Nature works without hierarchy, there is no part of it which we could say is less or more important. (Ivan Ladislav Galeta, 2012)
Péter Mátyási’s recent solo exhibition in Ani Molnár Gallery focuses on the artist’s latest works examining the relationship between nature and humankind. The artist takes on the position of an ecologically conscious observer to break down the hierarchical relationship of “human-dominated nature”. Primarily, he is interested in the evolution of autonomous natural processes as a result of artificial interventions, and the dynamics of development and decline in plant species history. During the exhibition, the white cube of the gallery is temporarily transformed into a „green box” with a greenhouse-like function that provides a protected environment, so that we can become observers.
The “green box” space – which also serves as the title of the exhibition – is designated by the large green watercolor pictures depicting the last remaining habitats of some protected and rare plant species in Hungary – marshlands, wetlands and preserves. These areas are now shrinking to 3% of their former size as a result of natural and artificial draining of the surface water and groundwater, which also threatens with the extinction of protected species living here. Monochrome works made with airbrush technique show us alienated landscapes: a world where the coexistence of man and nature can no longer be realized, surviving organisms of nature can only be seen as relics. The distance between viewer and sight is even more pronounced by the polycarbonate plate placed in front of the image surfaces - placing the viewer behind the seemingly safe protection of the greenhouse.
The other focus points of the exhibition are the „plant portraits”, which by evoking the genre of portrait, experiment with the exchange of human and plant roles, and the humanization of nature. Reflecting on the centuries old tradition of portrait painting, and on the genre of portrait photography which replaced it in the 19th century, Mátyási prepared the “images” of extinct species based on the “Red list” of endangered or extinct Hungarian plants. The portraits of plants appear in smaller or larger frames similarly to family portrait walls, indicating the past of their existence and isolating them from their beholders – just like the works depicting protected wetlands. The sepia effect dominating the portraits also raises the problem of aestheticisation of nature by humans.
In the works of Péter Mátyási presented at the exhibition, in addition to classical material use (watercolor, acrylic), there are also technical and formal solutions such as the use of double layer polycarbonate sheets and special plant-growing lights, the installative use of photo frames or the oval image format. With these tools, the artist encourages us to rethink our alienated relationship with nature. Mátyási’s work points at the problem of depriving our natural environment of its lifestyle – and reaches out for its memory.