Artist: Istvan Haasz
in cooperation with AIR – ARTIST IN RESIDENCE Krems
In the works of Istvan Haász one finds varying constellations of geometric forms. Approximately orthogonal in shape, these forms dominate the iconic dynamic of his pastels, serve as fields of color in his paintings from the nineties, and assume sculptural form in the three-dimensional paintings that he has produced since 2000. Framed by the boundaries of the image, these square-like shapes unfold their impact in relationship to one another, generating a dynamic field of iconic interaction. Layered and overlapping, they seem to displace, distort, and push each other aside, as if each shape were imbued with three-dimensional or even kinetic attributes. To a certain extent, these square-shaped “protagonists” of Haász’s images consistently echo the shape of the carrier medium, seeming to indicate a commentary on the two-dimensional, pictorial, and imaginary space of the image.
Haász’s works are imbued with a geometric and constructivist idiom. At first glance one might readily identify them as a spanning the fields of abstraction, Minimal Art, and Art Informel, since they probe and interrogate the relationship between pictorials elements and geometric schemata. But does Haász actually explore questions of the internal construction, systematization, and composition of the image, as if ascribing to a set of rules that must be followed? Would this not result in an essentialism of form and number? Over the course of a perceptual process, through sustained examination, the initial impression of structure, formal relationships, and composition conveyed by Haász’s works shifts towards a sense of something fragmentary, uncertain, and unstable. The dynamic of the image is shaped by opposing and contrary principles of design and is determined by the elements of fragmentation and alterability. Haász’s works “bear witness” as to how constructive tendencies can take an aleatoric turn; order can become accidental.
The two large-format works Matteo IV and Matteo V (1996) are images defined by geometrically structured, imaginary space, which is molded from a large flat field of black. The iconic dynamic of the images is largely driven by the geometrical relationships between the forms and the rectangle of the canvas. Fields and bands of color create a two-dimensional but layered sense of space, which is infused with gentle agitation through the manner in which the forms seem to oscillate between the foreground and background. Composition becomes decomposition; the foreground becomes the background; and this “vice versa” alternation predominates, in these works impacting the image alone.
The almost sculptural modeling of Haász’s three-dimensional paintings dating from 2000 onward seem to effect an almost physical opening of the canvas, which is cut apart, furrowed, and prized open. Among these almost cubist ruptures of the pictorial space is the five-part series of yellow small-format cardboard reliefs (Untitled, 2015), which Haász developed during his residency in Krems in 2014. Along with the sculptural fragmentation of the surface, the variability and tonal range of the yellow often employed by the artist give the work an explicitly painterly dimension. Not merely what one immediately sees is significant but the impact of what is seen, the potential discrepancy between the three-dimensional image and the perceptual impression made by the work in the eye of the observer.
The third group of works in the exhibition are the pastels, which are beholden to the painterly dimension and unique presence of the color yellow. Each individual yellow tone almost seems to produce the ephemeral presence of light. Color takes on a quality more atmospheric and fleeting than the concrete status of a field of color. These works reveal a connection to the pictorial and spatial language found in earlier works such as Matteo IV and Matteo V, in which the colors/colored shapes are interrogated and implemented in terms of their capacity to suggest closeness or distance. In the pastels there is a less pronounced dialogue or interference occurring between individual yellow shapes. Instead, the shapes seem to interact with the constellation of lines that define square-like shapes, generating a dialogue between utterly different pictorial spaces.
The color yellow, which has played a dominant role in the artist’s work over the past two decades and in this exhibition is present in the artist’s pastel images (2014) and cardboard reliefs (2015), can readily be characterized as a leitmotif underscoring a large number of Haász’s works. This choice of color cannot be ascribed to any potential symbolism or set of references inherent in this specific range of tones. Instead, Haász’s choice of yellow has a much more pragmatic origin. In order to distinguish himself from the popular trend and discourse surrounding the white cube—and the plethora of white paintings produced as a result—he consciously chose a color that was largely free of associations and that suggested neither the white cube nor an aesthetic of emptiness and absence.
Although Haász’s works seem to follow the formal logic of geometrical order and the rules of compositional tension, the artist regularly “allows” himself to balance these “cool” geometric calculations with a highly individual quality. The choice of a particular yellow is an explicitly painterly and classically subjective decision—made perhaps spontaneously in response to certain associations or situations. The notions of a system or set of rules and spontaneity or artistic intent are obviously not contradictory to Haász but components of an aesthetic-dialectical principle that informs his visual ideas. In addition, the variation of yellow from work to work evinces less a concern for the concrete status of the color as a potential attribute of a concrete object and more an interest in the impression made by the individual nuance of color in the eye of the beholder. The color eludes exact definition. Viewers are invited, or even challenged, to engage in a process of differentiation while taking in the distinctions between the various yellow-toned works in the exhibition space. The process of perception as an act of differentiation is the real “subject matter” cultivated in Haász’s work.
Although Haász infuses the geometrical structures that he presents with irregularities, it would be going to far to say that his works are concerned with notions of decomposition, deconstruction, and asymmetry instead of composition and order. Haász is interested in the tipping point, the point of discontinuity, at which a given system of order begins to break down when something visually unexpected appears. Working against this dynamic through the use of an ordered geometry, he creates a constellation of clear, tranquil geometrical forms as a means of subtly and almost subliminally evoking perceptual tension.
Haász’s works are geared more towards the experience of seeing than the object that is seen. His works are grounded in the informel, although his aesthetic practice is largely oriented towards a mode of perception going beyond the objects perceived. Not merely the actual physical form or what one immediately sees is significant but also the phenomenon of its appearance, the impression in the eye of the viewer and thus the imaginary and projective aspect of the gaze. The artist generates perceptual situations that place what is perceived, i.e. the concept of what one sees, and active, formative, relational seeing in relationship to one another. No differentiation can be made between materiality and immateriality or the immanence of perception and transcendence in Haász’s images and objects.
Text: David Komary
Translation: Laura Schleussner