Imre Bak

Variations of Silence

Venue: acb Gallery
Date: Sep 16 – Oct 21, 2022
Opening: Sep 15, 2022, 18:00

In his latest solo exhibition at acb Gallery, one of the most influential and authoritative figures in Hungarian painting, Imre Bak (1939) presents his latest cycle of paintings, entitled Variations of Silence. Having continued to build his oeuvre with infinite humility towards painting in recent decades, the artist always opened up new horizons for geometric abstraction in his works throughout his career. One of the main characteristics of Imre Bak’s consistently renewing oeuvre is his ability to synthesise motifs, themes and compositions across long stretches of time, thus creating connections between the different phases of his oeuvre. Recently working exclusively on a monumental scale, Bak has assembled his latest series from seven delicate, ethereal compositions. While still turning towards new themes and solutions, painted in 2021, Variations of Silence marks a more tempered, calmer phase in his oeuvre than his 2020 cycle Situation, which also debuted at acb Gallery, and which marked a radical yet playful change over the decade. Compared to the mask- and portrait-centricity of Situation, the new paintings place much greater emphasis on landscape archetypes, which were last present on a similar scale in Bak’s paintings of the early 2010s.

The colours of Variations of Silence also undergo a striking transformation from earlier paintings, with the elemental experience of white pervading the entire series. Pure white illuminates the new paintings as an allegory and source of mystical light, shining through all the light shades. Never before has white played such a central role in Imre Bak’s painting, nor has this colour been so emphasised in the foreground of his pictures. Although Bak has always been interested in a metaphysical interpretation of geometric abstraction, the symbolism of white makes his explorations in this direction even more striking. White can be read in his paintings as transparency, translucence, or even as a manifestation of ‘nothingness’. Bak’s abstract painting has constructed spaces with colours throughout his career, and in a similar manner, his Variations of Silence feature many two-dimensional forms that are transformed into spatial structures on the canvas. The new series can thus be understood as a kind of summary, in which the dynamics of geometric planes transformed into spatiality is palpable as well as the ethereal purity of landscapes, and even facial archetypes are recognisable.

Imre Bak is one of the most significant members of the generation of Hungarian artists emerging in the mid-1960s. Over a career spanning more than fifty years, his painting programme has been both varied and unparalleled in its consistency, producing works of invariably outstanding quality throughout his career. As early as the mid-1960s, after graduating from the Hungarian Academy of Fine Arts in Budapest, Imre Bak had already created his own painterly response to the American and German hard-edge and minimalist movements. For decades thereafter, Bak steadily developed the formal language of post-painting abstraction and geometric abstraction, balancing local avant-garde traditions with the ever-changing language of contemporary painting. Imre Bak’s works can be found in such prominent public collections as the Tate Modern in London, the Metropolitan Museum in New York, the Moderna Museet in Stockholm, the Nationalgalerie in Berlin and the MUMOK in Vienna, among others. During his exemplary career, he won the Kossuth and Herder Prizes, and most recently the Prima Primissa Prize in 2019, and represented Hungary at the Venice Biennale in 1986.

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