‘Nature never thinks ahead. In its self-contained
rhythm it simply proceeds unstoppably.’
‘Wherever we look, endlessness
emanates from nature’
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Ars Naturae, or do we imitate nature?
Thoughts on the sculptures of János Dorogi
The expression Ars Naturae in the title comes from Seneca’s ‘Omnis ars naturae imitatio est’ or ‘All art is an imitation of nature’. In a way, János Dorogi’s works on show constitute an antithesis of this in that they do not imitate nature, but rather, the pattern created in the forming process is reminiscent of well-known organic forms. Yet in the course of creation, the artist allows for a certain amount of apparent chance, which results in natural formations that have counterparts in nature. Up to a certain point the artist performs the act of creation, sets the form on its course, but that is not about imposing artistic will on the material, but rather it is nature co-creating in that the forces of life just perform their timeless activities.
As regards the end result, the material of the sculptures – that is, their own nature – is an important consideration. The plaster-of-Paris tondi have a more graphic surface, while the bronze sculptures convey a painterly feel. The lines on the plaster works create a landscape-like image; the bronze sculptures themselves stand for organic, vegetal shapes. The plaster works have a sub-group of large circular plastic works: spheres, cones, halved-egg shapes, whose patterns and forms bear reference to galactic creation. Wax is a pliable, easy-to-shape material, yet it melts under heat; in other words, it disappears and gives over to a considerably more lasting substance. It is an alchemical act in which the starting material transforms into something permanent. The work of art not only bears the perfection of the form created, but also bears reference to the processes of transformation, even by bearing the scars of transformation and re-formation.
The presence of ‘error’ in the development of these forms is truly remarkable. The subtle elements that constitute an error in a traditional relief, which the artist would normally remove, assume an important part in the ‘ivy’1 landscapes and are constituents of vegetal ornaments on the sculpture as a whole. Consequently, we do not consider these to be errors at all, but beautiful visual elements.
As regards the genre, I would call János Dorogi’s exhibited works ‘landscape sculptures’, because on the one hand they are sculptures in that they emerge from two-dimensional portrayal (even if it is the artist’s intention to install them on the wall, like paintings), but on the other hand they are landscapes in that the portrayal has the characteristics of pictures. Their creator employs traditional sculptural techniques, yet the result is quite novel in that it is on the boundary. It not only transcends the boundaries of the above-mentioned genres, but ventures further also in terms of thematic presentation. Exploring the landscape philosophy of Ortega y Gasset, Dezső Csejtei and Anikó Juhász make the following interesting remark on man’s concept of nature: ‘It is characteristic of the individual and the community of every historical culture [...] that it first discovers unity in its own local natural environment. It is the image of that environment that primarily determines what the individual will consider to be natural, fundamental, desirable, ‘landscape’ and how, in the increasingly complex phases of growing apart from his or her environment, he or she will experience predispositions of mood in the context of man and nature.’ I would highlight the words ‘predispositions of mood’ and ‘local natural environment’. We are not looking at specific, recognisable landscapes in János Dorogi’s landscape sculptures, but projections of an inner world, in which common cultural experience has taught us to see landscapes. I would return to the question in the title, whether art imitates nature? And if we accept the forms, motifs and shapes to constitute organic and vegetal forms without the artist deliberately making them, we also need to accept that all randomly developed natural forms refer back to forms found in nature. That is the ‘endlessness’ in Goethe’s words, by which nature gives form time and again, and inspires art.
KONDOR-SZILÁGYI Mária | curator of the exhibition
Born in Debrecen in 1980, he graduated as a sculptor from Nyíregyháza Vocational Art School in in 1998. He obtained a degree in sculpture from the Hungarian University of Fine Arts in 2004. His tutors were György Jovánovics, Lajos Orr and Zoltán Karmó. His works have received numerous awards, including the prize of the Association of Hungarian Fine and Applied Artists, the József Kótai Award, the Lipót Herman Prize and the Barcsay Award. He has contributed to solo and group exhibitions since 2003. He regularly participates in Hungarian and international art workshops and symposia. He has works in public spaces in Mór, Nagykálló, Nyíregyháza and Taiwan.