“The objective of playfulness is the spatial representation of paradoxes”1
Thoughts on Péter Gálhidy’s exhibition titled I Crossed It
A paradox is usually defined as two parallel statements that seem to be true at the same time. Paradoxes draw attention to existence being full of phenomena that are not black and white: they demonstrate the big contradictions of existence and the impossibility of providing answers to them at a conceptual level, which makes us uneasy and urges us to ask further questions and start seeking the truth more in depth.2
In his works Péter Gálhidy uses playfulness and linguistic humour as tools to make paradoxes visible. According to his intention, this allows him to create a visual language that excites people’s interest in sculpture regardless of their age and qualifications. Because people ab ovo, due to human nature, are drawn to paradoxes and want to solve them. Arousing people’s interest also signifies the artist’s openness to engage in a dialogue with the viewers of his sculpture. His unusually humble approach actually shows that during the creative process the artist remains in an open state of mind – full of questions and laced with a delightful uncertainty – which inspired him to make the given work in the first place. The same kind of freshness, a communication method pervaded by linguistic and visual humour that also characterises Sándor Weöres’ philosophical poetry and René Magritte’s painting, among others. These sculptures visually represent a spatial experience that, thanks to the linguistic elements used, have various possible interpretations, and thus paradoxes are often given material form. In many cases the presentation of form is also characterised by a refinedness akin to linguistic humour: for example in the huge blade of grass, which is lying flat on the paving of the road in the city centre of Pécs (Zöld út [Green Road], 2010).
One of the most important design considerations in the genre of sculpture in general but especially in public sculptures in public spaces is the location where the given sculpture will be erected, the role it will play and the intention of its sculptor. Péter Gálhidy provided an exceptional idea in this regard when he made his Sarokvas (Corner Iron, 2019). This two-dimensional leaf-picture is lent a spatial meaning by being placed in a corner, which results in its plane being broken, and since it is made of iron and it is in the corner, it is humorously called a “corner iron”, originally known as a corner bracket. Writings on Gálhidy’s oeuvre emphasise the artist “drawing inspiration from nature”, “evoking the elements and formations of the organic world,”3 his “brief and succinct expression” akin to minimal art4 as well as the presence of irony in the spatial arrangement of his works.
A member of the generation of artists who graduated in the early 2000s, Péter Gálhidy started out from classical sculpture both in his use of materials and his treatment of themes. In his early period, besides monumental autonomous public sculptures (Turbinalevél [Turbine Leaf], 2017), he made many indoor sculptures on the same scale, often dominated by one motif (Akali [Balatonakali], 2005; Vízen [On Water], 2007; AZ [THAT], 2012; Religio, 2013). More recently, he has often addressed the issues he proposed in the form of small sculptures, in the traditional sense (Tondó [Tondo], 2014; Keresztbe tettem [I Crossed It], 2017).
One of the main characteristics of his sculpture is connecting visuality with cognition, i.e. the titles not only explain or interpret the visually represented forms but also provide the opportunity for further interpretations, leaving open the semantic field that opens up the interpretative dimension for the viewers. His work titled Avar lelet (Avar/Leaf Find, 2018) is made up of a thin bronze band and a pile of dry leaves. The title instantly evokes the notion of artefacts in history and archaeological museums, which sets in motion the associative skill of thinking, indicating that we see something valuable since it is called a find. Of course we immediately “get it”: the pun hidden in the word ‘avar’ (meaning Avar nomads and dry leaves) allows two interpretations depending on the viewer, who can either think of dry and ‘found’ leaves or the wreathe-like bronze object left behind by the Avars, who built an empire in the Carpathian Basin.
Gálhidy’s choices of subject matter are always inspired by nature, whether he represents organic forms or a given state of nature itself. At the same time, in addition to the themes and their interpretations, the artist also strives to show us traditional sculptural techniques: wood carving, bronze casting, chasing and the traditional Japanese kintsugi (Kincugi tüske [Kintsugi Thorn], 2007–2017). The ‘demonstration’ of these techniques is never meant as self-seeking archaisation, nor is the cold, unfeeling application of a medium. The artist always thematises the sculptural tools of expression to lend gravity and an art historical context to the given work’s basic concept and implied paradoxical questions. Thus, all this points far beyond virtuosity of skill: the representation of form and the use of materials are matters of necessity. This is confirmed by abstraction and the reduction of form, which are characteristic of Gálhidy’s works.
Nowadays many artists are working on addressing various sets of problems generated by the destruction of the environment and nature in our contemporary age. Péter Gálhidy successfully avoided the now so often used didactic and simplifying approaches. He not only expresses what he feels but makes the viewers face it. He warns us not in a hurtful way but instead makes us see forms and unmatching materials that slightly take us out of our comfort zones and makes us stop, unable to turn away. Or even if we do walk on, we will keep thinking about what we saw long afterwards. As the artist himself said; that although he cannot disregard the issue of our future endangered by an ecological disaster, there is no moralising intent in his works being linked with the idea of the destruction of nature. (Kiha lni es élyes [Extin ction is poss ible, 2018). Gálhidy’s sculptures awaken quiet feelings mixed with sadness and transience in the viewer. The subject of natura morta regularly recurs in his art. Passing, decay and exploiting nature are bound to be themes if a work of art seeks to depict some form of nature (Ingó, Talaj [Swaying, Ground]). Works like this are typically based on a found branch (just like in ready-made)5 onto which bronze cubes are placed creating the impression of frost, mould or fungus covering the branch’s surface. However, the titles of these works enrich the initially seemingly close-ended interpretation with opposite or thought-provoking meanings. In other words, using linguistic humour and subtle irony, the titles give the viewers the chance to further contemplate the problem addressed.
The current exhibition presents the course of development in Gálhidy’s oeuvre, starting with early works (Akali, 2005) all the way to the two most recent pieces, specifically made for this show. One of them, titled Káci [Tub](2023), is the combination of an existing object (vat) and natural elements carved by the artist (small trees), while the other one is a site-specific, monumental blade of grass (Töredék [Fragment], 2023). To quote Péter Gálhidy’s words: “The displayed material primarily seeks to uncover metaphysical content through the material manifestation of fragments primarily picked out from the man-made world of objects, the built environment and nature.”6
Mária Kondor-Szilágyi, curator of the exhibition
(1) The title of the piece comes from the artist’s personal communication. Péter Gálhidy, 2023.
(2) See the famous paradox of the Ship of Theseus.
(3) Tibor Wehner: “…what is all this beauty good for?...”, orszagut.com, 20 January 2021.
(4) Quote from the opening text of Tibor iski Kocsis at Péter Gálhidy’s exhibition titled Natura morta in the Budapest Gallery, 8 December 2020.
(5) In some cases the works are actual ready-mades, such as the sculpture titled Pihenő [Resting], in which dry bronze leaves are placed in a washbowl, while in Fűszál szárító [Blade of Grass Dryer] a reference is made to Marcel Duchamps’ iconic Bottle Dryer both in the title of the work and the impossible function of the object.
(6) Gálhidy Péter, 2023.
He lives and works in Budapest
He graduated in 1997 in sculpture from the Hungarian University of Fine Arts, where his masters were József Somogyi, István Bencsik and Zoltán Karmó. He completed the master school here between 1997 and 1999. He was an assistant lecturer at the Department of Sculpture of the Hungarian University of Fine Arts from 2001, its artist-teacher from 2014, and a senior lecturer from 2022. He has had solo and group exhibitions since 1997. His works can be found in public collections (Hungarian National Gallery, KOGART Contemporary Art Collection, Deák Collection in Székesfehérvár, sculpture park in Nagyatád) and in public spaces (Balatonkenese, Pécs, Budapest, Szeged, Litér, Kostanevica na Krki, Slovenia). His oeuvre has been recognised with many awards, including the Lipót Hermann Award, the Géza Samu Award, the Béla Endre Master Award, the Award of the Municipality of Nagyatád and the Mihály Gácsi Award. He won the Derkovits Scholarship for the period 2001-2003 and was bestowed the Mihály Munkácsy Award in 2019. He held the art grant of the Hungarian Academy of Arts between 2018 and 2021. Besides being an artist, he also does restoration work (Issey Amemiya: Meditáció [Meditation], Géza Samu: Népballada [Folk Ballad] and Géza Samu’s sculptures in Pécsvárad).