Interview with Zita Sárvári

“Whatever can be created from two forms shall not be created from three.”

How are János Fajó’s works able to break and curve the space? What is the very essence of Fajó’s unique style, while his strong influence on contemporary art is simply unquestionable? These are the questions, among others, that have been discussed with Zita Sárvári, curator of the exhibition “The Machine’s Running”.

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Could you please tell us a couple of words about the creation of the exhibition? Could you share with us some behind-the-scenes things? What was the very basis of your selection? What represented the core concept of this exhibition?

There are hundreds of works constituting the Fajó workmanship; his rich and diverse oeuvre can be studied from various aspects, like art history, aesthetics, or design and architectural history. This has been the second exhibition I organize from Fajó’s works, and it has been the fifth year I have been focusing on his workmanship. In the course of the years I managed to gain in-depth knowledge of these diverse works of art, thus it is highly difficult to go for a single curatorial concept. I really believe that it would be high time to organize a posthumous retrospective exhibition that regarding its volume, program and traditions could be implemented at a major location. Still, I do love projects realized alongside a “narrower” curatorial concept as well, just like this one.      

What can one know about the preparatory works and the installation of the exhibition itself? What was the main principle of organization, and how did the various spaces of the Ybl Buda Creative House (YBCH) influence the installations?

The spaces of YBCH influenced the selection of the materials as much as they supported it. The building constructed in a Florence style based on the drawings of Miklós Ybl has its own peculiarities, and recently it has been much more interesting for me to organize exhibitions into atypical locations, just like the Ybl. This imposing building has the same solid dialogue with Hungarian history and traditions as the Fajó works do, and as a result in my opinion it is a rightful venue for the first posthumous exhibition.  

Which was your most beloved moment during this project?

I would rather wait until the end of the exhibition with the answer, as our job is not over at all. The selection of the works, fitting the concept of the exhibition to the available space, writing the curatorial summary, preparing the press materials, installation, preparing the graphic materials, the invitation cards, the catalogue and the information interfaces are all still in progress. And besides all these, with Kata Kaiser and the excellent team of the YBCH – who have provided the best experience for me in the course of my decade long career so far – we are also planning to put together gallery tours, conversations and a catalogue release as well.        

How would you summarize the essence of Fajó’s artwork? What lies at the very core of this exhibition as well?

In a previous curatorial text of mine I have already written down an idea I heard from Fajó himself, which essentially expresses what he was motivated by in his artistic work and what I also insist on whenever I have the opportunity to work with his pieces of art: “Whatever can be created from two forms shall not be created from three.”      

Are there any artists whose works reflect the influence of János Fajó? Whose works show resemblance with his workmanship?

Well, the line is pretty long, as Fajó’s works have a silent but steady dialogue with the Hungarian and international history of modernist abstraction to which he is connected in many forms. He claimed himself to be a follower, an apprentice of Lajos Kassák; they had really close working relationship and friendship, and his encounter with Kassák had changed his views about art radically. He dedicated several screen folders and serigraph prints to Victor Vasarely, the artist, who worked a lot to make the various artistic genres useful for the public, and the views of whom about the potential connection of art and society Fajó completely agreed with. Furthermore, he was the first to organize an exhibition for Karl-Heinz Adler German artist in Hungary. He also had close relationship with the Swiss artist, Max Bill, the founder of the consistently rational and mathematically well-established Concrete Art (that is sometimes characterized as “cold”), who inspired him at several points. Just like for Max Bill, painting and sculpture represented only a single aspect of work for Fajó, an aspect that shall be complemented with a comprehensive educational and theoretical side. He organized a free summer school for decades where he educated, or rather nurtured generations of artists, many of whom are still active nowadays. As an example one can refer to Júlia Néma ceramic artist – I personally think highly of –, or the excellent graphic artist, Ádám Katyi, editor of the great Fajó book entitled The Road (Az út), or artist Bence Marafkó, who first met Fajó as a child and who was later taken into the artist’s summer school by his parents every single year. The simple and pure geometric garments produced by the Hungarian brand NUBU also incorporate Fajó’s visual style; and even more, the sort of asymmetric square patterns and silhouette of the garments in the 2017 autumn-winter collection were also inspired by the artist.

Fajó’s artistic work is characterized by a strong ideological nature. What influence do you think Fajó’s works have on the audience, the visitors of this exhibition?

The easy-to-recognize, organized and harmonized imagery of his works nicely points out the inexhaustible range of colours and forms existing in our world by using the simplest forms of imaging. His works are compact statements, the pure formulae of spatial principles and relationships. Visitors of the exhibition can experience the phenomenon of creating rhythm and dynamism by rotating the simplest two-dimensional representations, or multi perspective sculptures by unfolding them; these sculptures always seem different when one walks around them; sometimes they almost vanish in space, while other times cut a segment out of it.      

Why would you recommend this current exhibition?

The posthumous exhibition of János Fajó entitled “The Machine’s Running” unveils a small fragment from the workmanship of a highly important figure of Hungarian Abstract Art. The individual exhibition provides the opportunity to raise questions about the starting point and the active periods of Abstract Art itself. I do hope that the exhibition will raise the attention of young researchers as well in connection with the oeuvre, and they can approach and re-discover Fajó’s creative, educational and exhibiting activities from new aspects.

February 20, 2020.