Conflict and harmony
Beata Szechy exhibition opening at Jokai Club
December 12, 2009
Since I knew that I was going to give the opening speech for Beata Szechy's exhibition, I wrestled with two things. First: a scientific, objective, art historian’s argument for the presentation. Second: a more personal tone that indicates the long-time relationship between "speaker" and "artist.” So in the end: my speech will be a mixture of both. I start with the fact that she isn't Beata to me, she is Bea. She was always Bea, since I knew her as a smiling, attractive young girl, then as a wife and very soon a mother.
As a young mother she pursued her passion for art. She sacrificed a lot for this profession, but it has been worthwhile. Bea became a student at the Academy of Fine Arts in the painting and graphics department, maybe the only mother to do so in the 1970s. She soon became known for her creativity and her open personality. Her career successfully begun, she abandoned traditional painting techniques, which she saw as restrictive. She used graphics (pencil, offset, and silkscreen), photographs, and textile with threads. Later the three dimensional element began to interest her and she created 3D paper-pictures, books, objects, and installations.
From the end of the 1980s Bea lived and worked in the United States. After the political change in Hungary, she returned with fresh, new subjects to exhibit at home. Her retrospective exhibition in 2005 was an important event at the Ernst Museum, where an exhibition catalogue was published.
For me, the fact that the phenomenon of Beata Szechy coincided with her art is extraordinary. I do not know any other artist, who so openly and honestly shows her personal life and fate to the public, or who does so with such a wealth of creativity and a diversity of techniques. Her art is part conflict, and part harmony. Conflict: because it is sometimes crowded with emotions and thoughts, as here today, with this digital presentation. Harmony: because the digital presentation and pictures complement each other.
The exhibition is entitled Everybody has a Dream. Someone coming to the exhibition, who does not know Bea, and did not see the invitation card with the blowing curtain, might expect to hear Terez Harangozo’s super kitsch song from the 1960s. But no, Bea’s influence here comes from America, and refers to the title for Martin Luther King’s "I have a dream" speech.
Bea opens herself, yet hides herself. Many things are obvious, but many are full with secrets. We see digital prints from her older work, which are mostly paraphrases. These prints from the original works are memories: good and bad fate, on both sides of the Atlantic, which have caused her to lose her family. Documenting the story has brought us new art.
We can see her collages, or rather mixed media works, that interpret her struggle with her times. These are silk screens that were drawn over with charcoal, then a new layer of silkscreen, and finally she sewed on top with thread or added tape or other strips. The works represent life: layers covered up with natural and artificial materials. We recall our childhood: the blowing lace curtain where the morning sunshine comes through into the room. All the pictures could be windows. We try to look through to the garden or to see inside the room or into a life of conflict. The tape! Not only is the material already from the past, but it is mysterious what is on these pieces of audio tape: the Bible. Bea’s pure and simple creations carry her message, her memories, her secrets and desires.
Here, too, is a video installation. It is important that in front of the white wall continuously floats a curtain where the 3 x 3 x 3 video film is projected as one piece. Three women interweave, three women separate: three women’s lives—their roots, emotions, impulses, wanderings, and conversions. These three women are not strangers. They are a mother, her daughter, and then her daughter. Beata Szechy is in the middle of the three. Full with desire, worry, absence, loss, and prayer. All these messages are made stronger with music and text.
So, this opening is a mixture of subjective and objective views, where the artist’s personality and artistic talent all come together. "I live to tell my life" said Gabriel Garcia Marquez. "Life is not what people lived, life is what we can remember."
Bea Szechy is an interesting and important part of the Hungarian contemporary art scene. She sometime appears, sometimes disappears, going back and forth across the ocean, but she always shows us something that each of us carries within us; we just do not dare to be as honest.
Dr. Feledy Balazs