these personal stories as parables for existential questions. This is the point at which she clearly aims to distance herself from the scope of personal narration – something that used to work for quite a while.

Her desire is no less than the understanding of life; the clarification of responsibilities for the individual’s fate, of which the title of the work „Ne menekülj a tegnap elől” is a clear manifestation: No need to escape from yesterday because yesterday hasn't deformed us or hasn't been deformed by us. This is the negated form of a quote from Beckett2: „there is no escape from yesterday because yesterday has deformed us, or been deformed by us”. The sentence is an emblematic summary of the mythology of the desire for the whole that was once broken and then reunited again for a moment, which is a main motive of this exhibition. (The artist mounted some fragments of large, broken plates – ones which carry essential information – on a round piece of tempered glass, and placed the remaining fragments underneath on a round wooden plate so that, at times, they appear under the visible fragments in such a way that the reconstructible whole presents itself for a brief moment.)

The fact that all this is raised by the humanities may not be so surprising. Yet when even contemporary physics returns to philosophy in connection with the Grand Unified Theory, the writer seems to be justified. Following the general theories of relativity and quantum mechanics (the too big and the too little), which were considered to be inadequate in themselves and united in the speculations of the string, then superstring and multiverse theories swollen to eleven dimensions (M-Theory), the consciousness of the observer is emancipated again as that which is necessary for giving meaning to the object of observation, the universe enabling and thereby suitable for this.3 Thus we are not far from admitting that the future is just as malleable as the past, moreover, in a similar vein, the reversal of the familiar theorem is also knocking on the doors of the discourse: consciousness determines existence!

Eszter Sipos’s postmodern may therefore be relying on a different principle when selecting from the cultural treasures of her own past. Especially remarkable is the way she revives the ornamentation of the Renaissance majolica plate as well as its structure (ornamental border and illusionistic representation in the inner field), and, in addition, even the quasi-allegorical mediation that was budding in this era (at the time of Matthias Corvinus). In this respect, I do not see her art (except maybe the journals) as connected to the gender or identity discourse characterising mainstream contemporary fine art in the English-speaking world; rather, I find it to be akin to the living heritage typical of Latin areas. She understands her traditions; and she does not find the structure of this communicative artefact useless from the aspect of the present.

By juxtaposing the work and the accompanying text, the artist revives the emblem, which was very popular in the age of mannerism, at the time when the connoisseur evolved. The relationship is so close that the text and the picture interpret and reinforce each other in most cases – as opposed to the frequent juxtaposition of these two elements in contemporary art with the purpose of deconstructing and unsettling meaning, or simply opening up new horizons. Furthermore, by this decision she definitely rebels against currents that aim at purely symbolic-pictorial or purely rational-intellectual supremacies in fine arts.

In some of the chosen excerpts or concepts, rebellion – or, rather, objection – leads the artist to take a stand based on a hierarchy of values: in some of these instances, she is not even averse to deconstruction. The perceived or actual discrepancies between the pictures and the texts carry a subtle irony over the empty slogans and catch phrases that have become part of the scene of European high politics. („Trust is the fundamental human need”, or „But what forms a crowd into a real community?”)

The same critical thread is less traceable in the case of the journals, which render themselves vastly to interpretation within the gender discourse – even if the very direct panting butterflies of journal covers driven by engines were not exhibited here. However, the motive of self-revelation without bringing criticism into play is evident in the magnified journal-objects (which, again, justify a role for ornamentation on the cover coating). The greatest value of these works is honesty, which resists the introduction of further objective value categories – faced with the artist’s courage, we may accept or reject her inner world and dilemmas. An element akin to the aspiration for universality in the plates is that the micro-narratives – events taking place in a narrow circle of acquaintances and friends – are always accompanied by leading media news characteristic of the age and also influencing the given situation. Being permanently present, they seem to be reporting the loss of intimacy: that is, recreational forms manifesting pleasantness dissolve to become a scenery thanks to awareness of global violence, and our refuge, the personal, also becomes an illusion.

Published in Balkon 2012/4

1 András, Edit: Ki írja a kánont? [Who writes the canon?] Műértő, February 2012

2 From Samuel Beckett’s 1931 Proust-monograph, which is a philospphical treatise inspired by Remembranc of Things Past.

3 Brandon Carter ’s1973 lecture at the symposium organised in Krakow on the 500th anniversary of the birth of Copernicus.

Endre Lehel Paksi