Untitled = having no title, not named, not called by a title
Ivan Csudai likes creating pictures in series. He paints a series of pictures where each picture is unique on one hand but on the other hand it is associated with the other pictures through an iconic vocabulary that the artist has been patiently developing for years, with a typical minimalistic syntax and a varying but still identical individual style. Respective series having their own titles are never isolated, meaning that each of them opens up to the previous one and concurrently virtually includes something that will be updated and developed in a new direction in the following series. Art created in this way in series maintains a certain continuity and at the same time fosters ongoing progress.
The exhibition titled Untitled includes pictures from two series. The first one was titled Premaliar (Over-painter) and it seems that it has been closed and completed for now. If we were to spell out what makes this series different from the preceding ones, the decisive aspect will certainly be that the series, as a whole, engages in a peculiar artistic dialogue with the works by the Slovak painter Rudolf Fila. Why specifically with him? To give a satisfactory answer to this question, we have to go back in time. In 2008 both artists had a joint exhibition titled Tretia ruka (The Third Hand). Csudai’s pictures found themselves in close proximity to Fila’s works and their presence in the same premises uncovered up until then unknown interesting correspondence between them. Csudai, following Fila’s death, decided to make pictures that deliberately refer to Fila’s works, especially to his remarkable visual comments to various models and materials. He applied his typical style to paint the background and then, as if post mortem, let them to be commented on with Fila’s adopted visual artistic gestures. In one instance he used a gross line to highlight something or to cover it up and divert the viewer’s attention. In another instance he used the Fila’s characteristic curve painted with a vibrating brush. If viewers look at these pictures attentively, they may grasp that in that instance neither Csudai’s background nor (so to say) Fila’s comments are important. What is important is what started developing between them – meaning their common painting space that allows a fluid sense of the work to be born.
The other series, paradoxically, was titled Untitled, identically with the name of the entire exhibition. The title paradox is cardinal and indicates not only the birth of a new series but also its incompleteness where the artist clearly is pointing out that he is not intending to be subjected to any previously set restrictions. The viewers then do not know how large this series will be, what direction it will go, what innovation in the artist’s individual style can be expected and what new iconic signs will be added to the already existing vocabulary. Just one thing is certain – the artistic production will continue.
The displayed pictures have so far indicated motion in two planes. On the first one Csudai continues commenting on his own works and to do that he primarily uses his favorite iconic character of a Teddy bear. He combines the Teddy bear drawing with the rough materiality of the painting whereas the informal background is in a strong contrast with the subtle drawing of the figure. The traditional background-figure relationship, where the background works to highlight the figure, is followed by a confrontation, rivalry and a competition for the viewer’s attention.
On the other plane, Csudai opens up even more to works by other (this time) Slovak classical artists, specifically to the founders of Slovak Modernism. He sensitively picks elements from their pictures, thoughtfully transforms them, and then integrates them with the compositions of his own pictures. Similarity between the two is obvious but it certainly is not the first plan. To the contrary, it shows through refined allusions and those, willingly or not, evoke captivating certainty-doubt oscillations in the viewers and keep attracting them back to the pictures. Well, let us be frank and open, what more can a painter wish than viewers being captivated by their pictures for the longest possible time and feeling how the words with sharp meaning betray, and how their self-certainty interpretation is being pierced with doubt and a feeling that this kind of loss is compensated for with a generous portion of visual pleasure.
Peter Michalovič, curator