SIMON HANTAI

The oeuvre of a great pliage master at our latest exhibition

Our latest exhibition introduces a selection of masterpieces created by Simon Hantai, the outstanding French painter with Hungarian origins. The compositions of Simon Hantai – considered as one of the biggest masters of the so-called pliage technique, a method based on knotting and folding – painted onto folded and crumpled canvases create really unique impressions: as if one was looking at the world through the lens of a kaleidoscope. The exhibition organized in co-operation with the Kálmán Makláry Fine Arts Gallery brings important works by Hantai for the audience never exhibited in Hungary before.

Exchibition

Sixty years ago, in his studio in Paris Simon Hantai said farewell to the traditional toolkit and methodology of painting. In his later artistic era he no longer simply painted his works, but instead, knotted, painted and smoothed his canvases while crouching to the ground. “The pliage – knotting, folding – method has reconsidered the history of Western painting, the relationship between body and canvas, paint and symbol, sense of feeling and vision, by combining the painting practice of modernism with the technique of folk crafts.” – said art historian dr. Ágnes Berecz in connection with the exhibition. The forms are magnificently colourful, often resembling the branches of a tree, a bird’s nest or even snakes, and there are also geometric shapes on the edges and in the background of the work, creating sort of vision and kaleidoscope like landscapes, made by Simon Hantai even more unique by using methods like scratching, scraping, soaking and dripping. 

Simon Hantai was born in Bia in a Swabian family; as a university student he studied Italian fresco painting and the art of Csontváry and Bonnard in Budapest, then, in his first years in Paris his interest turned towards classical avant-garde, and especially surrealist painters like Ernst, Miró and Matta influenced his artistry. He settled in Paris in autumn 1948; he is considered to be among the major artists of post-war France. His paintings created between 1960 and 1982, using the knotting-folding method are about remembrance: they recall the calendered forms of Swabian aprons, the Duchampian refusal of classic painting, the colour forms of Matisse’s paper cut-outs, or the drip-painted canvases of Pollock.

The exhibition tries to provide an overview of the outline and the major turning points of Simon Hantai’s oeuvre with the help of curators dr. Ágnes Berecz and Éva Soós; the exhibition is open for the public until 15 November at the Ybl Buda Creative House.