“Mother Mary may have been a wastrel in her spare time (she had thirteen children by a minister of the church).” In her essay A Room of One’s Own, the writer and critic Virginia Woolf sought the great truth: “Why was one sex so prosperous and the other so poor?” For example, why couldn’t women write serious essays, “only” novels? But Virginia Woolf’s essay was published in 1929, only just after an era when women weren’t allowed a room of their own where they could spend half an hour by themselves. And this was on top of the fact that they couldn’t have their own money, but only received the “housekeeping” to spend on household items. And the list of privileges enjoyed exclusively by men goes on. Here in 2019 it might sound banal, but back then even the most progressive women lacked the courage to talk self-confidently about their intellectual achievements.
Sára Richter, artist, artistic woman, woman artist, woman, mother, wife... a person concerns herself with family, male and female roles, the age she lives in, and the changing environment all around her. She left a message in each of her earlier, pictorial textile works, like in a wall hanging or short poem. Then later, in her textile booklets, the visual statements and quoted passages of text gave rise to associative situations. (VW: “Personal relations were always before her eyes. ... It brought buried things to light and made one wonder what need there had been to bury them.”) In her exhibition entitled Human Personality, Richter lists the dilemmas of life on the canvases, embroidering them out of her system. Taciturn and raw, yet understanding and human – the visual phrases follow on from one another in her canvas novels.
The canvas is the foundation. The canvas – like the skin on our body – is strong, but flammable. The embroidery, writing and appliqué that are added to it, like symbols on the body, initiate communication: we display them, wear them; they die with us, and open up a path to the fragile spirit. Sára Richter’s brief messages on the canvas strips convey moods, like a status update in an online chat program, or an emoji. Meanwhile, the documented causes often need more than “topical” treatment. So, like a surgeon, she makes deep incisions in the skin, embellishes it if necessary, and then sews up the wound. Sometimes she only makes a small cut, if this is sufficient for healing. But even the smallest, most superficial operations are time-consuming: she selects, pre-draws, embroiders, cuts, glues and paints, her hands guided by instincts and proportions. As she performs these movements, she remembers and relives. Youth, childbirth, aging, menopause, disease, the various life situations. The things she brought, and things she has to take with her. And how she is supposed to carry them: demureness, silence, listening, hoping, supplication, healing, side effects, irreversibility. She experiences, remembers, goes close – not just for herself. Whatever age we live in, a woman remains a woman, and a man a man. The problems are carried by all of us.
A direct antecedent to this exhibition was the densely crafted, ten-metre-long work Recto and Verso (2018). Now the canvas strips, which are of varying lengths, are arranged in the form of a maze, a labyrinth, with its pathways, intersections and stops giving it a direction of travel that has been imagined by the artist. The breaks between the images and appliqués on the surfaces are larger, the quotations are replaced with her own words, multiplied many times over. The spatial forms allow us to walk through the stories, recognising that which is personal for us, finding the quiet solitude that stimulates thought, deep inside the “room of one’s own”. “There is something sacred in every man, but it is not his person. ... It is this man.” (Simone Weil)
Ildikó Bán, curator of the exhibition