Mátyás Erményi

Books I Should Have Read

Venue: acb Attachment
Date: Mar 19 – Apr 19, 2024
Opening: Mar 14, 2024, 18:00–21:00

Mátyás Erményi made his debut in 2022 with a series of paintings that anthropomorphize trees and natural phenomena, drawing inspiration from the aesthetics of Central-Eastern European cartoons. His artwork was featured in the acb Gallery group exhibition titled New Wave. Through his figurative paintings, Erményi conveys a mix of sweet and sad, ambivalent emotions, exploring themes with refreshing honesty and humor. His work evokes nostalgia and triggers childhood memories. In recent years, Erményi's focus has been on exploring the material culture of the region. In his paintings, everyday objects like chandeliers and tiled stoves (Dusty Doodles, acb Plus, 2022), often found in holiday homes around Lake Balaton or school camps, are transformed into anthropomorphic creatures with human features, infused with a sense of motion.

Continuing with his exploration of objects, Erményi's latest series centers on books, ubiquitous items found in every household. Enlarged book covers painted on large canvases obscure textual details, drawing attention to visual elements. These book-paintings go beyond mere studies; the blurred titles, hidden personal references, and altered focal points in the compositions, along with changes in scale, transform the copied object just like dog-eared pages and handwritten footnotes in a book.

The artist enlarges books on canvas to several times their original size, stripping them of their object-like quality. Through dynamic, reimagined compositions the familiar title pages are transformed into standalone works of art. This change in scale also grants space for Erményi's trademark brushwork, evoking a drawing-like quality on the large acrylic canvases. Accompanying the works are meticulously penciled counterparts and occasional preliminary studies, such as I Don't Want to Go to School, displayed on A4 paper.

Erményi's subjects often include classics found on our parents' or grandparents' bookshelves, as well as books borrowed from libraries and left unread. Encyclopaedias, dictionaries, yearbooks, and other heavy publications, once popular but now outdated and collecting dust in attics, are also frequent subjects (e.g. Pangea SuperSociety, Hárshegy, Goal, Self-goal) of this series. Despite differences in genre and reading experience, these books share a common feature: their covers are adorned with faces and suggestive gazes that peer back at us. Portrait painting, a timeless theme in art, takes center stage in Erményi's work, framed within compositions of book covers and presented in a picture-within-a-picture style on his canvases. Similar to the human face, a book cover serves as an identity-forming surface that, if well-designed, can offer insights into the content within. Erményi's latest exhibition resonates with a universal inner voice and confronts it with self-reflective humor. It underscores the notion that despite the impossibility of reading every book in the world, we can still develop intimate connections with these objects, even when left unread.

Mátyás Erményi (b. 1992, Budapest) earned a master's degree in painting at the Hungarian University of Fine Arts in 2017. Since 2020 he has been creating works in which he recontextualises the visual heritage of Central Eastern Europe. He made his debut at acb Gallery in 2022 in the framework of a group exhibition entitled New Wave and had his first solo exhibition Dusty Doodles at acb in the same year. Mátyás Erményi took part in institutional exhibitions as well, such as the travelling group exhibition presented at MODEM in Debrecen, and then at Budapest Gallery in 2022. In addition to his solo exhibition hosted by the New Irokéz Gallery in Szombathely, the artist’s first solo show in Asia opened at the Double Q Gallery, in Hong Kong. This year, his participation at the SPARK Art Fair parallels his second solo exhibition at acb Gallery in Budapest.

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