paizs lászló
paizs lászló

Psychological Truth And Historical Truth in László Paizs

László Paizs is essentially an expressionist, but he is a latterday or Neo-expressionist - an expressionist into bleakness rather than brightness, more aware of the grimness of the world than hoping for a better world, as both the Brücke and Blaue Reiter artist did, at least before the first World War. Censored in his own country until the Communists departed, he cannot help having felt emotionally oppressed as well as physically threatened. He probably internalized this threat to his life and art - this crushing social and ideological pressure to conform. The result - the sense of being a human ruin - is what we see in his art: it expresses what was inexpressible during the Communist rule of Hungary. The tragically human figures that we see in Standing Figure, No. 2, 1999, Double Figure No. 3, 2000 (oil and colored polyester on canvas), and the even more astonishing King and Queen I and II, 1999 and 2000 (oil, alploid on canvas), among many other "burnt figure" works, as they may be called, are implicitly self-portraits as well as portraits of victimized human beings - human beings all but destroyed by society and history.

I call them burnt figure works because they have a textural and even dramatic affinity with the series To the Memory of Book-Burners, 1986 (acrylic block sculpture). In these works history comes ironically to the fore: when the Communist regime was overthrown, the books of Marx and Lenin - Communist Bibles - were burnt. It was no doubt a liberating act - an anti-ideological, forcefully human reaction to an inhuman regime - but it was also a bizarre echo of the Nazi book-burnings, carried out as part of a systematic program of ideological enforcement. Thus the irony of Paizs's "expressive" works - all the more so because the burnt residue of the books and of the figure is preserved in plastic as though in amber. The residue becomes the memento mori of the psychological and historical truth - the artistic trace of personal and social suffering. Paizs's works are the holy relics of death elevated in an ironically sacred art.

The series of oil and colored polyester paintings is a sculptural happening; the shadowy, splattered figures are a kind of abstract expressionist painting. They are at once flat, fractured, and texturally dynamic, as though the dynamics of destruction could give them vitality, thus overturning the loss they embody. The Book-Burners objects are also about loss - personal loss, as I have suggested, as well as social and even intellectual loss for Marx and Lenin, whatever brutality they led to (a brutality reflected in Paizs's works), are part of Europe's intellectual heritage, just as the more enlightened books the Nazis destroyed. What makes Paizs an artist - an especially important artist in these trying times as well as in a Hungary struggling to recover from decades of identity crisis (until recently, it has always been part of an empire - the Austro-Hungarian, the Nazi, and then the Soviet empires) - is that he is able to turn the destructiveness of history into weirdly sublime beauty. He is able to pursue disintegration to achieve a new aesthetic integration, even if that integration embodies disintegration, thus resisting integration into conformist society. This is what Paizs's works heroically and ironically do, even though his allegorical figures are heroic ruins, as their antique source suggests. Paizs's work are about the ruin of the past and the possibilities that were never realized, even as he suggests that his burnt figure may be a luminous phoenix rather than a Pompeiian mummy.

Donald Kuspit
Professor of Art History and Philosophy , SUNNY, New York
Noted author, art critic and historian

Catching Up with László Paizs...

When I first saw László Paizs' painting in his studio in Budapest, Hungary, I felt like an explorer who had made a discovery. The paintings appeared to be modern day relics of a past civilization, partial figures excavated with heavy textured polyester and glimmering tones of pink, silvery and golden hues. I found myself contemplating each work of art.

After a few steps around the studio I saw an eerie light, a red glow from embers floating within a block of plexiglass. Upon closer view, I noticed that they were actually the remains of burned pages of books, some pages still appearing to be on fire, trapped forever in a clear acrylic block. This work reflected a moment Mr. Paizs experienced during the 1956 revolution in front of a bookstore in Budapest. He watched as classic volumes of Marxist-Leninist books were thrown onto the pavement and the piles were set aflame. In his words, it conjures the moment into a 'conscious fossil'.

László Paizs had to "kick against the pricks", to borrow Ezra Pound's felicitous phrase, since young artists in Hungary were routinely cautioned by cultural watchdogs against indulging in "petit-bourgeois pedantry" and straying into the "bog of abstractionism".

Here is a man who has dedicated his entire life to his art and has had to fight every step of the way to do it.

While U.S. Pop art parodied conspicuous consumerism, Paizs' earliest plexiglass pieces, created in 1969 and containing items of deconstructed clothing, poked perilously pointed fun at the shoddy workmanship of Hungary's state-owned factories. The following year, a powerful plexiglass piece "Gauze Mushroom Cloud" addressed the threat of nuclear war from a humanistic, nonpartisan perspective well outside the guidelines of socialist realism. While much American Pop art of the same period now seems dated, Paizs' work continues to resonate in a way that once again, alas, seems disturbingly prophetic. But it has always been a sign of Paizs' greatness that he never tries to ingratiate himself to the viewer, neither in his choice of materials or the cold facts he employs them to convey, as seen in pieces such as "Atomic Cloud with Dog's Backbone", which makes its point with poignant and unflinching eloquence.

Indeed, the transcendent qualities of art - its ability to survive in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles, official or othervise, and finally triumph in the end - is just one of the lessons that one took away from this important exhibition.

Coming upon the work of László Paizs at this late date is very much like stumbling upon an entire continent that one did not know was there.

Ed McCormack: Catching Up with László Paizs, Hungary's Greatest Living Artist, in Soho.
. The World of the Working Artist. Vol. 5 No. 4, March-April 2003



The works of László Paizs

Plexiglass is the material of 20th century art.
And now it is the material of 21st century art, too.
Its history in Hungarian art, by way of the evolution and consummation of the life oeuvre of Paizs, follows a trajectory from 1969 until the present day.
Self-appointed followers, travel companions and kindred souls stand in the background.
Just as there were no cell phones in the Middle Ages, there were no plexiglass sculptures either. Thus, we can say that the plexiglass sculpture is modern and of the moment. At the same time, we also know that things, in fact, do not really change at all, or just barely.
But then, the plexiglass works, driven by sedate geometry, the cold constructivist spirit - which the Master presented in 1976, collected together at the Csók István Gallery in Budapest. The compositions of the chaotic maelstrom slowly conveyed their place - the drama of the object interrupted in its fall, the lyric of frozen smoke - which, 30 years later, in 2005, are presented to the audience, likewise at the Csók István Gallery in Budapest. (There are, then, still places, locations encompassed in living legend.)
Let us not attach too much importance to the plexiglass material itself, however; nothing ever became a work of art simply through its material, not from its material alone - at most, perhaps more rare, more valuable or more unusual.
As to the plexiglass sculpture - allow us to be sometimes boldly (slightly) full of pathos - it, too, will become a work of art by way of the spirit, thinking, recognition and unusual vision embodied within it.
In this case, the unusual dimension is inherent in the transparent vision.
The transparency of the plexiglass sculpture, at the same time, does not presume transparency of the spirit embodied within it.
Rather, this is only a case of non-transparency appearing within the transparency. Beneath the transparent surface, this is the initial so-called level of collision of the conflicts appearing within the translucent mass.
The Paizs-plexi: the dramatic situation between the encased, stiffened, inclusion-like (fossil) object and object collage.
The objects float and are easily removable. And then the objects imperceptibly evolve into things that are difficult to recognise, and progressively into mere concepts.
These concepts are complex, and they bear ambiguous, simultaneous meanings.
The Paizs-plexi: the floating symbol-object or symbol-organisation taking clear form is transposed, an embodiment and presentation lifted from its original self.
An inclusion (relic) rendered metaphor. A solid, hard, dense object with spatial illusionism that autonomously dissolves and penetrates, inhales and radiates.
According to the determination of the Master, this plexiglass work is "conscious fossilisation".
Encased and exhibited inside is the deformed, mangled, shredded or disintegrated, singed, charred requisite - going to ruin, like a residue, relic-like, encumbered with weighty meanings, which suggest that we are post- : participants after the fact, following the events.
In connection with his plexiglass works of 1971, his contemporary, László Lakner, wrote: "The man pours into plexiglass what he is afraid of. He makes his art from that which he fears."
Today, in 2006(07), after the fears we have grown tired of, the acts, the phenomena; we find ourselves in the era of the dilapidated chicken-skeleton, the destroyed clock, the pincers clinging to pincers, the revolutionary-newspaper-letterhead-fragment, the block of remnants of ground-up paper currency.
Captivated by the sight and knowledge of the new absurdities and paradoxes.
The chance and the possibility for superiority lost, at least so long as - caught up in the current of the good, old "New Economy mechanism" - specimens of the HUF 6,80 shaving-mirror set, which cannot really be deemed to have been designed, survive. (Maintaining a shaving mirror for six forints and eighty fillers as something entirely natural.)
We might initiate ourselves as the actors of surreal dreams come to life, as moved by the memories and prognosticated visions of the future rushing down upon us from the plexiglass works; we scurry into the privatised revolution like one-legged broiler-chickens, and meanwhile, somehow, we are still enchanted by our own tragic beauty.
The new era drags along behind it its oppressive legacy of bygone decades as a handicap.
But as a bit of refreshment, we might ponder that which is explicable with difficulty: if facsimile is "cs", then why is plexi "x"?
Could it be that we are simply the irretrievable slaves of our traditions and customs, of convention?

Tibor Wehner


The Stigmas of 1956

The sublimely tragic chapter of modern Hungarian history was the 1956 revolution and war of independence: the dramatic unfolding of events - of the unrestrainable explosion of the thirst for freedom, the heroic undertaking of the battle and the crush of the struggle - was synthesised into the symbol of irrepressible force, inherent in the national consciousness, the national solidarity. Painter László Paizs also lived through the Budapest events of the revolution, as a second-year student of the Hungarian Academy of Applied Arts. Just like in so many of his contemporaries, the revolutionary exaltation of the Budapest people took root in him for life, carrying him along with its momentum, and the images of the occurrences became profoundly etched in his visual memory: the radios placed in windows, the captions painted onto display windows, the leaflets fluttering down, the burnt-out tanks, the overturned trams, the buildings shot to devastation, the rooms without walls, opening onto the street, the mutilated remains of building ornaments. On the half-century anniversary of the revolution and the war of independence, László Paizs evokes the visions of his memory in his large-scale, expressive series, entitled Wounds 1956 . It is not to a time-travel illustrated with a journalistic account that he invites us, however, but with his unusually formed, painterly-sculpturally compositions, he rather summarises in a sensory expression the beauty of the revolution - as guided through his world of dreamlike reminiscences and visions, the drastic nature of the crush and the pain of failure.

Between the surfaces and spaces of László Paizs, freely wandering in the world of his compositions - roaming here in the sphere of his sculptural object-creation, there in his painterly creation of the image, or there in the borderland where the two merge - the motifs of destiny-changing 20th-century Hungarian history emerge over and over again: his 1970s object, entitled The Murder of the Heirs to the Throne (news report, 28 June 1914), made of newspaper, insects and plexiglass, is an emblematic chef-d'oeuvre of modern Hungarian art, but we can refer to numerous other compositions from the 1980s and 1990s that reflect upon the absurdity of the Communist regime, and are staggering. The large-scale panels of the Wounds 1956 series, also unfurling a sculptural universe of effects - in which "shots", strikes and pierces open into wounds and craters, and in which the indissoluble textural and factural material characteristics, forming reliefs, fuse into a flawless unit with painterly-artificial traces of intervention - are compositions of historical definition, but also of transposed, metaphorical phrasing. The dominant motifs of these works are the aggressive and brutal fractures of the panels, in which the characteristic shadow-like figures, obscurely sketched, alluding to Budapest's eclectic building sculptures and ornamentation, and their classical, mediaeval and ancient archetypes, appear only in lieu of a secondary catchword: torsos and pietas. Beyond all this, László Paizs elaborates a visual language that ingeniously amalgamates a non-figurativeness and figurativeness, at the same time fusing temporal planes, and with his shooting sequence, and his traces of 1956 Central/Eastern European bullet-scars, the general comprehension, mentality and heroic readiness to sacrifice raise the lacerated-slashed compositions to the heights.

The devices of László Paizs, the alchemist painter - organically linked to the earlier periods of his oeuvre - include polyester, earth, brick powder, plywood, acrylic, from which and in which golden stigmas dawn in his slashed visual terrains of restrained white and grey, and occasionally black stains: we are confronted with captivating monumental, historical frescoes, saturated with the authenticity of his personality and intimate lyricism, i.e., with our past which opens onto mystical perspectives.s

Tibor Wehner


Paizs László retrospekt"iv"

"The work which the members of the Studio of Young Artists have produced so far demonstrates their laudable endeavours continually to perfect and refine their craft, their skill and their philosophy in order to produce fine, Socialist-Realist type art. A fair number of these young artists make the effort to imbue their talents with a Marxist-Leninist awareness, and to ensure the durability of the bonds wrought in their childhood and youth. (.) Within the particular branches of their art they have boldly undertaken to make the depiction of life and of our lives the focus of their work. Their art shows signs of an increasingly encouraging internal ideological development which may be categorised as artistic bias. In their work they strive to examine and capture the processes of reality, which means that they have taken a position on the most immediate question in art today: they seek to reconcile the bias emerging in tendencies of objective reality with their own subjective bias."

As this review of the 1961 exhibition of the Studio of Young Artists indicates (it was written by Gyula Bence 20 and appeared in the weekly periodical Élet és Irodalom), the position of reality and art, and the relationship between them, was quite complex (or simple) in Hungary at the end of the fifties, beginning of the sixties, the time when László Paizs began his career as an artist. Official watchdogs kept an ever-watchful eye on this admittedly intricate relationship between reality and art, as is shown by the fact that Bence is not content only to make approving noises in his review; after congratulating the artists on their Socialist Realism, he goes on to enumerate the problems. Quite a few of the artists, including László Lakner, György Korga and Ferenc Kóka, as well as László Paizs, are accused of having strayed into the "bog of abstractionism", and "some of our young artists are strongly affected by a petit-bourgeois pedantry and by codified pathological obsessions coupled with a kind of punctiliousness."
Despite this, however, it is still clear that, in contrast to the complete stagnation which afflicted Hungarian art in the fifties, the beginning of the sixties was a time of rebirth and of loosening restrictions. After the failed anti-Soviet uprising and the retributions which followed it, the artists and the progressive members of the new, emergent generation, despite being cut off from Europe both physically and intellectually, nonetheless began their own war of artistic liberation. This is not to say that the gates were opened wide; they opened by the merest crack; producing modern works devoid of ideological manipulation and reflecting the new spirit still led to the artist being intellectually ostracised, persecuted, or forced to emigrate. The ruthless conservatism of the regime's artistic policy was doggedly protected. It was under circumstances such as this that Jenő Gadányi, Tihamér Gyarmathy and Tamás Lossonczy slowly re-emerged, that Dezső Korniss was able to exhibit his latest output, and Béla Kondor burst onto the contemporary art scene, establishing a school of his own. Then the Iparterv (Industrial Plan) Generation appeared, and once their works had penetrated the peripheries, a much more sophisticated style of contemporary art was able to follow in its wake. Turning against the official, realist trends, or simply working in tandem with this favoured official line, art works appeared which sought to confront Central European existence at the turn of the millennium and to involve themselves in a polemic about the possibilities of artistic creation - and increasingly these works of art demanded the freedom to be publicly recognised.

This permanent state of insecurity, which fed on the ambivalent fluctuations between permissive concessions and inhibitive restrictions, the ebb and flow of a now-stricter-now-laxer policy of official support, official suppression or officially turning a blind eye, forced Hungarian art and its artists into alternately offensive and defensive positions. An ironic and grotesque interpretation and idiom, an attitude with clear leanings toward the absurd, was reflected in this art, evoking an atmosphere that could readily be identified with. Until the eighties, its purpose - whether conscious or unconscious - was to relay the message that there was no way out of the cul de sac that the communist experiment had become; that hope for a radical, fundamental shift was more or less forlorn. Following the unexpected collapse of communism, however, artistic liberty suddenly arrived on a plate. But instead of flourishing, art found itself almost imperceptibly pushed into the background, and marginalised until it became almost redundant. In undertaking to trace the career of László Paizs, therefore, with all its wealth of works and innovative initiatives, one must be ever aware of the conditions that prevailed during those four decades, conditions that were suboptimal, but nevertheless made for an inspiring creative environment. There is not the scope here for an in-depth and comprehensive analysis of Paizs's career - an endeavour which would be extremely difficult in any case, given that Paizs continues to produce major works which add new depth and dimension to his oeuvre.

Paizs graduated from the Hungarian College of Applied Art in 1959. His subsequent career has so far spanned over four decades, but like that of many of his contemporaries, it cannot be divided into neat sequential stages and pigeon-holed units. It is much more akin to an intricate Baroque arch, made up of seemingly unconnected strands. The composition dates of the pieces are of little relevance. The whole oeuvre gushes forth like a waterfall, reaching back and ahead in seemingly incoherent flights of fancy. Different branches of art, different genres, categories, techniques, materials, creative approaches and trends are interchanged in his work with easy elegance and supreme confidence, allied to a passion for experimentation. The almost completely autonomous sets of works are, nevertheless, distinctly connected by a handful of fundamental components. Examples of these are Paizs's keenness to explore new forms of expression, his appetite for experimentation and for developing suggestive artistic effects, his penchant for the monumental, and his lightly provocative, rather than meditative, attitude. His sets of works are reflections of both Realism and Abstraction, Figurative and Non-Figurative depiction, geometry and Minimalism, Pop-Art objectivity and expressivity, quotation-rich Post-Modern directions and styles. Making use of the visual idiom and the effects of these trends, now with an ebullient delight in story-telling, now in terse phrasing, his pieces become sensitive diagnoses of a period full strange absurdities, a comprehensive creative portrait of the period's restive artist, one who unconditionally took on intellectual confrontations and the resulting narrow-minded existential retributions.
Painting, drawing, sculpture - if these classical terms are still applicable to twentieth-century art - are the labels to use in analysing the work of László Paizs. In his output one finds programmatic, two-dimensional mural works attached to buildings; abstract sculptures assimilated to the surrounding architecture and standing in city squares; indoor sculptures and reliefs; large panel paintings; traditional paintings and drawings to be hung on the wall; small sculptures; autonomous and applied, sovereign and functional pieces; spatial sculptures forming integral parts of interior architecture; and decorative objects standing out like sculptures from their environment - along with transitions and fusions and dissolutions between artistic genres, positions and stances. Paizs is one of the few contemporary Hungarian artists who are just as much at home in two dimensions as in outdoor and indoor spaces, in scales from small to monumental, and who is inspired rather than paralysed by apparently inflexible circumstances and preconditions and by the demands of his patrons. Breaking limitations and conventions is Paizs's natural element; using the material and technical innovation are merely starting points, tools of expression, novelties taking shape in the expressive milieu, to explore the unknown and to create works with a new essence. Independent of familiar types and templates, the forms of the composition are imbued with vivid ideas and a passionate emotional content, turning them into material or object that seems stretched to bursting point.

In his 1979 monograph on Paizs's early period, the art historian János Frank 21 summarised Paizs's work thus: "László Paizs studied painting at the Academy, and for five years he painted what the state art world demanded: Post-Impressionist pictures with a bit of tired old Constructivist framework. He wearied of it, and in 1967 he began to experiment with new techniques - smoked leather pictures - and since 1969 he has been interested in plastics". The study, which deals with Paizs's plexiglass and polyester works, as well as his metal sculptures, does not discuss the traditional works which Paizs produced for state commissions. These were a something akin to preliminary studies for his later monumental pieces, and are at once documents of the period's official perspective and mood, and the artist's insatiable desire to experiment. Most notable among the works that stand in public buildings in Budapest, Pécs, Szeged, Székesfehérvár, and Gödöllő, or among the murals executed with the surrounding architecture in mind, and which transmuted genre scenes into symbolic expressions, are the mosaics which made use of new materials (acrylic resin and glass), and new wall paintings painted with walkyd. Of course, like the Post-Impressionist compositions, these projects, which Paizs took on primarily from the need to earn a living, did not satisfy even the most elementary ambitions of the young artist. After the "experience" of his visit to the Venice Biennale in 1964, Paizs turned toward new modes of expression, new materials and new techniques, or rather, toward new creative methodologies. In 1967, however, his clothing, textile and leather work, which synthesised realistic texture into real, or rather into realistically artistic texture, and which made use of the way both Dadaism and Pop Art utilised objects, was not greeted with great enthusiasm. The jury ordered the pieces to be removed from the exhibition of the Studio of Young Artists.

The result of this crude rebuke was to mature in Paizs the first unique set of compositions which rejected all the traditional rules of sculpture. The desire to stick with the sensitive "clothes pictures" and "textile compositions", and the object collages in boxes with glass lids containing orthodontic braces, horse brushes, etc, inspired the artist to compose (art)objects embedded in plexiglass. Long years of technical experimentation produced several works and sets of works which to this day have no match in Hungarian art. The compositions of objects and sets of objects encased in colourless, transparent plexiglass blocks - the first being Embroidered Hip Pocket, succeeded by Red Block and Green Block (Part of a Woman's Suit), enclosing a suit jacket and costume - were, in the final years of the sixties, strikingly expressive sculptures, peculiar and strange in their artificial closed-in worlds. The plexiglass slabs produced an optical effect different from the technique used in glass art, but which provided a balance between reality and illusion, surrounding themselves with a mysterious aura. In a retrospective study on Paizs's art, Emese Révész22 has written the following: "The aesthetic attributes of plexiglass, its glasslike, transparent purity, create an autonomous space for the objects encased inside it, sealing them off while at the same time focusing attention on them, creating a situation whereby the things wrested from space and time appear as selected values. It lends the same special attention and transcendent airiness to the sensitive, scarred pictures of ephemeral material, which he was deprived of two years ago. After encasing earlier works, Paizs placed everyday appliances and subsequently symbolic sets of objects into the plastic blocks. Integrating the mundane objective environment into the art work, with the resulting social criticism that this implies - sometimes ironic, sometimes dramatic, but always relying on popular symbols - is a standard characteristic of Pop Art. Encased objects and the feeling towards life thus captured are, on the other hand, typically Central European". In the catalogue of the 1971 exhibition in the Adolf Fényes Gallery (a show that "paid its own way", meaning that it did not receive state support but was merely tolerated), the contemporary artist László Lakner23 wrote the following about these symbolic objects, which receive emphasis by virtue of their position and which are enclosed in a medium which physically hides their dimensions: "Man casts the things he fears in plexiglass, he turns the things he fears into art". Works like The Crown Prince and Princess Have Been Murdered, or Truman and Attlee Have Announced the Completion of the Atom Bomb, plexiglass variations of an atomic cloud made out of gauze, a broken television screen, a shaving mirror bought for Ft. 6.80 (a roundabout allusion to the terrible events that took place in Central Europe in 1968) completely bewildered M. S.24, a critic on the newspaper Magyar Nemzet, who claimed that "these compositions cannot be called art". Since then The Crown Prince and Princess Have Been Murdered has become one of the major art works of the period, invested with emblematic significance. Belonging now to the Hungarian National Gallery, it consists of menacing stag beetles crawling out of a crumpled Pesti Hírlap newspaper dated June 28, 1914, encased in a slab of plexiglass. Numerous other pieces from the 1971 exhibition have made their way into recognised public and private collections. Paizs's The Postimpressionist Painter's Nylon Shirt, also from 1969, similarly condenses the atmosphere, character and spirit of that period into a symbolic art work. The plexiglass block, exhibited at one of the last exhibitions in the Chapel in Balatonboglár, before these shows were finally stopped, contains a snow-white nylon shirt in a canvas stretcher with a palm-sized hole where the heart would be. Above the hole the artist has carved into the fibreglass a concise statement of his attitude to life: "László Paizs, born December 26, 1935, still living on July 14, 1971".

Paizs's objects-in-plexiglass period did not last long; in 1976 he came out with a new collection of art works at a show in the István Csók Gallery in Budapest. These colourless, transparent plexiglass and the coloured, usually red and black, non-transparent polyester compositions did not contain any objects. The internal mass or surfaces consisted of basically geometric shapes, a regular order of negative or positive forms and spaces, shown reflected in mirrors or blending into each other, suggestively running together, or else closed over and covered by painted surfaces. These sculptures are cloaked in a frigidity and stiff composure. Tibor Csiky's Constructivist-Geometric, Minimalist experiments were gaining followers in Hungarian sculpture at this time. In Paizs's works, too, discipline and severity sparred with decorative playfulness. As János Frank's put it, the artist was "carving nothing" when he produced his plexiglass works. In working nothing into something, Paizs was actually employing classical sculpture techniques. He poured the liquid plexiglass components into a mould, and to the resulting block - a cube, slab, sphere or tall cylinder - he added motifs by various different techniques, then carved them, and in the final phase he polished the surface. Paizs describes the process as follows: "At first I only wanted the plexiglass to be transparent so that the object I encased in it would be visible. Later I realised that the plexiglass was beautiful in its own right, I recognised the BEAUTY in it, in capital letters, and so I began to feel that this material itself should play a larger part. Everything that was accidental and not final must be eliminated. When I poured objects into the plexiglass, chance played a large part in the whole process, the object could shift during the pouring, the composition could change, etc. I felt that what came after this could only be strict order, only the essence and only what follows from the laws of the material. In addition to the plexiglass I chose another material, polyester. I wanted to prove that plastic is just as suitable for a work of art as any other material. For this reason I first wanted to make the basic shapes, which I could pursue later". These works of his, composed according to such Minimalist, Puritan, geometric tenets, were subsequently reworked in a more classical style, in metal. The sculpture which greets visitors to the town of Zalaegerszeg acts as a monumental culmination to this set of works: a seven and a half meter-high double chrome pillar composition. Paving the way for this piece were some small sculptures forged from five and three elements, with small notches on the surface of the top section, the convex shapes turned inside out into concave cylinders of acrylic and bronze. The Zalaegerszeg work stands in front of a prefabricated highrise block at the intersection of three roads, a symbolic, decorative monument suffused with dignity. This chrome composition, too, is technically more than merely a sculpture; its characteristic and important elements of expression are the optical effects produced by the changing light and the reflections of the surrounding environment.

Paizs took advantage of the possibilities offered by polyester to create some large-scale outdoor and indoor works. We are into the early eighties by now, into a period when attitudes were becoming more relaxed. Government ideology was no longer such a rigid driving force behind commissions for public places, both in Budapest and other cities around the country. In these pieces the harmony between colour and form, the rhythm of positive and negative surfaces, the idea that the inside of a space carved into the hollow cavity of the polyester mass should be laid open and be presented, were important elements. Two basic geometric shapes, the sphere and the triangle, determine the aspect of these works. A composition of two spheres placed on the floor stand in the reception area of Hotel Irottkő in Kőszeg (1979) and in front of the Budapest Convention Centre (1980), while in Szeged (1979) and Szentendre (1983) there are beam compositions whose outlines form the shape of a triangle with rounded corners. The spheres are constructed as a double, upright arrangement; the triangle lays down wedge shapes on top of a slanted marble sheet. With their decorative purpose, their pure forms and materials and their technical execution, these works stood completely apart from the public objects that were inspired by the politics of the time and thus ideologically slanted. In the eighties and nineties Paizs also produced numerous sculptures which had an applied function. One could describe the one in Kecskemét as a building decoration, a relief perhaps, while the ones in Hódmezővásárhely and Miskolc could be regarded as sculptures, or rather suspended sculptures, while a great number of reliefs, sculptural wall partitions and suspended ceilings can be seen in cities both inside and outside Hungary, in Budapest, Győr, Bonn, and Canberra.

In the mid eighties Paizs left small sculptures behind him and, while continuing to work on monumental, autonomous and applied compositions as well as polyesters and bronzes - which hover on the borderline between autonomy and functionality - he seems to have returned to painting. (The last concrete panel paintings in Paizs's oeuvre were seen at the Studio exhibition in 1966 when the artist, surprising and affronting the profession, exhibited three non-figurative pieces.) His return to painting in the eighties was only an apparent return, because Paizs did not, of course, produce regular panel paintings as such, but "fossils", two-dimensional works of a kind of plastic which he had developed. In these works, exhibited at a show entitled European Fossil Variations in the Budapest Műcsarnok (Palace of Art) in 1987, relief-like formations break up the level surface. Most are made of coloured polyester or coloured plexiglass-polyester, fixed to pressed boards in awesome, two-and-a-half by three-and-half-metre dimensions. The relief-picture series employs dramatic tones and tragic voices that were thus far unknown in Paizs's oeuvre; it was far removed from the familiar objectivity, geometry and Minimalism, entering instead on a world without definable shape and in eruptive disarray, in such a way that figural motifs also appeared in the space behind the works. Art historian Lóránd Hegyi25 writes about this radical shift in a piece comparing Paizs's old and new works, for the introduction to the catalogue of the Műcsarnok exhibition: "Complexity does not become crystallised into a single, closed, logically constructed form; rather it opens out before the viewer the broad territories of subjective experience. At the same time subjective interpretation does not run unchecked; the work is full of references to cultural history and to faintly emerging art historical motives, and these determine the way it is interpreted. The inexhaustible richness of the brushwork is not merely the counterpoint to the "old" Paizs works, whose approach to form was impersonal and showed no trace of the human hand or manual intervention, and which asserted the form principle by reducing it to its abstract purity, but is the visual-sculptural medium for a poetic interpretation of history. Because the brushwork - at fist glance merely presenting its own material and sensual richness, incredibly differentiated, reminiscent of smouldering ruins and molten metal surfaces, or dilapidated, crumbling objects covered with filthy, festering industrial detritus - does not merely present itself; instead, through the visions of decay and destruction, it evokes this or the other moment of cultural history, motifs which have become a topos, this or the other masterpiece". Related to these huge, European fossil-relief panels are those panels or reliefs from the early nineties which Paizs made for Hungarian foreign missions, such as in Munich (1990) and New York (1991).

If in the eighties, Paizs's art culminated in painted polyester panels and reliefs, his most important experiment in the nineties was his coupling of drawing and painting, an endeavour that is prominent in the works exhibited in the decade's two exhibitions, in the Budapest Gallery in 1997 and the Pest Centre Gallery in 1999. Again, he by no means pursued a purely graphic or purely painterly technique and approach; these works, which make use of the tools of both drawing and painting, actually involve a number of different techniques. The line, or the graphic process of printing, plays a special role, as does the gesture-like use of colour. The effect of the compositions of liquid polyester "smeared" onto huge paper sheets - pressed on using a jeep - is thus a set of complex expressions achieved through the blending of material and technique. Moreover, Paizs's work from the nineties retains, or reinforces, the role, presence and significance of the figure. The central motif is the standing or softly reclining figure, usually male. If the figure is standing, a stepping motion serves to jar the body somewhat: perhaps a spear-bearer by Polyclitus appears, or a youth by Praxiteles, or else two figures from a Greek sculpture group, obscure and fractured and iconographic. Otherwise the figures might be overtly Christian: mediaeval models of John the Baptist or Saint Sebastian. These pieces are in keeping with Paizs's large-scale works in that they fuse a number of approaches, a tendency that marks much of his oeuvre. The traditional techniques of painting and drawing combine, just as the metal-coloured polyester blends gold and sliver powder. The tone, however, is something new. While in the eighties there was a sense of drama and foreboding, in the second half of the nineties the work is more tempered and looks back to the past. The metallic glimmer of the polyester with its blend of gold and silver powder exhibits a decadent profundity, and the peculiar glow and intense lustre of these monumental pieces reinforces the conviction that we are face to face with the heroes of a long-gone, forgotten golden age, an age that has sunk into the sea. The simultaneous presence of a technique that is both archaising and ground-breaking creates a tight sense of unity.

A recent review of the history of twentieth-century Hungarian art by Gábor Andrási, Gábor Pataki, György Szűcs and András Zwickl26, entitled Magyar képzőművészet a 20. században (Hungarian Fine Art in the 20th Century, Corvina, Budapest, 1999), contains three references to Paizs's work. On page 178 the authors, in their analysis of how the avant-garde gained ground in the seventies, note that: "The expansion continued abroad: Attila Csáji organised a grand touring exhibition in Poland for the summer, where the young participants with a similar outlook and style from Szürenon and Iparterv (János Fajó, László Paizs), and the major figures of the elder generation (Endre Bálint, Tihamér Gyarmathy), presented their work in three cities (Poznan, Lodz, Szczecin)". In discussing the art that was produced using the formal structures of the new geometry the authors observe, on page 195: "That is how, in the seventies, works like this were able to be produced. Examples are, among others, Ilona Keserü's polyester wall in Szolnok and her panel in Dunaújváros, János Fajó's two murals in Budapest and his mosaic in Gödöllő, Tibor Csiky and Zoltán Bohus's relief on the Martinelli Square façade of the Post Office building, and László Paizs's large chrome sculpture". Finally, on page 198, they write the following: "In the course of the decade, the geometric-reductive approach to form gave rise to such oeuvres as that of László Paizs, who constructs large plastic sculptures that make use of the contrast between elementary bodies (the sphere, block, cylinder) and the negative forms carved from them.". What follows from all this is that the key elements of the oeuvre do not and cannot emerge when embedded in a global context; the relationships are lost, the accents are altered and fail to come to the fore, key works are not pointed out. The story of László Paizs's career as a painter, sculptor, graphist and applied artist (whose conviction, manifested in his art, is that fine and applied arts are not different art forms), and the development and nature of his works, are extremely complex, a fact which this analysis has perhaps been able to demonstrate in more detail. It is a topic which warrants further research, a reconstruction and documentation that promises to stimulate new interpretations, give rise to new implications and a different fundamental understanding of the period. In all its intricacy and complexity, the art and world of László Paizs comes forward as a coalescent whole which spanned the entire period in twentieth-century Hungarian art from the late fifties until the present day, incorporating progressive endeavours while remaining essentially unique. Notwithstanding the changes it underwent, it always remained a single entity, following an unbroken course.

Tibor Wehner