gábor Városi STORIES, ARTWORKS, ARTISTIC PERIODS Tamás Nagy – László Lelkes
2 Published by: Diplomat Residence s.r.o. 945 01 Komarno, Bastova 28. EU VAT Identification number: SK 2022677547 Printing House: iPixel Nyomda és Grafikai stúdió Written and edited by: Tamás Nagy Typography, editorial and graphic design, co-writing: László Lelkes graphic designer Edited by: Adri Örkényi Digital pre-press works: Zoltán Gáspár Photo reproductions: Miklós Sulyok English translation: Dr. Dóra Horváth László Mózner Proofreading: Patrick Tayler The images and texts published in this volume are protected by the Copyright © Law. All usage of any form of the content cannot be possible without the consent of the authors. Városi Gábor © 2022
5 I wish my dear parents and my beloved brother had accompanied me all the way on this long journey, and how nice it would be to look back together now, to laugh and cry... I dedicate this book to them, and to my wonderful daughters, Villő and Mira Róza.
6 Attila Ledényi art collector and patron, Founder and Director of Art Market Budapest and EDGE Communications
7 Recommendation A true artist is driven by their restless, curious, experimental spirit. Not content with the possibilities oil and canvas can provide, they enlarge and print, cut and fold, glue layers together, experiment with all kinds of materials. They look for the third dimension, take out the metal and bend it, melt glass and shape it. Then they move on, take the red pill and kick in the door to pass into the fourth dimension. An exciting artist is passionate. Their emotional relationship is not only intense with the object of creation, the creative process and its result, but they live life with great depth and intensity, in constant contact with their own emotions. An elaborate artist knows the material, the technique of working it, because they have learned it, elaborated it, tested it. They know what it takes to keep the layers from sliding apart, to keep the multi-ton glass colossus from toppling over. They are not deterred by the term "technology", and don't mind having to deal with the laws of physics, which is why they will actually create what they have dreamed of. A free artist knows no boundaries, steps out of the box, does not depend on the material results of their work, and is not tormented by the need to conform. If there is no inspiration, they don't create; if they want inspiration, they go after it. They are extravagant, not evident, and we know that the history of art is written by extravagant creators. A humble artist respects their masters, they are grateful for their teaching and inspiration. They are not ashamed to ask for advice and receive criticism. They know the joy of gaining knowledge and enjoy the benefits of it. An exciting artist likes to play, a homo ludens. They don't mind taking risks, so they think and act big with much ease. In the end, only the successfully completed pieces last anyway. And a successful artist is pleasant, inspiring company. It's all in this book. This book is about Gábor Városi.
9 I thank the marvellous author of the book, my friend Tamás Nagy, who has been trying to keep my feet on the ground through good times and bad for 32 years with his mercilessly sarcastic, often very unpleasant honesty, so that I, as an artist and a human being, do not get lost among the waves of hedonism. Thanks to my friend Laci Lelkes, graphic artist and university professor, who has been teaching me for four decades – since my years in Kisképző – motivating me to create, but also criticising my work relentlessly and insightfully, and without whom this book could not have become a work of art in its own right.
10 I would like to thank my masters, my friends, my talented creative partners, without whom these artworks would not have come into existence: The authors of this book, Tamás Nagy for his mercilessly sarcastic honesty, László Lelkes for his professionalism and unique graphical vision, Zoltán Gáspár for his devoted help in the pre-press work. Tamás Harci, Csilla Kisbalázs and István Tari for the professional press works. I also thank Iván András Bojár, László Lelkes and Csaba Kozák, for their contributing to the completeness of this book with their writings, Zoltán Gábor for the graphic design preparation, and Adri Örkényi for her portraits and her tireless proofreading work. Thank you to my Masters, Zoltán Tölg-Molnár, László György Sáros, Gábor Dienes, Ignác Kokas and Victor Vasarely, for their time, patience and wise and critical teaching.
11 My creative partners, Erdész László, Gloviczki Gábor, Gergely Boróka and Nagy Ágoston, for their help in creating the paintings. Arian Jovics, Richard Vojcehovszkij and György Darabos for their fantastic work on the photos. My brilliant architect friends, Szabolcs Nagy-Miticzky, Lajos Hartvig, Béla Bánáti, Bence Sárkány, Péter Medvegy, Renáta Rőth, Ferenc Lázár, László György Sáros, Gábor Szabó D., György Berta, Nikosz Ziszidisz, Kata Szőke, Ádám Vesztergom, Balázs Őrley, Attila Auer, Ferenc Borbély, for putting up with my unconventional thinking... My creative partners who contributed to the creation of the sculptures, Máté Neumann, Máté Takács, Rita Czakó, Gábor Koponyás, Péter Lakics, Róbert Jakab, Ádám Jüllich, Anikó Jüllich, Tamás Schubert, Ferenc Borbély, Ferenc Rákosy, Eszter Rákosy, András Vejmola and Attila Sabján. My patrons, Zsolt István Kígyóssy, Márton Hovány, Ádám Jüllich, Ferenc Rákosy and Tamás Illés. Special thanks for the English translation to Dr. Dóra Horváth, Patrick Tayler and László Mózner. Bianka Bodnár and Zoltán Szilassy for keeping contact with my audiences. Gábor Városi
12 Table of Content Who is Gábor Városi? 14 Kisképző – where it all began... 18 The fourteen-carat Volvo 40 Paris and Vasarely – dreams and awakening 42 Early Works – 1987 48 Icarus Hits Rock Bottom 56 Fine Art in a Tourist Trap – "Home-Deutsch und Spoiler-Haare" 58 The Ars Poetica of the Phoenix – 'Carpe Diem' 60 Lyrical Abstract period – 1991–1996 62 The Zen – worldwide fame in the binary system 72 Brazil – Rio, Coelho, Magic 84 Városi Nudes – 'utrius sexus' 110 The Traveller – Gazes, Moments, Destiny 126 Soul Paintings – All that is beyond the moment 148 Faces Frozen into Glass – The Will of the Medium and the Artist 164 Kinetic Glass Sculptures – Monumentality, Movement and Light 184 Houses on the "Border" – Built Visions 196 Poets’ Garden – A condominium reimagined 198 Rolling Stone – Shambala Home 238 Champagne in the Snow – Art Home 252 Bridge and Gate – Museum of Ethnography Budapest 264 I am what I am in the ring – the rest is just pretend 270 Unburied Emotions – Dead, Living, Survivors 274 Abstract Expressionism – New Pictures 288 The Reimagined Gesture 302 Art in the Metaverse – This is the future 340
13 Biography 1965 Born on December 10, 1965. The second and last child to be born alive of five children to military officer László Városi and journalist Anna Jeges. His brother older by four years to Gábor, László Városi, who became a lawyer, died in 2019, seven years after their parents. 1980-84 Secondary School of Visual Arts, as the student of Zoltán Tölg-Molnár, István Gábor artists, György László Sáros DLA architect, Zsuzsa Pál and Ágnes Ék literary aesthetician, and Dr. Péter Kőszeghy professor of history. 1984-85 Four months of military service, followed by discharge due to mental incapacity based on information from relevant textbooks. The “Transylvania tour” taking place until college, during which, together with Attila Jászberényi, he smuggles medicines and Bibles into the Hungarian-inhabited areas of Romania. 1985-89 Hungarian Academy of Fine Arts, Department of Painting. As student of the masters Ignác Kokas, and later Gábor Dienes. 1989 – 2004 Master of Fine Arts at the Hungarian Academy of Fine Arts, in parallel with the Faculty of Philosophy and Sociology at Eötvös Loránd University. 1985 – to the present He has visited more than 90 countries. He photographs his travels using the best analogue and digital techniques available, creating portraits and landscapes. 1992 Construction of the first “Sculpture House” - followed by 20 more. 2000 Zen Studios - game software development company founded with Zsolt Kígyóssy 2015: the company won the prestigious award from the US games rating agency Metacritic considered Oscar award in game developing. 2004 Shambala Home 2010 Art Home 2016 Invitation to the anonymus international competition for the design of the Museum of Ethnography 2022 Poets’ Garden project 2006 – 2022 Glass sculptures - a further reflection on Jean Tinguely’s kinetic and Nicholas Shöffer’s cybernetic sculptures. Monumentality and movement. Glass masks - inspired by Matisse and Picasso, “primitive and ancient” compositions bent into glass. 2019 – to the present New abstract expressionist paintings created during the lockdown due to the pandemic. The work continues. 2022 – to the present NFT, Metaverse Discovering Web3 - using new technology that brings the audiences closer to him.
15 You may become increasingly confused when you look into his activities. He could be characterized as an Eastern European artist who had an unconventional start, followed by an untimely break in his career. You may know him as a real-estate developer who ventures into perilous yet highly profitable projects. As an investor who achieved his independence through an intuitive – though many would say insane – strategy, getting into online gaming right on time and, more recently, exploiting the opportunities of the Metaverse, Web3, cryptocurrencies and NFTs. He has traveled the globe, is attracted to Buddhism, practices judo and boxing, paints, and brings sculptural and architectural visions into existence. He is daring. A rebel. A provocateur. He is decadent and lives life in the fast lane. Preface After thirty years of friendship, I’ll attempt to answer the question: Who is Gábor Városi? He shows up with too expensive cars, too young and too beautiful ladies on his arms, wearing size 12 Converse Chuck Taylors, breaking dress codes – these alone could misguide the casual observer. Photo: Adri Örkényi
16 Who is Gábor Városi? There is no inherited family wealth behind him, no political support – he truly is a self-made man. Should you try to learn anything about him by looking at his friends, you’ll soon realize that the wisdom of birds of a feather… seems to be off in his case: I have been amazed for decades at how heterogeneous his company is. I can account for leading contemporary artists, but influential bankers, stock market gurus, world-class surgeons, producers, political prophets, lobbyists, modern-day heroes, financiers, and ministers pass through his place. And Coelho himself, to up the ante even more. The surface will tell you little of what goes on in the deep. I find – and perhaps after leafing through the pages of this book, you will also agree – that he is a sensitive, creative artist struggling with family tragedies, adapting to the everchanging current reality, and propelling himself towards seemingly unattainable new goals. He is either a madman or more brilliant than all of us. He dives into projects that no architect would dare to do. Some directions no sculptor would take, he will bring those to life. He paints as no one else would. He lives as no one else dares. Nothing is too big; nothing is too expensive. He will walk to the very edge and not fall off. He will laugh, looking back at us. Tamás Nagy
17 Photo: Adri Örkényi
18 KISKÉPZŐ* 1981 where it all began... * ("Kisképző" is the common name of the Secondary School of Visual Arts in Budapest, the Training School for the Hungarian University of Fine Arts)
19 Secondary School of Visual Arts 1981-84
20 I heard the voice of my teacher, Zoltán Tölg-Molnár, standing behind me. I bitterly looked down at my lousy charcoal drawing, which was the worst in class. There is no such thing as a bit bad: it’s either good or not. My experiments at the time belonged to the latter. I knew that my instructor expected more from me. Still, I could not break out of the vortex that was pulling me further and further away from axiomatically being the best in school drawing competitions. Everyone at the Secondary School of Visual Arts (usually referred to as “Kisképző”) was better than me, which made me strain even more. I hated being the worst, I wanted to tear up the worthless scrap that got out of my hands, and of course, I wouldn’t say I liked the others, who were talented, who completed the tasks in an off-hand way and still ended up with something brilliant. Envy and hatred – these emotions do not boost creation, but I knew nothing about that at the age of 14 or 15. I was spiraling, feeling more and more like an outcast, knowing I did not belong among artists. "I can see you’re straining, Gábor," Well done, Laci! ”, my classmate received praise in maybe third grade. That drawing was, in fact, beautiful. I remember how I felt: it was a new and strange experience to feel happiness for someone else. To be joyful for beauty itself, but also for it to be forming right next to me, for being surrounded by people who can create things out of thin air, bringing something to life that didn’t exist before. I suddenly realized that I was sitting on cloud nine, in the Kádár-ist reality of the deficit economy of the 80s, and had the opportunity of learning from experienced artists while surrounded by the ever-new. Even though my hands had been deft, until this point, my mind and soul were bound with the anxiety of not being good enough. ”
21 The secret of real success is when you find joy in the success of others.
22 I had to learn to be genuinely happy for the success of others to become successful. From that day on, I used my talent freely, became better and better, more unique, and walked the obviously questionable, risky, free human and artistic path that led me to the present. I am what I think and feel; my story is told through my art, photos, paintings, sculptures, and buildings. Budapest, October 2021 Come with me; I’ll show you all. 100 x 70 cm charcoal on wrapping paper Nude Model Drawing 1985
23 100 x 70 cm pitt-pencil and charcoal on paper Side View Portrait 1983
24 70 x 50 cm charcoal and tempera on paper Male Portrait 1982
25 Kisképző 70 x 50 cm charcoal and watercolour on paper Uncle Szigfrid 1983
26 Kisképző 50 x 70 cm pastell, cardboard Aunt Matild 1982
27 70 x 50 cm charcoal and ink on paper Standing Male Nude 1983
28 Kisképző 70 x 50 cm tempera on cardboard Aunt Király with Black Hair 1983
29 70 x 50 cm tempera on paper Aunt Matild, Nude with Drape 1982
30 Kisképző 70 x 50 cm tempera and oil on paper Tachist Still-Life 1983
31 70 x 50 cm mould-made paper, acrylic, oil Magic 1983-90 Kisképző
32 Kisképző 50 x 100 cm tempera and oil on paper Still-Life in Black and White 1983 Hommage à Nicolas de Staël in tachist style
33 50 x 100 cm ink on paper Psychic Automatism, Gesture Painting 1983 Hommage à István Nádler
34 Kisképző István Tomka and the corridor of Kisképző sometimes during the '80s With László Szilágyi in 1983
36 Kisképző 1. 2. 4. 3. 1. Master Ignác Kokas 2. László Lelkes 3. Attila Szűcs(Piramis) 4. Csaba Nemes 5. Master Zoltán Tölg-Molnár 6. László Weizer 7. Karcsi Szalkai ...being surrounded by people who can create things from nothing, things that didn’t exist before.
5. 5. 37 Kisképző 5. 6. 7.
38 Kisképző My painter friend of a tragic fate, Lacus Szilágyi in front of our action painting titled “Madness”. 1984 Back then, the Secondary School of Visual Arts (usually referred to as “Kisképző”) was synonymous with freedom. It was a gathering place for all sorts of oddballs who were capable of doing wonderful things. Some even more than that.
40 Gábor Városi, a student of the Academy of Fine Arts, wasn't even 22 years of age when he won the Lajota Scholarship. It’s no coincidence if that sentence makes you think of P. Howard's The fourteen-carat roadster1 and its protagonist, Ivan Gorchev2. Our hero will endure similar – and partially Sweden-related – adventures involving a young, beautiful heiress, a run-down car, and the hard-shell aristocrats of a bygone era. In the role of Gorchev, a poetically young, fledgling artist (a bon vivant) overheated by testosterone: Gábor Városi. The year is 1987, and apart from a few clairvoyants, no one has the slightest clue that communism will go down the drain in less than two years. The Internationale3 still echoes at the school year's opening ceremony as our blissfully ignorant hero sends introductory letters to a dozen Western galleries4. We will never know who was more surprised: him or Hungarian State Security, when a letter arrived that the Swedish Lajota Art Gallery offered a one-year scholarship in Grödinge, complete with a flat, a studio, a car, and judging from afar – and from under the shadow of the Iron Curtain –, a hefty allowance (which, as experience has shown, was worth about two bottles of whisky and eight beers/month at the rate of the Systembolaget – a Swedish state-run liquor store). The State Security agents were excited to deliver the letter5 instead of the postal services. The invitation landed on the neobaroque desk of István Kiss (rector of the Academy, sculptor, creator of numerous statues depicting Lenin, Béla Kun and his comrades, and works of art celebrating Soviet-Hungarian friendship. Oh, and he is also a member of the Central Committee of KISZ, the Hungarian Young Communist League). Comrade Kiss – who was earlier awarded the Kossuth Prize for his Münnich statue6 – was clearly unhappy about the invitation coming from the Scandinavian slough of decadent capitalism toiling away in their final hours before the unavoidable collapse. Though you could venture to guess his unhappiness from his expression, the dead giveaway was the style and volume with which he addressed our hero. Gábor couldn't sit down while the rector was screaming his lungs out. He'd won a scholarship, that much he could puzzle out, sorting through spittle and word fragments. However, according to the rector, the college's secretary of the Hungarian Young Communist League (KISZ) would travel in his place to Sweden. This decision was final and irrevocable! What is an unrighteously thwarted young artist to do? He buys a bottle of Bikavér (a red wine blend from Eger) and finds solace in The fourteen-carat Volvo
41 The fourteen-carat Volvo his lover's arms. Kati was bright and beautiful – after numerous drawing lessons, there could be no doubt about the latter – who first helped calm his rampant state, then, proving her innate intelligence propped herself up on the old couch, lit a cigarette, and came up with the following simple, but genius suggestion: "Let’s tell Granny!" "Good idea," said our man, looking for his socks. The entire floor of the villa in Rózsadomb (Rose Hill, an affluent area in Budapest) was filled with relics of Kati's late grandfather. Among the furniture of the former Israelite owners, the Soviet NKVD (State Security) uniforms and the Lenin Award given by Brezhnev in Moscow matched well with the French cognac and the love of our youngsters. It was a great idea because "Granny" was actually the widow of Ferenc Münnich (the same Münnich whose statue earned the Kossuth Prize to Comrade Kiss), the second man of the early Kádárist era, the man who called in the Russians in 1956. In the communist era, she was omnipotent – refuting the prevailing atheist thesis of the time. So, after a supposedly brief phone conversation, probably spent standing to attention, the rector revoked the irrevocable and recommended Gábor for the scholarship. Revising his earlier misapprehension, he personally congratulated his student, calling him "Gáborka" endearingly. After the unavoidable briefings from Internal Affairs, our protagonist's belief solidify in the competitive advantage of socialism, and he is prepared for the ongoing class struggle beneath the surface in Sweden. To his bafflement, there is little sign of this in Grödinge, 20 kilometers from Stockholm. What the village does have is snow up to his waist, silly cows, long nights, Swedish blondes indifferent about foreigners, and a limited supply of alcohol at the public liquor store. The studded tires on the surprised Volvo station wagon are worn smooth by the third day. The flabbergasted car is not the only one to accept that life becomes truly challenging over 50. We will get to this – but not in relation to the acceleration of cars – in a later chapter. 1 P. Howard, or Jenő Rejtő, was a Hungarian journalist, pulp fiction writer, and playwright of the XX. century, “The fourteen-carat roadster” his novel was published in 1940. 2 Ivan Gorchev is the main character of “The fourteen-carat roadster,” who was not yet twenty-one when he won the Nobel Prize in physics. To win a scientific award at such a young age is unprecedented, though some might consider the means by which it was achieved a flaw. For Gorchev won the Nobel Prize in physics in a card game called Macao. 3 The Internationale is a left-wing anthem: it has been a standard of the socialist movement as its official anthem. 4 Living East of the Iron Curtain meant that traveling was limited, if not impossible. To dream of a scholarship outside the socialist states was highly improbable. 5 Under the Soviet regime, it was not uncommon to have your mail rerouted – state censorship was rarely avoidable. 6 Ferenc Münnich was a Hungarian Communist politician who served as Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the People's Republic of Hungary. Reversing his earlier misconception, he personally congratulated his student. The statue of Ferenc Münnich created by István Kiss sculptor, the Rector of the Hungarian Academy of Fine Arts at the time.
42 PARIS and VASARELY dreams and awakening
43 How overconfident did you become? - Oh, very much so. A debut in Paris, Vasarely personally paving your way.
44 What did meeting with Vasarely mean to you? This might sound pretentious, but it was the most natural thing in the world. At the time, I took everything for granted: I already knew that I would have an exhibition in Paris in the autumn as a third-year college student with a Swedish scholarship. It never even occurred to me that this was not normal. Just like the way my Dad gave me the Lada 1200 – which he had just received a week earlier after four years of waiting – without hesitation. The French gallerist asked for the material for the exhibition, and the embassy said Vasarely would like to meet me... I packed up the pictures, bringing my girlfriend and left. Back then most people drove to Mariahilfer Strasse to get a Gorenje freezer… The guards at the border looked really puzzled. We were the only ones waiting in line heading out of the country with a stacked roof rack. Of course, my car was pulled over for a more thorough inspection. The customs officer didn’t really know what to think about the paintings, but I helped him out. I improvised a short lecture, highlighting the epoch-defining significance of my art, placing myself and my work in an international context. I believe the officer fell under my spell, just as I have. So, finally he marked “wood and canvas” on the customs declaration. Paris and Vasarely, dreams and awakening Interlude 1987 Gordes. A The faded orange of the Citroën 2CV fails to distract attention from the beauty of the town’s main square only because Gábor’s father’s burgundy Lada 1200 is already parked in the shade with paintings wrapped in nylon, tied to its top. The gearbox of the “Ugly duckling” crackles loudly as Klárika tears the lever – protruding from the dashboard – into neutral, stomping simultaneously on the accelerator and the clutch. Victor Vasarely doesn’t wait for the engine to stall, for a man his age he climbs out of the bizarre little car rather energetically. Gábor Városi drops the cigarette butt in the drain, looking at the Master. It’s quiet, only the engine of the Zsiga* is revving: it has been pushed to its limits for thousands of kilometres. *a popular nickname for Lada cars at the time
45 Interlude 1983 Budapest. The room is full of teenagers sitting everywhere. The lifeless image of the Panasonic VCR on the Orion Color TV. “My name is Bond, James Bond.” Roger Moore pours a drink and nonchalantly puts the Dom Perignon in the ice bucket. The monotone male voice-over impassively speaks the Bond girl’s lines too. “It’s called Octopussy,” says the diplomat’s kid. Understand? Octopus-pussy. Roaring laughter. Someone knocks over the bottle of red wine. Paris and Vasarely Vasarely was a god at the time, and even more so in Gordes – he practically made the small town in the south of France one of the era’s art centres. And Marc Chagall, another Eastern European genius. Of course, it was Vasarely who renovated the local castle and lived and worked in the town for many years. The locals loved him! Upon our arrival, he took us straight to the hotel – which of course he wouldn’t let me pay for, and I wouldn’t have been able to either – and suggested we have a drink and told me not to hesitate to ask. I looked at the drinks, but my eyes, being used to Bikavér and Sovietskoye Igristoye, could not find anything familiar. Well, there was one after all. Obviously, I chose a Dom Perignon, I think it was a vintage bottle. It must have cost a fortune – obviously, I had no idea. The waiter looked at me reprovingly, especially when I asked for another bottle and a third one to go. Then we went over to the Master’s house, and sat in the garden, drinking champagne in the August heat. It was as if we had known each other for years, me talking about my plans, him giving me advice, and quite often resting his eyes on Kati’s behind in her bathing suit as she walked around in the garden. But this did not prevent Vasarely from elaborating on his theoretical theses of painting, claiming that movement is the violence with which structures and forms stimulate the retina of the eye. I think my girlfriend was living proof of that.
46 Paris and Vasarely This is an exceptional start for an artist. A debut in Paris, Vasarely personally paving your way. How overconfident did you become? Oh, very much so. But as I said, it all happened so quickly and so naturally that I took it for granted. At 22, I thought this was how art worked in the West, while back home all I could have had was an exhibition in a small-town art gallery with others. Vasarely then told me to develop for 2-3 more years, to paint large artworks, and then he would organise an exhibition for me, where he would introduce me to the big English, American and French galleries. You were invited to join the world’s artistic elite at the age of 22 and had the honour of exchanging paintings with Vasarely... What went wrong? To be more precise, the Master selected and took my painting after my exhibition in Paris, but I couldn’t have his, as his family practically shut him off from the world after his stroke. Then came the big awakening: the opportunity for the big international debut of ‘89-90 vanished. I was devastated, but I kept working while the system collapsed around me. Interlude November 1987 Paris. Crowds at the exhibition. Vasarely, wearing a trench coat, leaning on his cane, talks about Cézanne’s legacy and his influence on Eastern Europeans, himself, the Bauhaus, Cubism, Klee and Malevich. Gábor is wearing glasses. He doesn’t need them, but he thinks it makes him look older. He listens and looks smartly into the distance as his name is mentioned after the great predecessors. Applause. The exhibition is officially open. The Master offers to exchange pictures. It was a very difficult period for my artistic and human development. At the same time, I was suddenly surrounded by so many new impulses and opportunities that it didn’t even occur to me to get depressed.
48 Tachisme, Gestural Abstraction, Action Painting – at first glance, these are the terms that come to mind when I think of Gábor Városi’s early works, painted in the second half of the 1980s. Turning away from the obligatory academic training (partly under the influence of his excellent master Zoltán Tölg-Molnár), the artist clearly chose the path of abstraction, although looking at the subsequent stages of his oeuvre it becomes clear that Városi was equally committed to representational / figurative depiction. Except that the special feature of his portrait-format, mixed-media paintings is that the young artist composed the lyrical elements by juxtaposing poles leaning into geometric abstraction. This duality is the source of the tension in his paintings, as the approaches used create the counterpoint of the compositions. Városi richly and lavishly covers the entire surface of the painting with amorphous fragments, which he counterpoints with geometric elements. In the pictorial space, formless fields of colour, patches, blobs, flowing streams of paint, winding grooves and surfaces in a variety of colours collide with geometric elements; straight lines, lines breaking at right angles, rectangles, squares, cross-formations, triangles and polygonal constructions. In counterpointing, the artist never positions the geometric details horizontally or vertically - not even enclosed in the central core – but in each case deflects and unhinges the geometrising fragment. The trouvaille occurs when, in spite of all of the above, the artworks always remain in balance. Amorphous and linear constructs occupy the entire image space. This is achieved in such a way that the surface is lightened in places and darkened in others. Csaba Kozák Art Historian Early Works 1987 Gábor Városi’s exhibition in Paris in 1987 was opened by Victor Vasarely (1906-1997), the world-famous, Hungarian-born artist, a legend, the “grandfather of Op-Art”.
49 Early Works 70 x 50 cm mixed media In Floating Non-Christian Cross a transparent, pierced-worked cross shape is perspective-shifted into virtual space, embraced by a yellowish background, with a red stream of paint (the blood of Christ?) running through at the “waist”, while the art-work turns dark at the edges of the pictorial space. Floating Non-Christian Cross 1987
50 Early Works The Tilted Tower is a brick-shaped tower with a dark window, which does not tip only because it is balanced by a smaller, also transparent, twin tower at the base of the building. 70 x 50 cm mixed media The Tilted Tower 1987
51 Early Works 70 x 50 cm mixed media A black and red “tree” stands tall on the canvas of Tree of Soul in Red. The wax as the (back-) ground already indicates the artist’s affinity for the encaustic painting technique. The surface is pasty, heavily worked, notched and broken with sinuous lines. Tree of Soul in Red 1987
52 Early Works In the painting Lyre with Triangle, it is as if two human figures were in a loving embrace. (Let’s not forget that in the abstract realm the human eye is always searching for something comparable to the real world, something identifiable, something that can be decoded.) The orangered triangle piercing from the “director’s left” into the picture highlights the couple who found each other on the picture’s wrinkled surface. 70 x 50 cm mixed media Lyre with Triangle 1987
53 Early Works I Got You in My Dream is probably a projection of an erotic dream onto the canvas. The erect cylindrical body is bent away from the vertical axis of the artwork, and is raised so that the artist has placed a toy cap on its “head”. This “hat” could be a symbol of a boy maturing from adolescence to manhood. 70 x 50 cm mixed media I Got You in My Dream 1987
54 Early Works The Cubist Composition is exactly what its title suggests: a tribute to the Cubist movement of the first decade of the 19th century, led by Braque and Picasso. There are bluish-grey and pink, broken, ragged, splintered fragments; triangles and rectangles swimming / floating in the pictorial space of the painting. 100 x 70 cm mixed media Cubist Composition 1987
55 Early Works The Endre Bálint Memorial is a tribute to one of the greatest painters of Hungarian avant-garde. The 3D cross-shape, instilled with amorphous spots and defined by thin contours appears in this painting too, but here a bluish curtain floats in the background. 70 x 50 cm mixed media Endre Bálint Memorial 1987
There's something in clichés – Gábor muses on his terrace, puffing on his e-cigarette as he gazes into the slightly smog-blurred view of the city – like: the higher you climb, the harder you fall. After his stroke, Vasarely was so shut off from the world by his family that there was no chance of the vision he had promised me, that I’d be theworld-famous young artist, coming frombehind the Iron Curtain, by '89-90. After the creative-collaborative process with the Master and the exhibition in Paris, instead of moving on to Aix-en-Provence, I returned to the reality of Budapest before the regime change. To an envious and uncomprehending country, where very soon, I also found the Swedish scholarship, the French exhibition, and Victor's mentorship to be unrealistic. As if all of that had happened to someone else. Instead of the glamour of Paris, Lonadon, and New York came the reality of small domestic galleries and the Pesterzsébet Museum. The art world and the authorities watchedme suspiciously, and the critics slammed everything Vasarely considered good and innovative. They compared the backlights of my paintings to mass-produced neon and Christmas lights and hummed indulgently when I used resin as paint and replaced canvas with glass. I turned towards functioning and viable sculpture, to architecture. I had built my first house by 1992. To finance this, I drew thousands of portraits and caricatures of tourists on Vörösmarty Square and in Balatonfüred. 56 Icarus Hits Rock Bottom
57 150 x 120 cm encaustic Cross Paraphrase 1999 Hommage à Kazimir Malevich
58 1988. Gábor Városi is drawing quick portraits, “schnell-portraits” of German tourists on the pier in Balatonfüred, with that boyish expression that you would be hard pressed to find in today’s man. In his peculiar German, he dubs the Bundesliga haircuts of men as “spoiler-Haare”; for the bald Bavarians, he uses the “cabriolet-Frisur” analogy, assuming that German dads find the football–car comparisons relatable. The wives of these German gents are already giggling at the flippant remarks and getting their children ready to sit for caricatures. When the kids are finished, they can hardly wait to sit for a nice portrait session with the young artist as well. Finally, the father, “Vati,” gives in and after ten minutes, rolls up his caricature happily. He then pays for four or five portraits that, despite the “schnellness”, accurately reflect the models’ personalities. I observed the young artist with fascination; the tourists would rather wait for him than sit for the others in the square – even though his prices were higher, and the others were without a single commission. We do not know this yet, but Gábor is instinctively accomplishing the same thing that will make Pixar’s animations stand out in cinema ticket sales twenty years later: he caters to the whole family. Everyone is having fun at the same time, regardless of age or gender. We got to know each other that day; for me, the caricature only cost five hundred forints. Tamás Nagy Fine Art in a Tourist Trap "Home-Deutsch und Spoiler-Haare" Pencil Drawing I. 1988 20 x 30 cm charcoal and pencil on paper
59 Pencil Drawing II. 1988 30 x 20 cm charcoal and pencil on paper
61 The beautiful thing about the Great Game of Life is that what seems to be initially a ruinous obstacle, decades later might be recognised as a force that diverts fate in a different direction. If Karma can be influenced at all. According to the aphorism of the 1980s, the creative intelligentsia had two roads to take - one was alcoholism, the other impassable. Instead, recovering from the low blow, I found a third one, the joy of life. Many people reproach me for being a “hedonist” and a “bon vivant”, but I honestly don’t see why that’s a problem. I lost so many important artists and friends too early: my college master, Gábor Dienes; Lacus Szilágyi and Tamás Bejczy both ended their own lives. In their stead, and instead of my students Barna Hernády and Gábor Zala, I must live! I believe and act accordingly: I play and enjoy life, and this offends a lot of people. The Ars Poetica of the Phoenix 'Carpe Diem'
62 The works of Gábor Városi, created during his period of what he termed Lyrical Abstraction, do not, at first sight, seem to depart from the character of his earlier paintings, but present a continuation of sorts. His formal vocabulary still consists of geometric elements. The artist makes even greater use of the plasticity of the material to bring the forms he depicts to life in an almost organic manner, transcending their schematic simplicity. Combining the soft malleability of encaustic painting, the curious texture of resin and the conservative elegance of oil paint, the surfaces, sometimes interrupted, are delicate and dramatic. By revealing the agony of the distorted and shrunken material formed by the creative hand, Városi’s intention is not to shock the viewer. With his pictures, he deliberately suggests a kind of embraced duality. Drama and lyrical lightness? A seemingly paradoxical situation. Behind the works painted on glass, he intends to place – in a pictorially almost blasphemous way – a source of light. The transcendence of light penetrating through the layers brings the intangible into the very physical material. These paintings are not works meant for exhibition halls, but to enrich the home, the living space, which is not a place of spiritual upheaval. Although the works contain the drama of the material, they do not burden us with the weight of lead. After all, art can not only be cathartic. It can serve man even if it delights in the everyday. These works evoke the flickering of fire and embers, which do not want to grasp the soul, but rather to caress it. Yet, they never fail to inspire the viewer to develop their own narrative. Abstract forms take on a strange life. These images invite us to contemplate in silence. They are some sort of profane domestic altars that communicate the spiritualisation of material. László Lelkes Munkácsy Award-winning graphic artist The beginning of the new era after the fall of communism is the overture of a new artistic era. May everything be just ‘different’, or at least be anything but what it was like before. Oil paint and synthetic resin on plexiglass instead of canvas, and to top it all, let it be luminous! Lyrical Abstract period 1991– 1996
63 Lyrical Abstract period Hommage à Master Tölg-Molnár 1997 140 x 170 cm encaustic
64 Lyrical Abstract period Still-Life with Gold Pebbles 1992 70 x 50 cm synthetic resin and mixed media
65 Lyrical Abstract period 70 x 50 cm synthetic resin and mixed media My Secret Desires 1992
66 Lyrical Abstract period 70 x 50 cm synthetic resin and mixed media Creative Gaze 1992
67 Lyrical Abstract period 70 x 50 cm synthetic resin and mixed media The Birth of the Logo 1992
68 Lyrical Abstract period 70 x 50 cm synthetic resin and mixed media Intimacy in the Evening 1993
69 Lyrical Abstract period 70 x 50 cm synthetic resin and mixed media Time-Gate with Malevich 1993
70 Lyrical Abstract period 140 x 170 cm encaustic Enterior (in Memoriam Kisképző) 1997
71 Lyrical Abstract period Vanishing in Blue 1996 150 x 120 cm encaustic
worldwide fame in the binary system 72 STUDIOS
74 A friendship between two men is not like that of little boys. In most cases, it is based on the rivalry of similar talents, and therefore it usually leads to arguments after a while. “Two kings in one castle” or “the battle of egos”, if you prefer using New Age terminology. The likelihood of problems escalating increases exponentially when friends go into business together. The shared journey of Zsolt Kígyóssy and Gábor Városi, in contrast, is a decades-long success story of two very different big-league players, strewn with failures in the beginning and followed by victories later. Let us start at the end: in 2021, twenty years after being founded with only a few million forints, Zen Studios sold for an amount undisclosed, visible, however, to the naked eye on the international market. An Eastern European game software development company that avoids the spotlight and has dominated the global pinball market for a decade and a half. Too big for a small business and too small for a big enterprise, Zsolt says this is exactly the business size whose market will not be snapped up by a global mammoth of the commercial trade but presents start-ups with already too much of a challenge to scale up to the same quality. Fifteen years in this business is a lifetime: just consider that in the beginning, we only had dial-up internet, and smartphones and Facebook did not exist. The Zen and the art of pinball care Laos, 2002.
77 The Zen After its initial hiccups, Zen has consistently remained among the market leaders, topping the most influential international ranking in its category in 2015, outperforming players such as Sony, Microsoft, Sega and Nintendo. This was, however, by no means predictable at the beginning of the story. On board a plane to Havana, our protagonists were looking to find a way back to each other after a big set-to. Weeks earlier, they had got into a minor accounting dispute, resulting in Zsolt cutting off contact with Gábor, but sending him the cash in question first, to which Gábor responded by sending him a case of Dom Pérignon. But the plane tickets had already been bought, and so they ended up travelling together. — It might not have been a whole case, just a couple of bottles, or just one“, says Gábor. Zsolt nods, “and maybe it was some kind of prosecco.” Zsolt looks off into the distance. This is typical of the dynamic between Gábor, the rampant artist who puts stories on canvas, and Zsolt, the structurally thinking, analytical chess player. What unites them, however, is their respect for each other’s different personality traits and the lack of alpha male rivalry.
78 Is that which cannot be counted important? The emotions, the experiences shared on the journeys, the transits endured together, the Varadero sand trickling from the flip flops in Cuba or the hangover in Brazil?
79 The Zen
80 The difference in habitus is even more apparent when you ask them about the history of Zen Studios. Zsolt will hold a presentation on why he invested in this industry as a financial professional (no ceiling of profit) and on costbenefit analysis. He will also discuss the initial search for a way forward, typical of most start-ups and usually leading to imminent bankruptcy. A pin-point process analysis, not particularly entertaining for outsiders. — On the flight to Havana, we wanted to make the best gaming company in the world, one where the movement of the characters is not chunky, and if you zoom in on the background vegetation, it turns out to actually be marijuana! — counters Gábor, smiling. — Then, by the time we figured out what to do and how to do it in a given market and in a given period, we were bled dry financially to the point where we had to bring in private means to survive — says Zsolt, remaining rational, — and there was a pretty big risk in that.
82 At this point, Gábor recalls how difficult it was to part with his stunning A8 (black, with beige seats), and adds: — I believed in Zsolt’s genius so much that I sold the car, however painful it was, even though many people thought I was crazy. But it was important that my partner felt my trust. — We survived the crisis, and we put the investment on the market that was undergoing a complete transformation, just in time. Weeks after the low point, all of a sudden, eight hundred thousand dollars came into the account… Pinball became our trademark and put us in a position from which we could grow steadily. Beyond a certain point, it became clear that it would be impossible for only the two of us to reach our full potential, so we looked for a professional investor to support our development. It is satisfying to see that we have chosen the right partner. One year after the change of ownership, Zen Studios has grown exceptionally well in all indicators, and under the terms of our agreement, I will continue managing the company for two more years. Zsolt tells all this like a seasoned businessman giving a talk about the heyday to budding entrepreneurs.
83 Is that which cannot be counted important? The emotions, the experiences sharejourneys, the transits endured together, the Varadero sand trickling from the flip flops in Cuba or the hangover in Brazil? — For me, this partnership gave me freedom, — says Gábor, — to be honest, it was not an idea that I had invested in, but Zsolt, his brain and his personality. I think it is one of my strongest qualities that I recognize greatness and seek the company of talented people. I am grateful to Zsolt, and I hope that I have been able to contribute enough to counter-balance what I have received. But this obviously cannot be expressed in any kind of Excel spreadsheet.
84 BRAZIL Rio Coelho Magic
86 Where should we start the Brazilian story, Gábor? With the first trip out of 29, the night out with PauloCoelho, the sneaking into the Sambadrome in Rio, or the photo exhibition in Villa Barabás that disrupted the flow of traffic in Városmajor Street? – First things first. It was '92 when my childhood friend Ákos Szabó (Szibi) unexpectedly made a relatively large amount of money on the stock market. With his usual pessimism, he concluded that at the ripe age of 27, he peaked in life, and from here on, it’s all going to be downhill. All he had to look forward to was a mundane career, a family, some serious illness, followed by death. As a young artist at the time, I also adopted the traditional Eastern European suicidal mindset – Attila József was THE poet. As a painter, I worshipped Malevich, who also lived a self-destructive life. I only turned to Kafka if I wanted something cheerful. I was a scowling, misunderstood, often drunk, chain-smoking artist. Where does Rio de Janeiro come into this? – I agreed with Ákos but suggested raising the stakes: if we can agree that the end is painfully near, we should spend his money together somewhere amazing - it also seemed logical that he would lend me money to join the ride. The next day we flew out to Brazil. We had an 8-hour layover in Amsterdam – we'd never been there either – so we started the adventure then and there by visiting the city. Even as kids, we used to play stupid games, so after a few beers and a visit to a coffee shop, it seemed like a good idea to pretend to be Eastern European drug dealers and try to Brazil
87 get some serious dope. To make it even more interesting, our goal was to score some for free – because that’s the real stunt. So obviously, when a guy with dreadlocks approached us, we told him that rather than selling us stuff, he should take us to the kingpin. Half an hour later, in the back of a big BMW, we convinced the Asian big boss to provide us with two small samples of their finest product, the one he called "The Gorbachev.” Since we got out at a McDonald’s, we decided to wait there until the effects would kick in. After waiting 10 minutes, nothing happened. At the 15-minute mark, Szabó cursed the bastard, cheating Malaysian, but right then, we both noticed a beautifully decorated Indian elephant standing in line at the counter. How we got back to the airport is still a mystery, probably by taxi. But the blurred neon lights, the silhouettes of buildings, and people stayed with me. This will have significance later linking to my Brazilian pictures. I was hoping we'd get to something related to Brazil… – Very much so; if you look at the pictures of my Brazilian period, these blurred movements and almost frozen faces characterize them. It's all based on the fact that at the time, I was shooting on Leica film with a Hasselblad XPan. I was very interested in the carnival as a subject. Women, the pervasive eroticism, the fact that conventions disappear during the festival, the social barriers – very much present in Brazil – are broken down, and the euphoria of dance and freedom emerges. I wanted to capture all this somehow. But I had to get close, find enough light, and work from a tripod because of the long exposure.
88 This was only possible at the Sambadrome, where all samba sch ools parade in front of judges and grandstands with tens of thousands of people, where, even back then, tickets cost so much that we couldn't afford them. So, we made a habit of sneaking in, and I photographed from as close as I could. The Brazilians had a carefully devised system for admission. Well, they had planned for the locals. But we were from Eastern Europe – those poor souls never stood a chance. A Hungarian is the only man who can follow you into a revolving door and come out first, as they used to say in Hollywood at the dawn of the film industry. I took photos from spots where no one ever has. I caught the magic as the bodies were in motion, but the faces were sharp. You've traveled around the world and been on every continent, but you've been to Brazil 29 times. What makes this country so important to you?
89 Brazil – It is a gorgeous place, but that alone would not have brought me back so many times. What has always amazed me and still does is the people’s zest for life. How different they are from us. That they are honest, open, and quite naive compared to us – of course, we fooled them with the tickets! They smile at you and trust you. Where I came from, depression and anxiety were typical – it’s no wonder that many of my role models, my peers and my teachers have quit the game of life prematurely. Brazil is so very different. Obviously, there are many bad things there too, crime, poverty, twisted politics, the burning of the rainforest - I don’t want to pretend that these things don’t exist, but Brazilians live much healthier, both spiritually and physically. All my life I have tried to have a similar attitude to people, business and creation. This can sometimes seem irritating and irresponsible, but I prefer to go with the flow rather than wading toward my goals.
90 Speaking of your lifestyle, how did Paulo Coelho end up at a party at your house? – He's an artist, a man, and he loves wine! My Brazilian exhibition at the Barabás Villa was a huge success, Ambassador Roberto Suarez gave the opening speech, and 800 people came to the opening alone. I was so enthusiastic that I started learning Portuguese again for the umpteenth time from Claudia, a beautiful Brazilian lady living here. Small as the world is, she interpreted for Paolo in 2005 when he received the Budapest Grand Prize. I tried to arrange a meeting, but the protocol schedule was impossible. Not even the Ambassador could help – the writer had no time for him either. Then, with the unscrupulousness of an underdog, I had Claudia take my message that there would be a casual artists' gathering at a painter’s place in the evening, with lots of models and even more wine. This is how Coelho excused himself from the Mayor's banquet after the appetizer, blaming jetlag, and 15 minutes later, he was lying down on one of my sofas with a glass of wine in his hand. At the news of his presence, the most beautiful girls in Budapest showed up at my doorstep with not-so-surprising enthusiasm. Paolo stayed until the morning and had a pretty good time. I had a massive smile on my face when I later heard him tell the press about how beautiful Hungarian women are and how good the wine is. How did Paulo Coelho end up at a party at your house?