József Bullás is a restless artist; however, he makes up for his restlessness with unhurried meticulousness. He is like his pictures, in which a flash of a gesture will now and then rewrite the series of repetitive motifs or the established order is questioned by dazzling vibration. Most of his career is slowly rolling evolution; gradually polishing metamorphosis. Discounting the early years, it lacks dramatic shifts, setbacks, crises; he disciplines and rules the impulsive forces at work down below. Building on experiences he keeps perfecting the technique that constitutes the essence of his painting. It is as if he was steadily proceeding towards his desired, ideal objective.
As a fledgling artist, not unlike the majority of abstract painters, he exhibited figurative pictures. Initially he was attracted to Postmodern, Transavantgarde and New Painting, and soon became involved with the “New Sensibility” artists linked with the name of Lóránt Hegyi. From 1984 he participated in the famous exhibitions of the group, Fresh paint, Eclectic 85, New Sensibility III and IV, and as a member of the group he had the opportunity to make his debut on the international art scene. In the mid-eighties he took interest in computer graphics; in particular the spatial effects and colour schemes that can be created on a computer screen. This, in turn, took him to painting abstract works. Although he gave up his experiments with computers in the early nineties, the visual experience of computers was incorporated into his painting. In the past three decades Bullás has painted abstract works only. He deliberately gave up every form of natural portrayal and the compositions in his works have no connection to landscapes, human figures or actual objects. He has also excluded tempting narratives. Literary references, Bullás believes, shift attention from the essence: the specific visual effects. For a while he kept giving his works specific, if neutral, titles (Net, Corner, Filtering light, Cross composition, Matrix, Glassy wave, etc.); however, in the past decade and a half he stopped giving titles, and his paintings are marked by a code referring to the time they were created.
The lack of figurativeness and narrative, however, does not come with a complete loss of portrayal in Bulla’s works, given that his paintings often afford a powerful illusion of space. A case in point are his canvases with windy, pipe-like formations, and also his “rag carpet”-like pictures, which also have a spatial effect. The 3D experience became more evident in his so-called “glassy compositions”, which have a definite trompe l’oeil effect, creating the impression as if curved glass blocks were placed on a coloured, striped surface, whose refraction of light altered their structure.
Without exaggeration, it can be established that this period marked Bullás’s becoming a truly fully fledged artist. His most recent works follow the path he technically developed by the turn of the millennium. “My work process, too, is characterised by ‘unthinking’ construction,” he wrote in one of his catalogues. “I make countless drawings (in pencil) in a diary-like fashion, and in parallel I paint scores of coloured (oil on paper) studies. The colour studies are characterised by spontaneity, freshness and a lack of inhibitions. Variations of these evolve and often several of these come together and become transformed into a painting. The process of making the pictures in itself causes mixture, blending, ‘synthesis’. In the first step, using a palette knife and a brush, I paint sharp constructive structures from the paint squeezed form the tube; next, I roll over them with rubber cylinders, dampen the edges (like the sea blunts sharp rocks)...” One of the many 3D techniques he meticulously developed over the years is the gesture drawn in a surface of fresh paint with the edge of the hand or a finger (creating the glassy effect), “squelching” with the cylinder (creating a subtle “prickly” surface), the spinning of the brush (as if it were drilling the space) and the scraping of the rolled layers (opening “windows” on the painted layers and covered structures below), and the arrangement and blending of complimentary colours (creating “retina-killer” vibration).
Bullás’s most recent series is based on the phenomenon of moiré, a shimmering pattern seen when two grids are superimposed especially at an acute angle, rearranging the original compositional structure. In this case we are looking at calculated “accidents”, deliberate “errors”, which produce a new, secondary pattern in a given structure. Every picture of Bullás is about space, whose fabric he renders taught or soft, blinding or blunt, bent or metallic or lively by means of subtle painterly solutions. This space is open, or as Bullás puts it, it is merely “a piece cut out of the universe”; it does not end at the edge of the picture, but can spread on in any direction, capable of limitless metamorphoses.
The painting of József Bullás takes Hungarian-related optical artistic traditions (László Moholy-Nagy, Vasarely, Nicolas Schöffer, György Kepes) to a well-considered new level.
Zoltán Rockenbauer, curator of the exhibition