István Regős’s pictures exuding a peculiarly distinctive atmosphere draw the eyes with inexplicable force. The urban and natural environment of the works akin to stage scenery or mock-ups coupled with the alarming lack of human figures as well as the often absurdly coloured sky and the spookily human features of lifeless objects and buildings are all unusual pictorial elements that capture one’s attention.
The above applies to the artist’s most recent series titled Quotes (2021), in which programmes are ’broadcast’ by stylised television sets of the 1940s and 50s. What is absurd in these pictures is that the ’programmes’ of these TV sets are not motion pictures but paintings by Mondrian, Sironi and Morandi. It was not the first time Regős chose television sets as the subject of his works, although earlier he had depicted them in more conventional functions: in his work Delugion he uses the device to broadcast the news about the floods on the Danube in 2002, while in his Bedtime Story it shows one of the scenes from a famous Hungarian puppet series and in his Lake Balaton (2011) the silhouette of the lake can be seen in the ’frame’ of an Orion TV set. The series Quotes belongs to Regős’s homage pictures in which he pays tribute to Kálmán Tihanyi, a physicist and the developer of the modern television system.
Regős’s art is not limited to the two-dimensionality of paintings but stepping outside this genre and its conventional pictorial representation he also makes box-like collages of objects (radio and suitcase works) and works of object art. Trabant-sofas are displayed as a separate group at the exhibition. The interior (back seat) of the famous Trabant, an iconic car of a bygone era that preceded the end of socialist rule is fused together with a freely adaptable exterior that satisfies contemporary tastes and needs. The first piece of Regős’s so-called memory objects, which combine function and creativity most cleverly and concisely, is covered by small trees with tiny foliage reminiscent of Magritte, while the Bauhaus-inspired sofa (Hommage à Bauhaus) is painted with the three basic colours and shapes. In the spirit of redesign the aesthetic value of these objects is enhanced and new functions are added to the old ones, e.g. shelves for magazines and books supplement the seats fitted with ashtrays and easily adjustable thanks to wheels.
Pictures can be arranged into varied thematic cycles within Regős’s consistently built-up oeuvre. His early works evoke the magic of Childhood; the collages of Castles operate with objects – photographs, moss, artificial eyes – documenting the past; the pictures in The Reform Era pays tribute to the greats of that period: Széchenyi and Kossuth; Windy Times is a series of paintings devoted to different types of winds; Time comprises works containing clock faces and hands; Eastern European Vibe shows voyeuresque perspectives from the steering wheels of vehicles; and the series titled World Receiver is made up of radio objects. The early pieces of the Metropolis cycle presents buildings with the same functions – the Museum and the Theatre – in cities from all over the world side by side, but in the later compositions the images of famous buildings of a given city (Berlin, London or Paris) shown from different angles are montaged into one picture. His most recent paintings, those featuring Rome, depict the city virtually like photographs, true to reality; however, here the Pantheon and the Porticus Octaviae are not placed in the present but in the milieu of the 1950s with Vespa mopeds, buses and cars of the day.
To mark the centenary of the foundation of the Bauhaus Regős devoted a whole cycle to the Bauhaus theatre in 2019, and especially to the life work of Andor Weininger. The paintings titled Mechanical Theatre, Mechanical Ballet and Bauhaus Stage Scenery are paraphrases of the Bauhaus student Weininger’s pencil and watercolour drawing Mechanical Stage – Abstract Revue. The abstract stage scenery designed in the 1920s is based on geometrical visual elements and figures moved about in different directions and can be regarded as a precursor to the digital world of today, which is further enhanced by Regős’s paraphrases. In the artist’s two-dimensional Bauhaus Doll’s House (2020) the rooms are inhabited by figures and objects designed by the greats of the Bauhaus School but functioning in this context as miniature toys; examples include the figures and theatrical mask of Schlemmer’s Triadic Ballet, Wagenfeld’s table lamp, Mies van der Rohe’s lounge chair and Kurt Schmidt’s marionettes. Perhaps the most absurd item in the series is Gropius’ Theatre: standing at its focus is the stage of the theatre in Jena, where porcelain jugs, pitchers and sugar pots entertain the audience. Regős aptly and humorously draws attention to the impersonality of the Bauhaus theatre and its striving towards automation along with the extravagant and often bizarre designs of the ballet costumes and mechanical figures.
Regős’s oeuvre represents an individual path in contemporary Hungarian fine arts: his works with distinct character equally convey the attributes of naive, surrealist, magic realist and metaphysical art. Regős’s universe contains humour, a grotesque tone as well as irony often intensified to absurdity. He drew inspiration from the works of Henri Rousseau, René Magritte, Paul Delvaux and Giorgio de Chirico, while among the artists active in Szentendre it is Jenő Paizs Goebel’s and Gyula Czirma’s modes of depiction that are closest to his art. His pictures, collages of objects and works of object art not only captivate but also sustain one’s attention since they are a reservoir of realisations and insights for the viewers.
curator of the exhibition