Ez az oldal magyar nyelven...Conversation



You graduated from an excellent high-school and a few decades later your form-master played an important historical role.
In the Toldy High School there was a deputy director called Mihály C.1 - I have no idea whether he's still alive. He did not speak Hungarian well, he had no idea of conjugation and, obviously, he taught us Hungarian. He picked on our form-master, József Antall2. How could he be harassed? Obviously, through his class. The teacher's desk was pockmarked with scratches, and he therefore called the secret police, claiming that we had drawn a swastika. Well, it was as much of a swastika as a red star. It wasn't. But we were nonetheless interrogated. And this went on until the matriculation exam. The announcement of the results was delayed because of the exam and we were all waiting in the neighboring classrooms. We hung around and started fooling around with the various papers we found - notes, books loaned to the poorer boys which had to be returned to the library, and Hungarian, mathematics and Russian textbooks. We started throwing them around. We put a poetry quote that had been hanging on the wall onto one of the boys who had broken his hand, and we did other such nonsense. Mihály C. announced that this amounted to Fascist book burning and had the class room locked. The cleaning lady later carefully cleaned the class room. The officials did not believe us. We did not receive our matriculation certificate during the class day ceremony like the others, but the 43 of us were told to go separately into our classroom where we were met by forty-three officials. Did they fear us so much? Nothing much happened except that we were all interrogated and none of us were admitted to university, while Antall was banned from teaching. A friend of his then got him a job in the Szabó Ervin library in Vadász street. He was an excellent teacher, always taking his pupils' side, he was capable of holding our interest and he taught history in context, forcing us to think for ourselves.


So you had missed out on an entire year.
Yes, but not from life. I wasn't really prepared for college. I wanted to become a priest, similarly to my father's ancestors for seven generations. My father had originally also wanted to be a priest, but then became a journalist. I too was still thinking of becoming a priest while in gymnasium.


How did you get involved with the applied arts that are rather far cry from the priestly profession?
When I was in my second year I somehow got into a ceramics workshop. There was a rather strange character who had a larger workshop on Andrássy road, above the premises of the Football Association. He lived and worked with seven or eight assistants in a large apartment. One of his huge chandeliers can still be seen in the Kossuth Club. He made ashtrays, coffee sets and vases. The thing began to interest me. And since my mother and her friends sometimes bought things from him, he said I could come and look around for a week or two.


Was he a renowned ceramist?
It was difficult in those times to distinguish between artists and craftsmen. He was called Dybisewszky. He used to work as something else before. A former noble lady, Mária Szilágyi taught him the little he knew. With his older assistants he made his stuff from potter's clay. He put on a white glaze and another glaze containing copper oxide for paint. Everything he made was with green stripes or chequered with black dots. He made lamps with copper tubes. It somehow looked OK in the 'Hungarian sleaze' period. I puttered around happily, and the women and firers showed me how they did things. Poor father saw my first ill-starred attempts while he was still in hospital. I believe he had a vague suspicion that my priestly career was not at all certain.


But the time you spent in the workshop was only a brief two weeks.
Well yes. But then I started taking drawing lessons. I attended the MÁV Circle, first in Népszínház street, then in Báthori street. I handed in my application to the Applied Arts College without really expecting that I would be admitted. After matriculation I knew for sure that I wouldn't be a priest. I worked in the Aquincum Porcelain Factory for a year, and this was most definitely part of the 'profession'. I was a general handyman. I carried the clay, the gypsum moulds, I fed the huge coal furnaces together with the others. János Angyal and Géza Hofi, who later became the fantastic humorists were also there, as were Győző Lőrincz and János Som, the outstanding ceramics 'masters' of later days. We used to eat our lunch, brought from home, together with István Bibó's5 son in the meadow beyond the factory. The products were real junk porcelains which are still produced today and my colleague, László Fekete sometimes uses them as weird motifs of sorts. The technology was rather poor, it was a real sleazy place. I continued to learn drawing. I did not really feel at home in those art circles and I left one cheerless, dark, smelly hole after the other. There was a drawing teacher by the name of Vera Sümegi on Bartók Béla road. We used to draw enormous still lifes in a huge house while someone was practising the piano somewhere. Mimi Payer, who worked with textiles, and Péter G. Szabó, an architect, also helped a lot. They were still attending university at the time. Then I was finally admitted to the College. Although my name wasn't on the list of those who had been admitted, Miklós Borsos10 caught up with me and made me promise that I would appeal the decision. There was still one place so I was put at the end of the list, right after the goldsmiths. For one year, until we were assigned to workshops, I was considered a goldsmith. I always used to say that I had no interest for metals, and that the soft, fragrant clay was the real thing. The goldsmiths were wild guys, and I didn't really want to work with them. One year later, Miklós Borsos was fired for political reasons and Gyula Illés11 was appointed chief department head of the departments grouped under the plastic arts. We hardly ever saw him. We mostly rubbed off our ideas on each other, like the balls of the ball bearing. The head of the ceramics department was Árpád Csekovszky. I enjoyed his teaching methods. Every Thursday he used to walk around the room and have a look at the semi-finished and finished objects. If he liked something, he would take a better look, take it in his hands and say, do some more like this. Lots of it. He would never demand that we make things like he did, even though some people were inclined to do so. Later, when I was in my third and fourth year, Imre Schrammel also began looking at our stuff, even though he was head of the porcelain department. He used to give lengthy ideological discourses, but he was quite capable of proving the opposite with an equal suggestivity. He spoke with enthusiasm and eloquence, but he wasn't particularly friendly. Such was our life. Mária Geszler and Ildikó Polgár were fellow students at the time, they used to sit in the library for hours. We went to exhibitions in Pest, Székesfehérvár and Pécs. In the sixties you could already see Skira albums, the modernist works which had become a standard, and typed proclamations, translated mostly from French. We knew what Mathieu meant. In other words, something had begun.


Whose works captured your imagination, which movements, which currents did you perceive?
I read and looked at everything, just like my contemporaries. And we discussed and analyzed everything. We learnt alienation in a group. Pilinszky6 or Déry7 sat at the next table and we could ask them for their opinion. They were willing to talk to us kids. I was quite bewitched by Béla Kondor and Tibor Csernus12 at the time, but I was also interested in our former Indian chieftain, András Baranyai and his group13. The Iparterv. The films made by my childhood neighbour, István Szabó also intrigued me. István Sinka, an extraordinary, unusual man and poet, lived with us for about five or six years. An old friend of my father's, János Kodolányi14 used to lean out of his window in the evenings and regale us with mystical stories. In Tihany our neighbour was Gyula Illyés15 and he used to sign our hands so that we wouldn't have to wash hands when we went home. My mother was friends with Zoltán Fábri8, the great moralist, and his wife. I learnt quite a lot from them. Then there were the Vayers9, whom we visited every week. They were all different, from the peasant-like, to the Hungarian, the bourgeois democrat and the European. Like all youngsters, we went to Poland, where the arts were freer, and to Prague, which could be much loved. When I was in my fourth year I somehow managed to go to Paris for a few months. In 1964. I had thirty dollars, twenty-seven of which I spent on a round-trip ticket. I thought, if I run out of money, I'll simply get on the train. But I always found some sort of simple work. I erased in an architectural office, I painted apartments, I washed dishes in a pub. If nothing else, I could always unload the vegetables from trucks in the old market place, where the Pompidou Center now stands. At dawn we would eat pommes frites and drink wine together with the broads of the Rue St. Denis and watch the cockroach races on the table. You could make do for two or three days from a day's work. We were guys from different countries and we tended to look after each other. Everything was a rebellion, even our consensus, and we had some idea of what we wanted. We had a common vision, a constructive one. Well, what can I say? Whenever I could, I roamed the museums and galleries. And met various people. I was choosy. Some I fell in love with. At that time, the Mona Lisa was not kept behind glass, I looked at it for a week and still managed to discover something new every day. I was convinced that Leonardo was not human, but an angel. The Negro guard first regarded me suspiciously, later we always discussed the day's news. I even went to Amboise, where Leonardo had died. That was when the first hyperrealist exhibitions were staged, and I was captivated. Henry Moore was already a celebrity, but Giacometti was news. I still adore his work. I also spent hours gazing at Rodin. I was unable to - or simply didn't want to chose an exclusive direction. I still feel the same way today.


While you were in Paris in the mid-sixties, exciting changes began in Hungary too - and especially in ceramics.
Yes. In ceramics it was possible to do things which weren't allowed in sculpture. Constructivism, 'born' after the war, could be continued in ceramics. István Gádor, and Csekovszky and Schrammel, two lecturers at the College played an important role. At that time there were few places, and you could quite easily visit every exhibition. There were a few Képcsarnok shops in the Inner City, you could easily make a round of them, and then you had an idea of what people were up to. The ceramics biennials in Pécs also began around this time. There was a lot going on in architectural ceramics around the country, but we had fewer opportunities to see those. Csekovszky made the ceramics for the Kaposvár library at the College, right in front of our eyes, so to say, where Schrammel too made his locomotive for the Museum of Transportation. Árpád Juhász, the goldsmith too made his work for the Fészek Club there. There was little pressure on the applied arts, "eh, it's just decoration". György Domanovszky was the lector for the applied arts. He was more inclined to help if something was good. Ceramics were made from simple materials, with few, poor quality glazes. But there was a good audience. People who had graduated from porcelain studies tried to find a job in a factory, but the janitor's wife often gave them a hard competition. Since there was little in the way of imports, factory products sold well. Politics only paid attention to extreme things, and our minor deviancies could be settled within the College's walls. Ildikó Polgár and Mónika Laborcz spent a month in the Zsolnay factory when they were still studying at the College. They pleated and folded porcelain plates and put on the flower stickers in a jumble. There was a huge scandal in the College, and they were almost thrown out. We were not even allowed to see what they had done. Then the same thing became fashionable in the eighties. For my part, I was more interested in making objects with a personal touch. It was already clear that the quantities churned out by the factories had destroyed the individuality of the objects. I wasn't against quantity - and I'm not against it today - but I preferred and still prefer the choice of individuality. I need a lot of lamps, but if I have the money, I'd prefer to chose one that's exclusively mine or make it for myself. This is only natural. One way of fulfilling this desire today are antiques. The other is the handcrafted object, made in small series. I made 40 Forint ashtrays and vases, and placed small figures on them. I thought that an ashtray fulfils its function if it holds the ash, but if it also has some magical content, if it is mine. The function is fulfilled by strict rules, individuality by playfulness.


Your career started in 1965, after graduating from the College. How did you create your workshop? Your first exhibition was held in 1971 in Oroszlány, the next one in the Fényes Adolf Hall in Budapest in 1976. What was this five years' silence?
Well, groundwork can only be done in silence. I rented a wash-house with Lajos Muharos, a goldsmith and we furnished it. The kiln cost us the price of a family plot in Máriaremete. I received a scholarship from the Young Artists' Studio and I worked for the Képcsarnok shops. I first had to make sample pieces, and then the shop ordered what they needed every three months. I usually finished the pottery, the flower-stands and tables within two months. In the remaining time we embossed Muharos' lovely horse head, and made all kinds of things which had no function whatsoever. There was the Behemoth, a figure on wheels which surrounded this soldier-like creature. A wheel which couldn't be rolled. This was a sculpture of the kind I still make. It was full of various things, patterns, enamel inlays, small figures. For me, the most important element of this game was that I should be able to spend lots of time with it and that it shouldn't resemble anything else. Gábor Attalai3 once said that my works can only be viewed in the context of time. It isn't emblematic, it cannot be evaluated in itself. This may be a fatal mistake, but for me, thinking is only a pleasure in this disordered way. At the Manzú exhibition in Budapest I noted how beautiful something fresh off the block is, if the seams are left on the cast bronze, if there remains an edge which has not been polished or beautified. My work did not arouse any particular success or hostility. The whole profession was in a funny situation. A line had been drawn a few years before me. The profession treated the young artists as a bunch of agreeable students. Once, perhaps as a result of the infighting and ideologies within the profession, a few of us were invited to join the ceramics department of the Visual and Applied Arts Alliance. We found a really nice bunch of people there. The industrial porcelain designers had been invited soon after they had graduated in order to bolster their weak factory position with the Alliance's authority. We began complaining that the clay wasn't good enough, that the Arts Foundation should somehow organize the manufacture of ceramics. Because the Arts Foundation produced and sold all kinds of art stuff. It would be possible to buy materials for ourselves from the factories. And of course there were the usual redeeming ideas and exclusive views. Schrammel's theory with which he believed to aid industrial design, to make the perfect vessel, and that there is need for professional war since we all mature in war. I did not believe this. I believed that something which might be perfect for me, might not be perfect for someone else, and that tomorrow it will change again. And neither did I believe that war is a natural selection. I spoke out against the uniformization imposed by various offices because it was simpler for them that way and against the measures and ideas which would cripple handicrafts. A few painters confided to me that panel pictures, the bilduska would soon be a thing of the past. I didn't believe this either, and this is why I still don't believe these theories. And I especially don't believe in the brutal attempts to put these theories into practice. I was more interested in the time-context of the visual phenomena and one of its possible form, the game. Anyway, the reward for this chattering was that I was elected secretary of the ceramics department.


You began receiving various commissions. Did you apply these principles in your work?
Yes, I received some work. Kindergartens, orphanage. I loved doing these. These weren't competitions, but commissioned works. The largest was for about 20-22 m2. This size was just about right, but I also loved 1 m2 surfaces. Imagine a kindergarten. A door in the wall, with a window beside it and the children lining up in front of the door, waiting to be let in. While waiting, they touch and feel the wall. The ceramics relief.


Your first independent exhibition was held in the Fényes Adolf Hall. How was it received by the profession?
I really have no idea. A lot of people came for the opening and congratulated me. It was made for the orphanage in Miskolc, but I exhibited my works which had not been placed on walls, together with a few smaller works. It wasn't customary to speak about the works, only in the panel of juries. When we later started organizing the "Line" exhibition, I believed it might be useful to sit down afterwards and talk about the works. The few people who organized or wrote about it, were quite happy to do so, but my colleagues weren't really interested. Art historian István Solymár4 was a really good friend, who tolerated my games. He wrote an article in Művészet, as well as a couple of reviews. But the colleagues didn't say anything, even to each other. Still, my works were accepted by the juries, and they sometimes even gave me some advice. I could certainly do with it.


István Solymár wrote about your works that glazes play an important role - which later became entirely insignificant.
At that time glazes were important because of the game, but when I began other kind of works, the golems, other elements became more important. Everything somehow became raw, mostly brownish. The golem is a clay creature. I'm quite sure that I was influenced by the fact that brownness engulfed ceramics for a time. I am quite happy with these barely-colours. It's a funny thing, but once we got drawn into global culture, Hungarian ceramic surfaces also became more primordial. Time must also be used as a means of authentication. Some of my colleagues made really beautiful surfaces. I perceived a sense of fear of something new, the desire to differ from the dubious plastics, as well as the need to cover the structure. The concealment of one's innermost feelings. Maybe it is a private affair. This tendency can also be traced in the visual arts. I first experienced this in the States, in the eighties. For my part, I am not inclined to neutralize, or conceal, individuality. I think that today it's a kind of dilettantism.


How did the thematic group exhibitions come about? Were they inspired by some external circumstance or by an actual concept?
It was Antal Pázmándi's idea to hold a joint exhibition in Tata castle. But we didn't have a common theme. As far as I can remember, the work for the Képcsarnok suddenly came to an end sometime in the mid-sixties. There was an influx of information, stuff, plastics, from abroad. The idea of finished objects, which were smooth and impersonal, and which had no risk in it. The shops' sales decreased. The new economic decrees also worked against the concept and marketability of handcrafted utilitarian objects. And I was also fed up with the whole thing. If I'm to make an ashtray, I'd rather make one which has ashes of glaze in it. I began to be interested in the spiritual content. And there were quite a few of us who thought the same way, so we banded together. The idea was to find out how we could co-operate in spite of being different, of how we could circumscribe a theme or a phenomenon with our different interpretations of the world and our diverse styles. And it was also a kind of protest against the uniformization attempts of politics, of the administration and, sometimes, of our colleagues. At Tata in 1977 we simply exhibited what we had, but by the time of the "Line" exhibition in Budapest and the "Colon" exhibition in Szentendre we thought we would have a theme. This wasn't quite our own idea. The textile people always came up with a new idea for the Szombathely biennials. Interestingly enough, this could be more easily done with textiles than with clay. Beside the obvious personal reasons, it's quite possible that the clay affected our mentality. The strict, pre-defined theme was later realized at the ceramics symposiums, if it was accomplished at all. I myself did not participate at them, I was bothered by their necessary guru system, and, apparently, I'm too much of an individualist. I worked in the Kecskemét Ceramics Studio a couple of times, but I was incapable, or almost incapable of adaptation. I always believed that work was a private affair, like the bathroom. Still, I was very enthusiastic about the joint exhibitions. But I was also very careful not to let anybody take over or rule over us, and luckily we were all very careful about this, and we never had any trouble. It's funny, but when I was elected secretary of the Alliance, the members were mostly from the older generation, and one fine autumn evening, when we were talking in a pub, one of my older colleagues said that we should kill the youngsters. A few years later, when we managed to get a few youngsters to join the alliance, we were sitting in another pub, on another fine autumn evening, and one of the young ceramists said that we should kill the old ones. I thought that with these joint exhibitions maybe we could protest against these phenomena too. The exhibition also bothered a few state institutions of the time. Or were they perhaps bothered by the fact that we had gotten together? With the exception of two of us, they wanted to take the exhibition to East Germany, to the Socialist Quadrennial in Erfurt. This led to serious quarrels, because those who had been accepted, said that they would not give their stuff unless everybody went. Those, who had been rejected said that it's not worth provoking them, just let them allow us to exhibit our things. And that we had banded together to exhibit our things, not to sacrifice ourselves for each other. These were petty things, the group split up after a while, but we all became richer with this experience, and our self-confidence also increased, seeing how important we were.


Was "Line" and "Colon" a generation exhibition?
Yes and no. We were between thirty and fifty years old. This was in 1981. And we were only one group among all those people who had just began to walk the slippery terrain of free art, who had just begun to switch from the manufacture of coffee sets to making individual objects. But our group was made up of the best people.


Is there a generation problem today?
I have no idea, but I don't feel as if I were standing in anybody's way. There are three groups right now, the Society of Hungarian Ceramists, a conglomerate which has no apparent form or profile. It organizes excellent actions, but I can't see any coherence or common interests. Then there's the Deforma group, fourteen or fifteen people, they represent a specific style, the memphis style in painted porcelain. They rarely exhibit their work, but what they do is very interesting. The Terra group also has a dozen or so people. As far as I know, they rarely exhibit together in Hungary. They are all excellent ceramists, their group seems to have some common interests. I have no idea what the young people are doing. I hope they are well and alive. I am not particularly knowledgeable about what's going on, I am away quite often and I take little interest in what's happening. I am more concerned with my own affairs, I was always inclined to go my own way. I sometimes see very interesting exhibitions, I see that many people have given up on this profession, I see people making strawberry shaped cups, some people are living in the country and have gathered the youngsters around themselves. Others still are trying to make a living abroad.


Let's return to the commissioned Thury works. Most of them are compositions linked to walls.
I liked working for the wall-pictures of the Szombathely kindergarten. There was a piece commissioned for the orphanage in Miskolc, which I don't really like now, but which I enjoyed working on at the time. I am also quite happy with the piece made for the Kecskemét hospital. And then there's the co-operative office in Krasznokvajda, which was made for a Baroque manor house which had been stripped of all its former ornamentation. The director of the co-operative had the building renovated and the beautiful Baroque building had two alcoves and I was told to symbolize the co-operative's activity. I made a fountain, which I really like, for the hospital in the Városligeti boulevard. One good thing about this piece is that while I worked on it, people watched me, they scoffed at it and in the end they grew to love it. One of the most important things for me is that there should be a relation between the piece and its users - if necessary, with my help.


Do the needs of the commissioner provide an inspiration for you?
I think that the person might be inspiring first of all. And also, that he may have some idea of what he wants, but he should leave the solution to me. None of the fourteen commissioned works ever led to conflicts. An English gentleman by the name of George Weiss recently asked me whether I would make a St. George for his peasant house in Lucca (Italy). St. George is Lucca's patron saint, and he happens to be called George too. Of course I accepted. The saint had his face, and so did the dragon. He chose me because of what he had seen of my previous works. He never asked for designs or photos of the semi-finished and finished piece, he just said I should take it there. He looked at it, said he liked it. I asked him whether I should put it in its place. Sure, he said, right now. I loved working this way.


The next important turning-point ...
I would say in hindsight that my game-principle also played a role in that I began to take an interest in the Kabbalah. There was a professor of Kabbalah at the Jerusalem university called Joseph Dan, a Hungarian incidentally, who said that the major Biblical stories occurred two thousand years ago or even earlier. He believed that the Kabbalah, the mystical is a unique ladder with which we can have daily contact with that perceptible, but incomprehensible something which we call God or the superego. I see the world as an interactive system in which anything can affect, and therefore symbolize, anything else. The opposites complement each other and I must therefore rely on emotions. Don't misunderstand me, this isn't egoism, this is its exact opposite, the speck-of-dust consciousness and not some kind of New Age magic, to make God sweep clean the street in front of my house.


We have arrived to the Golem issue. The Golem first appeared in 1984 exhibition in Lajos street. The path to it led through the Kabbalah which continues to haunt your work. Why the golem? Why this mystical contextual circle, in spite of a myriad of other possibilities? Why the golem?
My only excuse is that everyone tries to come up with some guiding principle for understanding the world because otherwise we couldn't do anything. I find that even my dog lives according to a system. For me the golem proved to be a useful system. I first read esoteric Kabbalistic texts with Dániel Bíró, the Egyptologist, then with Zsuzsa Beney, the poet and with György Kozma, the writer. It expressed my awe for existence and the world, it offered an explanation for the fact that evil is also part of it all. The commentaries on Genesis explained the interaction of body and spirit, material and consciousness. When I conceive the idea of my next work and go off to buy the clay and I begin to work with pleasure and bitterness. Once it's finished I look at it, or someone else looks at it, and it shows some kind of order, it speaks. Or maybe it doesn't. Sometimes it speaks, at other times it doesn't. It is clearly Creation. The repeatal of the act of creation is also a homage to God, or the guiding principle, and it's also a rebellion against God. But if God made me in his own image, I also have the ability to make a copy of myself. The golem is the copy of the copy. In the Jewish legends a slip of paper was placed in the golem's head, under his tongue, and it came alive. A piece of paper inscribed "emet", "truth". If you take away the "e", you get "met", "dead". Adam was a golem before God breathed life into him. In the medieval legends the Kabbalist rabbis made a golem. And they gave him various orders, he always fulfilled a need. Strength, if someone had to be protected, a companion, if someone was alone. For me it provides an explanation that I am deadly manipulated by humankind and determined by our ancestors. The golem can mean the masses and it can mean the tyrant. OK, so these stories are not familiar to everyone, maybe more people know about Frankenstein. But there are many cultures in whose myths the origins of man are explained in a similar way.


The golem sometimes appears in a fragmented form, sometimes in ruins, and sometimes as a benign creature, radiating cheerfulness, in other words, shrouded in contradictions.
Yes, of course. While I'm making it, I don't think about ideologies or moods. Once something is in front me, I change or add things. It's my hands and eyes that are making it, my mind only interferes once it's finished and fired and unchangeable. Or almost. Let's say, I began the work by falling in love with an engine oiler. I make a golem for it. And then, after a few months, I take the engine oiler and make a plank creation around it. My idea is to net the deserving elements from a fertile thicket of confusion.


One important circumstance is that during the seventies you made pure ceramics. With the golem there appeared materials alien to ceramics, and I'm thinking of the found objects, the objects linked to the ceramics, wood and rags. Then the ceramics part were gradually pushed into the background. The works became a collage, which can hardly be called ceramics and of which ceramics are only a part.
Sometime after graduating from the College we made the Behemoth soldier together with the goldsmith Muharos, for which I already used bronze with ceramics. And I also made a number of smaller objects, similarly from bronze and clay. 1989-90 was a turning point. Planks had already appeared earlier, but rags and iron fragments only since then.


Coins, feathers, bits and pieces are linked to the small golems. This is how it began.
The mini-golems were a great game and I still indulge in it sometimes. They're finished in no time. A few hours, and the finished work is in my hands. These are not artworks in the traditional sense, but rather human relations. The relation of the owner to himself and to me. There's something on his shelf, in his pockets, on his desk, which he can hold onto. Remember the chestnuts which we used to play with for hours on end when we were small. Perhaps that's what made me think of it. And I also like them because they need little clay and energy. There isn't a big interference with the order of nature. When I'm working on something large, I'm always bothered that I pollute the world. "A good Indian never leaves any traces." I was also inspired to use alien materials because processed materials, or human energy cannot perish. I really began to start hanging things when I saw the Romanian events, when I became witness to the capture and the execution of the tyrant. This man was the last great European idealist who had all my hate and compassion. And people, who were no better than he, slaughtered him like a wretched animal. It really shook me. I had this feeling that crude rites are pretty much alive, like they used to be. We have a bathroom to protect us against germs, but even modern civilization is incapable of defending us from other people. That's when I began to attach all kinds of frail, surviving stuff, planks, bits of rusty iron, which had been thrown out. I thought that one should show the copy of the copy of the copy, to show that it has a right to live. There's something I would like to tell you. That I find greater interest, greater pleasure in literature and films which absorb me, but which I don't understand what they're talking about. Borges, Calvino, Eco, Milorad Pavic, Tarkovsky and Greenaway. When I was about twenty or twenty-five, I read Calvino's Baron of the Trees. In his old age, grown old after the great ideals and the Napoleonic wars, the baron discards his solitude and climbs up a tree standing in the middle of the village. He speaks with the villagers and hangs all kinds of things on the branches, as if it were a Christmas tree. His younger brother, who recounts the story, hints that some people believed that these things hung on the tree perhaps had a meaning, but it seems more likely that he only wanted them to think. And then suddenly, twenty years later, I also began to hang things. Last year I re-read the story for the umpteenth time, and I suddenly realized that my obsession with hanging things probably derives from this story. I only have aesthetic motives, I have no idea why I do it. As I have no idea why I'm preoccupied with making heads and hands right now. I do have a vague suspicion concerning fragmentedness. There was a Kabbalist called Luria, a strange character, who never wrote down any of his theories. Four of his disciples made notes of his teachings. He had a theory that the world-universe-God operates as a process of expansion and contraction in which there are accelerations and decelerations. The vessels containing the forms of the deity broke during acceleration and their sherds have to be collected for God to appear again. I feel that the break is an important feature of existence which has to be shown. Perhaps some knowledge of the world, or some knowledge for myself could be assembled from these fragments. But this is more an idea of existence which I have, and I don't think about it when I'm working.


The States are an important element, scene of your work. You've been there a few times, you've worked and exhibited there. Did the States change the nature of your art?
I was invited to the States after the first golem exhibition. The invitation had several reasons: I noticed that I felt more inclined to work in a place where I was not known. I realized that I was blocked by various fears in Hungary. And it's great that there are a few people who are interested in what I'm doing. I can stay, I can change. They gave me and still give me a sense of security. It was a kind of encouragement, and it flattered me to have the Los Angeles Times, Artweek and International Herald Tribune write about me. Don't you think? But the most liberating thing was that I had proof that I could be like I wanted to be, that being different was justified and functional, and you only had to hang on to the puritan morals. I learnt that you couldn't simply just import anything from that world. I tried to bring home practical stuff, like various types of bag-fasteners, from painless sheep gelders to automatic, foolproof kiln switches to really significant American ceramic sculptors. From Stephen De Stabler to Don Reitz and Peter Vulkos. But nobody was interested, nobody wanted them here. What they want here is Coke, but even that has a peculiar prehistory rooted in the fifties. There are things which you simply can't transplant. Or maybe it's just that I'm plain clumsy. Or both. Anyway, I began leading a double life. In Hungary, nobody's interested in what happened to me in the States, what I experienced there. I'm quite happy with this, it's a very comfortable King's Stork.


Looking back at your thirty years of activity, it can be divided into two phases: until the early eighties, witnessing the birth of very suggestive, playful and decorative compositions with small figures, and the eighties and nineties when all this was succeeded by the Golem figures. Obviously, there are formal and intellectual similarities. I consider the object-making activity, which ended, as a kind of side-track. What's your view of the current situation of this branch of art, ceramics?
I don't participate much in the ceramics scene, I don't feel like I have any idea of what's going on. I am mostly concerned with myself, and the works I'm making are part of this. I can see how much the schemas concealed from me when I was preoccupied with 'improving' the world. I would now prefer to understand existence or at least feel what it is. I am but a speck of dust and only for a moment, but I can only set myself as an example for understanding the whole thing. Contemporary ceramics? There is a demand for very cheap, easily interpretable objects. Some people are working with these things. Then there are people leading a double life, who also try to express themselves. The drive to cope, to make a living, to build a career brings alien elements into the creative process. The mostly unspoken dictates of fashion, trade, museums also influence creative work. These use a formal-contextual idiom, and you have to use this idiom if you want to make yourself heard, and then you find that the idiom remains. Some people teach, which is a very decent thing, but they put their students into the same difficult situation which they themselves can't solve. Some people acquire some major commission, others spend a long time preparing for an exhibition. Everybody is suffering and some sweat pearls. The Hungarian Ceramist Association organizes excellent programmes, which result in other programmes, and as far as I know, the Ceramics Studio in Kecskemét does not offer too many possibilities, but they are planning a Ceramics Museum from their collection. So far so good, the only problem is that nobody really pays attention to how the state handles this profession (tax regulation, duty regulation, etc.). In other words, there is advancement on the individual level, but there is little interest as a profession or guild (as in the States). That's it. Maybe one important change compared to the past is that there has been a dramatic shift in architecture: an immense amount of money is being spent on placing frail materials and forms on buildings. A tiny piece of chrome steel tube on top of the roof seems more important than an artwork for the commissioner and, perhaps, the architect. Or to quote another example, it's more important to have a glass pyramid than ceramics on the house, which would express or bolster its meaning. In Hungary, the company names have little to do with what the company actually does. It would be relatively simple to guess the reason behind these phenomena and prove their justification. I'm not pessimistic. Ceramics has one huge advantage: its material cannot be sold in the wasteyards like bronze statues, and, perhaps owing to its nature, it doesn't irritate for which it would be destroyed. It doesn't have a great value and that is why it's valuable.


Do you work according to a concrete plan or concept, or do you just start working?
"I write poem as it comes", said Ferenc Karinthy about the gardener who sold his groceries in poems. Or there is a technique, or a formal element, a possibility, or an exhibition which inspires me. The work itself is a great adventure, joy and struggle, like existence. You know, I'm a golem-making lyric ceramist.




1: Mihály C.: a person from the state police
2: József Antall: form-master, teacher of Hungarian Language and Literature, and History, later he became the first elected Prime Minister of Hungary
3: Attalai Gábor: art critic, textile artist, he is one of the founders of the modern Hungarian textile art
4: István Solymár: art historian, the chief editor of Művészet, the deputy manager of Hungarian National Gallery in the '60s, a supporter of modernism
5: István Bibó: on of the ministers of the Hungarian revolution in 1956, the most important theoretical formulator of democracy and the Hungarian democracy
6: János Pilinszky: Hungarian poet, he became one of the "classics"
7: Tibor Déry: a Hungarian poet imprisoned after 1956, later he was nominated for Nobel Prize
8: Zoltán Fábri: a film director who was awarded several grand prizes in Cannes and Venice
9: Lajos Vayer: art historian, professor, former chairman of the International Art Historian Union
10: Miklós Borsos: very important sculptor in the '60s
11: Gyula Illés: sculptor
12: Béla Kondor and Tibor Csernus: important modernist painters in the '60s
13: András Baranyai - Iparterv: artis group in opposition of the '60s
14: János Kodolányi: mystical writer
15: Gyula Illyés: Europe famous poet