Cold Flaming on the Walls
14 October 2009 – 27 November 2009

There is no need to search for poetic character in the works of Ábel Szabó, unless in that first distant moment when he found the themes of his pictures. The curator's chosen title, the words borrowed, but not quoted in order, from Pilinszky use linguistic means to refer to the effects of the works and express the dry and investigative style of the artist, as well as Ábel Szabó's hard and yet sensitive, sometimes (self-)ironic approach in his new pictures depicting the here and there deserted, secluded urban spaces, otherwhere tagged walls covered with graffiti and decked out with newer and newer signs.

The essential component in his work is the urban space. In his painting he found such an expression of this theme in which vacuity and neutrality leads to almost surreal effects. The industrial objects, the suburban environment, the seemingly deserted buildings, even if they are empty, they are about the relationship of the human being and his urban environment, and that most of us live here, out of necessity or acceptance; but the main questions are how, in what ways, and with what feelings.

In Ábel Szabó's paintings it is obvious that the graffiti is referred to as a subcultural reaction to the urban existence. All over the world, the generation that has grown up since the 1970s, searched for new means of communication in the defenceless urban existence, and developed such self-expressing methods that were logical and consistent despite the fact that they arose the aversion of the middle class and the authorities. Among them, the graffiti, a textual message appearing as an image, expressed the will to stand by each other in the community and change the environment. The nameless individual wanted to leave a sign that indicated the social situation binding him existentially to a (sub)urban environment.Ábel Szabó choses the painting method of recording these signs, which has a completely new meaning than the photo. As opposed to the documenting feature of the photo, the painted surface bears the aesthetic attitude and the potential of simplicity.

Pilinszky' poem cycle Nagyvárosi ikonok written in the 1960s was found and cited by Dezső Tandori as well when he wrote a study in 1986 for the catalogue of the exhibition titled Budapesti falfirkák, and his comment has not become obsolete: "Graffiti is provoking photography, graffiti became an art along with the photo."

The photos are not merely the bases of Ábel Szabó's works, but also the factual sources of the concept lasting for years. In the case of the paintings, remaining true to the facts is not essential, moreover, their uniqueness is given by the painter's transforming work. However, three restored, large-size photos are also exhibited, on which the recorded places and surfaces were created by Ábel Szabó himself, and he marked them with humorous, sometimes even ironic graphic works, pictograms. The photos were created ten years ago, and their purpose is the same as that of the anonymous graffiti artists; to leave a written or drawn sign, the communication, the iconic contact in public urban spaces.

Brigitta Muladi art historian