Résumé commissioned by Lajos Németh (1968)
Questionnaire completed for Michel Ragon’s book (L’Art abstrait)
My maternal grandfather was a teacher, brother of Mari Jászai, the famous actress. My paternal grandfather worked as a carpenter at the Angster pipe organ factory in Pécs. My father graduated from law school, worked in public administration until 1948, and has been a teacher since then. My mother is a retired teacher.
I attended secondary school in Pécs and it was during this time, at the age of 12, that I first met Ferenc Martyn, who became my guide and master. His abstract works were the first real paintings that I actually saw. He set me some challenging tasks and taught me the ins and outs of his craft. His influence triggered my first attempts at abstract painting. We have kept in touch ever since, and his opinion and encouragement, as well as his own œuvre, have always been important to me.
Following my move to Budapest at the age of 17, I graduated from the Secondary School of Visual Arts. Then I was admitted to the College of Fine Arts, where my professors were László Bencze and István Szőnyi. I spent the second three years of my studies in the mural department, where I learnt various methods of mural painting. My diploma work (in 1958) was an al secco wall painting measuring 2.5 by 9 metres.
My first journey to Poland (1959) was extremely influential as it was the first time I saw abstract paintings on display in museums and public exhibitions. I got to know some other young artists. After returning home I painted my first abstract paintings. At that time, however, my relationships with friends and the chaotic Hungarian art scene were not particularly helpful when it came to finding my own place in the world of painting. Most of my experiences showed me what I would not like to do.
Travelling meant a lot to me: the cities, the museums, the perfection of old paintings, certain buildings and objects, and the very feeling of being on the move. I hitchhiked in Poland, and travelled to Prague and Bulgaria.
In 1962 I went to Italy, intending to stay for a month before moving on to Paris. But things turned out differently and I ended up living in Rome for a whole year. I had an exhibition in the Galleria Bars in Rome (opened 11 June 1963), where I presented figural, constructivist pictures and drawings of buildings. This was an important stage in my life, and soon afterwards, in autumn 1963, I began to paint in the distinctive way that still continues today. Amerigo Tot saw these early works of mine, and his opinion reassured me that I was on the right track. It was in Rome that I first saw works by Alain Dawie, Perilli, Novelli and Twombly, all of which had a liberating effect on me. So did the great figures of abstract art, whose works I saw in Rome and at the Guggenheim Collection in Venice. (I had an Italian State Scholarship.)
Back at home I was a member of the Studio of Young Artists until 1967, during its most progressive period. I am good friends with many of the young avant-garde generation, but we are not members of any group or movement. Among the older generation I have great admiration for the writer Géza Ottlik and the painter Dezső Korniss.
I take pleasure in working with diverse materials such as wood and textiles. I even sew. I regularly change the location and colour of the objects in my apartment, because I feel this constant need to be among ever-changing, ever-new surroundings.
11 June 1963, Galleria Bars, Rome
12 March 1964, Jókai Klub, Budapest, exhibition of first abstract paintings
7 November 1967, Common Room at the Dormitory of Budapest Technical University
1966, Studio 66, Ernst Museum, Budapest – Studio in Yugoslavia
October–November 1968, Danuvius 68, Biennale Internationale des Jeunes Artistes, Bratislava, Maison des Arts
Prizes and awards:
Italian State Scholarship, Rome, 1963
Premio Gubbio, 1963