Márta Kucsora is one of the internationally acclaimed figures of contemporary Hungarian painting. Her vibrant, experimental pictures explore the limits of abstraction. Her works exhibited in the Műcsarnok form a separate category within modern and contemporary visual representation merely based on their size and stand as examples of true monumental abstraction.
In the past two decades the art of Márta Kucsora has gradually shifted to expressive, at times even lyrical abstraction, especially to its version that finds its best expression in gestures and experimentation with materials. An ever more subtle quality in the perception and rendition of nature could already be observed in her works from the 2000s. First we can see the power of water in motion, the lashing of waves created through an unconventional splattering of paint, and then her Plantagram series takes us closer to the inner micro-level of the flora, where the conventional methods of human perception prove less and less effective.
In the last, more than one and a half decades Kucsora broke away from every direct connection with forms operating in the world around us at a customary scale and abstraction at its purest evolved as the guiding principle of her paintings, without ever becoming repetitive. Her ever larger canvases parade virtually the entire colour palette of the universe, solidified in such flowing configurations that are seemingly produced by chance. The colours of her paintings and the patterns the viewer ’recognises’ in them switch off our conventional perception of space and orientation. We cannot define what we see: we must find a context for it in the nano-world or in the cosmic space of daunting dimensions. This unique effect is further enhanced by the all-over feel of the pictures, since we cannot see a square inch that is subordinated on the picture’s surface or which could be identified as a background.
The key to ‘deciphering’ Márta Kucsora’s paintings is not provided by signs and symbolic references. The viewer must recognise the interplay of nature’s physical and chemical forces, whose effect can be perceived, unleashed or ended on the picture’s surface only to the extent allowed by the artist’s control and concept. The artists of abstract expressionism (Tachisme in Europe), which forged ahead in the mid-20th century and developed into a leading trend of recent decades, discarded traditional painting tools, especially the brush, and techniques such as pouring, dripping and splattering paints, or pasting and scraping them with a knife came to the fore. Besides Jackson Pollock, we can mention the Hungarian-born artist François Fiedler, whose oeuvre was also presented by the Műcsarnok at a comprehensive exhibition at the turn of 2019 and 2020. The innovative role played by women artists breaking out of the shadow of their male counterparts can be seen among the precursors to the kind of experimentation – deconstructing the conventional limits of perception and form – which provides the essence of Kucsora’s pictures. Examples of this creative approach include that of the Swedish Hilma af Klint, who took pioneering steps specifically towards abstraction in the early 20th century, and those of the American artists Joan Mitchell, Perle Fine and Grace Hartigan, who found their fullest expression in abstract expressionism during the Cold War period.
A tireless experimentation with materials exposed to the forces of nature and continuously reinventing itself, akin to work carried out in science labs, forms the core of the pictures exhibited here. Randomness is only an illusion. The artist designs and tests different ideas and scenarios in her head before starting the creative process of applying layers of material, with various properties and colours, on the canvas one after the other, which then either mix with each other or repulse each other. The painter determines the length of this unique dance of materials. She moves the canvas about, splatters paint on it, slants it or leaves it, at times speeding up the process of drying and at other times delaying it. The layers of colour and paint are indecipherably overlaid, making it impossible for the viewer to tell which layer is at the top of the surface and which is underneath, which colour was the first and which the last. In many of the paintings the patterns create the impression of calligraphy swirling on the picture’s surface and stiffen in energetic gestures are actually layers breaking to the surface from underneath, thus lending the works a geological character. The initially vivid colours verging on bright neon tones underwent a gradual change in recent years in Márta Kucsora’s art along with her many other innovative experiments in her oeuvre where one series follows the next in quick succession. The size of the pictures now exhibited at the Műcsarnok and the complex technique the artist used to make them outweigh the majority of her earlier abstract experiments and is coupled with the effect exerted by these works on the viewers, thus creating a unique, now virtually unparalleled monumental abstraction. The movement captured on the canvas sets the audience in motion too: it becomes impossible to view the paintings from one single, fixed point.
In Márta Kucsora’s painting the images are shaped by the forces of nature. Gravity and chemistry are each only one instrument in the performance, whose conductor is the artist herself: they could not come to life on their own. The latest frontline of 21st-century abstraction is conceived through the inception of the artist’s creativity that sets the materials in motion.
The video installations made specifically for this exhibition uniquely illustrate the artist’s approach to the interplay of materials and physical forces; they can be viewed in a sanctuary-like dark room in the middle of the exhibition space. In there the perception of the external world disappears and the viewer’s mind is engaged solely by the meditative movement of the colours flowing and swirling above. The endless flow was made in Márta Kucsora’s studio and the screened footage is unaltered, without any computer-assisted graphic post-production. What we see in the videos is the same as that in the exhibited pictures: material driven by the laws of chemistry and physics, whose exact dimensions we cannot immediately comprehend. The sounds accompanying the footage are taken from nature but here too randomness is only an illusion. Márta Kucsora sets the vortex of colours in motion using her special technique and the natural process lasts exactly up to the point the artist allows it.