Gyula Várnai (1956) presents his latest works in a solo exhibition at acb Attachment. Várnai is a prominent figure of the middle generation of Hungarian contemporary art; he represented Hungary at the 57th Venice Biennale in 2017. Just as his project at the Biennale revolved around the future, or more precisely, the perception of the future, his current exhibition reflects the fact that for the artist and his generation, the exploration of the universe and the broadening of our knowledge of it has always provided a positive prospect of the future, unlike other generations.
Várnai's new work is also contextualised by a discovery published in 2016. It was reported in the media that a team researching the conditions for the origin of life demonstrated during an experiment that large amounts of sugar could have been formed during the creation of space and that it can be found in various forms in the universe ever since. The study, published in the journal Science, is the first to demonstrate how simply, contrary to previous beliefs, the complex building blocks of life can be created from compounds found in space.
Today, our vision for the future of humanity and the Earth is much more pessimistic and the optimistic momentum of future visions has been severely challenged. The title of Várnai's exhibition reflects on this process. To create the thematic framework for the works on display, Várnai draws inspiration from his amateur astronomical interests. This also stems from Várnai's artistic character, as since the 1980s he has drawn much of his inspiration for his work from the various natural sciences. In almost all of his new works, space appears in some form, whether it be star maps, images of moon landings, astronauts or fictional extraterrestrial civilisations.
The exhibition also features objects made directly from sugar, but the artist mediates the presence of sugar in our universe in other ways as well. Among Várnai's exhibited works we can find images projected onto layers of sugar, objects made from sugar surfaces, and astronaut masks made from a mixture of sugar and other materials, which the artist has also donned during the process of creation. The sugar amphorae, on view in the museum display case at the acb Attachment space, are meant to allude to the interpermeability and plasticity of past and future. The experimental nature of Várnai's practice and his penchant for ephemerality are embodied in several other works at his exhibition, where, alongside a number of new techniques, the artist's trademark lightboxes are also featured.
The Dunaújváros-based artist's works can be found in Hungarian public collections such as the Ludwig Museum, the Hungarian National Gallery, the King St. Stephen Museum in Székesfehérvár as well as the Szombathely Gallery, in addition to numerous private collections in Hungary and abroad. In addition to the above institutions, Várnai, a former Derkovits Fellow and Munkácsy Prize winner, has been exhibited at the Műcsarnok/Kunsthalle Budapest, the MODEM in Debrecen, the Institute of Contemporary Art in Dunaújváros, the Paks Picture Gallery, the GfZK in Leipzig, and the Gregor Podnar Gallery in Ljubljana, among others.