Humain, trop humain
Humain, trop humain
Past: March 13 → April 28, 2012
In the middle of the 17th century, in the centre of Amsterdam, Rembrandt van Rijn worked obstinately on the representation of the human form. The landscape, the lyrical and tender accents of Nature, though highly valued by his contemporaries, hardly interested him, who prefered the depth of faces, the eloquence of the body. In his large studio, upstairs he had an engraving press, which he used daily. On this he printed numerous drawings where the physiognomy of characters, rather than being sublimated and superb, turned out to be imperfect, even wretched. These images passed from hand to hand, much more abundantly than oil paintings that are by their nature unique, and in this way Rembrandt disseminated through these pitiful beings the full expression of the human condition. He treated himself in the same manner, showing the effects of the passage of time upon his own face.
The Aesthetics of Wear
The paintings and videos of Eszter Szabó figure in their own way in this crucial artistic tradition. Combining vision of youth with those of old age, the artist anticipates, not without humor, the dotage of her family in 2053. Little matter who they are, though: the slightly grotesque characters she represents are ultimately something very familiar to anyone who frequents urban centers. Eszter Szabó debunks the diktats of the smooth, easy beauty of the glossy magazines and points her cursor at corrosion and wear. That which inspires and absolute revulsion at our modernity, obsessed by permanent renewal, the cult of consummation, the negation of time. Eszter Szabó joins the résistance to this nonsensical publicity, of which certain artists unfortunately sing the praises, to expose a much deeper and scathing truth. Where the passage of time is polished by the dominant imagery, Eszter Szabó accelerates it.
The Primacy of the Gaze
Emphasis is banished from her graphic treatment. Her touch has a great simplicity, without being naïve, and halos the figures with a light and vibrant veil. No superfluous detail, not even in her urban landscapes with enlarged panoramas, but rather a search for effective framing, concentrating attention on the eloquent elements: the clothing, of course, enhanced by popular designs and flashy colors, the accessories, body size, but especially their regard. During the Renaissance, all methods of painting demanded that the practitioner to begin with the eyes, around which the entire composition would revolve, especially as far as portraits were concerned. Eszter Szabó’s work underlines, with a dull energy, the dazzling and disorienting beauty of the regard: Sometimes it opens, generous and giving, the sockets swollen and the pupils shiny; sometimes it flees, folds upon itself, turns away and darkens. But we inevitably sense that it is living and has lived. The beauty conveyed by the mass media tries to erect a screen; it creates a cleavage between the frozen perfection of the model and the one who contemplates it. As an artist, Eszter Szabó produces the reverse; the harshness of her characters produces a curious empathy. It creates a feeling of Humanity.
An Offbeat Spirit
Humain, trop humain ( Human, Too Human ), was already the title Nietsche gave in 1878 to one of his collections of aphorisms, among the most violent, divided between a certain desolation and a remarkable vitality, where art plays an immense role. Eszter Szabó follows this path. Nietzsche wrote in the book:
«The wittiest authors produce the most imperceptible smiles. »
And doubtless, should we not avoid, in the heart of the work of Eszter Szabó, this slight creaking, this small flash of irony, this fissure which, giving a conscience to things and existence, strikes the mind the better to liberate it.
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