Ferenc Nemes: Calculated Structures

30.11.2018 - 01.02.2019

The artistic career of Ferenc Nemes (1949) was greatly influenced by Tibor Csiky, his mentor and teacher at the Polytechnic School of Wood Industry in Budapest from 1964. Like Nemes, Tibor Csiky had become one of the most influential sculptors of his generation without ever participating in academic art education. Ferenc Nemes and Tibor Csiky soon developed a close master-disciple relationship, owing, among other things, to their shared interest in natural sciences. Another student at the polytechnic at this time was Árpád Fenyvesi Tóth, with whom Nemes maintained close friendship for decades, especially as they had collaborated on their very first artistic experiments. Nemes began making concrete poetry and collages very early on, from the mid-sixties, greatly influenced by Lajos Kassák’s avant-garde and Tristan Tzara’s Dadaist poetry. Mostly pastiches of cut-outs from contemporary Hungarian newspapers, Nemes’s absurd yet grammatically well-groomed verses lay out a sharp criticism of the period’s social and political relations. 

He made his first work exploring visual interference in 1968, and assiduously continued working on this series even once he started his studies in timber industry engineering at the Saint Petersburg Forestry Academy in 1969. The artistic examination of physical and optical light phenomena remained a key theme of Nemes’s art for decades. Based on multivariable mathematical systems, his early black and white and later colour paper works were populated by motifs of sharp lines, blocks, “filters”. Exploring the classificatory force of randomness in these works formed a significant part of his artistic program. The works of Nemes are also akin to the rhythm of repetitive contemporary music, and their methodology is in harmony with the structuralist tendencies in 1960s Hungarian intellectual endeavours.

It is important to establish the fact that although Nemes’s abstraction is geometrically motivated, his works exploring the transformation and variation of forms are also infused with subtle poetry pushing the boundaries of systems. Ferenc Nemes was also in touch with Ferenc Lantos, a pioneer abstract artist of the previous generation, who pointed out in an exhibition opening speech that Nemes’s approach to problems of abstract art is fundamentally non-aesthetic. Nemes participated at the Paks Artist Colony in 1981-82, run by Lantos and Károly Hopp-Halász.

In the 1980s, Ferenc Nemes made silk and paper openwork, the “blanks” of which rupture the linear structure of the logic of his pictures as veritable black holes. The last time these pieces were on display was at his solo show in 1985 at the Young Artists Club. Created in the same decade, his pictures based on line rhythms explored the blending of colours by frequency. Ferenc Nemes maintained close friendship with Tibor Csiky throughout the 1980s, and thus he participated at the series of group exhibitions launched in 1982 at the Bartók 32 Gallery, to which Csiky traditionally invited his closest colleagues and disciples. Starting with First Meditation, the exhibition series continued until 1989, the Last Meditation – Tibor Csiky’s death.

The exhibition at acb NA focuses mainly on works created by Nemes in the 1960s through 80s, remarkably diverse and multifarious in terms of genre. In addition to his paper works, small sculptures, and delicate silk pictures from the 1980s, his large black wooden relief titled “Letter to Tibor Csiky” is also on display, to be seen for the first time ever by the public.