Lakner is considered to be a painter active in surnaturalism, pop art, photorealism and conceptualism by the most important art historical writings in Hungary, while in Germany he is an important representative of the informel painting who focuses on the connection of writing and picture, and who uses literary references together with free pictorial gestures. The paintings displayed in Art+Text Budapest seem to disprove the commonplaces connected to Lakner’s painting: these pictures cannot be closely connected to Lakner’s politically sensitive figurative painting, either to his conceptual series reflecting to semiotic questions, moreover, their structure strikingly deviates from the scriptural composition characteristic of the artist in the eighties.
Different layers of Lakner’s oeuvre – that is rich in radical turns – are closely connected to each other, despite the seemingly big differences. Lakner’s work might be seen as a series of free but remarkably conscious experiments with different mediums, works and motives. Lakner questions the identity of painting but in the same time he presents traces and marks of historical experiences. Art+Text Budapest displays pictures that are marks of the permanent experiments with the medium of painting: geometric forms, sometimes letters painted over sensually flowing, sometimes almost transparent but still texturally realistic, physically painted surfaces.
Lakner is consciously searching for the pictorially solute alternatives of the geometric painting since the sixties. In the sixties he confronted figurative motives – mostly mouths and roses – with stripe-structures; in his latest works he creates letter-paintings by balancing between lyrical and geometrical abstraction (NO, 1994) that not only recall the structuralist questioning of conceptual art but lead back even to dadaist picture composition, especially to that of Lakner’s most frequent references, Marcel Duchamp (Spotty, 1990) and Kurt Schwitters (Sneeze. After Kurt Schwitters, 1980). Lakner overwrites and overpaints the duchampian and schwitterian motives and he playfully refers to the criticism of “retinal” painting, while the intense picturesque surfaces lead back to the traditions of the classical “retinal” panel picture painting, creating a pictorially sensual “visual poetry”.
The Splitterbilder series is the centre of the exhibition. Lakner paints his “splinter paintings” that all seem to be parts or fragments of a composition that will never be realized: trace structures, hand marks, “(picture) writing samples” that take the current state of painting into consideration as parts of the undiscoverable “Whole”.
Lakner simultaneously creates abstract and figurative compositions since the beginning of his career. Different types of works of the polyphonic oeuvre do not exclude, rather complete each other, exploring different aspects of art forms. The Murderer, sentenced to death (1999/2000-2005) resumes the series of Lakner’s photorealistic paintings from the seventies that were conceptual in character, and which earned international fame for him in Germany. The painting – similarly to the preceding ones – enlarges a photographic document; its surface is almost monochrome but the gaze of the depicted male head is more intense than any other earlier head depictions of the artist.
However, the geometric grid structure that is projected on the composition, and which returns in many of Lakner’s scriptural informel paintings (Net-painting, 1994-95), makes its directness relative. The net(work)-like, bending, fractured grid might be considered to be the metaphor of the laknerian oeuvre that co-ordinates (subordinates and elevates to superordinate position) the different mediums, compositional mechanisms, the layers of the history of art and of ideas, because different stages of the oeuvre – despite their significant differences – meet and related to each other. The trace structures, (motive) fragments, and references create a latent network, some aspects of which are on view now in Art+Text Budapest. The exhibition compliments the 80-year-old László Lakner.
- Dávid Fehér