“… a work of art is the motion itself that takes us to the clear point of
inspiration whence it came from, the point which cannot be reached, yet
the only one which is worth reaching.”
Walls, as well as doors, windows and rooms, which surround me, have become the subjects of my pictures. That has been completely natural for me. Why is it the wall then? Because I look for experiences, for the “clear point of inspiration”, nothing else.
The memory is quite an early one: I am walking hand in hand with my parents along a street of houses with gardens. I see a house, its red plaster crumbling. Screaming, I start tugging my parents’ hands, frantically trying to pull them away, to pull them back. I am unutterably frightened and scared.
I am a child, probably of school age. I am sitting next to my mother in the cinema.
All I can remember now is the title of the film, and its first few mysterious pictures of young women standing motionless, facing a wall. Then, as if waking from sleep, they stir and begin to move. Do I remember well? I have searched the internet: yes, the film I was taken to decades ago was Rome, 11 o’clock, by Giuseppe de Santis.
I am painting my first oil picture. I am sitting outside a chapel, at the apse. The smell of the paint, the sun-lit walls, indeed, the entire setting stay deeply ingrained in my memory. I have to paint, I have to try everything in order to find that something I might touch or get close to one day.
I am climbing the stairs to the top floor to hang my washing on the clothesline to dry, when I become aware of the once white concrete walls and doorways I have seen many times without actually seeing them. There is no beauty about them, they are rough, ragged, empty and neglected. I stand staring at them, mesmerized, knowing that I have tumbled upon something very important.
In my memories, just like in the last photos taken of it before I became its owner, the atelier is nearly black, even if it was anything but that. I have been working in it since 1991. When I moved in, I had to make a few alterations so that it would suit my needs better yet would retain some of the marks its previous owner, my master, György Kling left on it. The walls had to be repainted. Paint layers are like thin egg shells with beautiful pastel colours, touch-ups, nails, slips of paper, shabbiness – tokens of time, frailness, life and death. All these are here now, hidden beneath the white coat of paint.
After my studio had undergone the necessary changes, I found, in Venice, a small collection of photography featuring Giorgio Morandi’s studio. It was my newly painted walls that greeted me from the pages of that book. Several years later I was thrilled to enter his studio – a studio I felt I had known so well by then. I stood in the Room, where no traces of comfort were seen, not even indications of the slightest attempt at convenience. It was a place of highly focused work and of solitude. For forty-five years, silence had been its sole master, yet its walls continued to remember the painter, they had preserved the colours and shades of his time.
The walls in Rome, the walls of the catacombs cannot be compared to any other walls, anywhere. The lines on them springing from the depths of the soul, a telling spot here and there, colours flaring up, images on stone tiles or the message of inscriptions are all transformed into pictures by the exploring eye. Still, the paintings on Roman walls can only be sought and discovered, they cannot be recreated.
Inspiration brings forth a work of art, which, as soon as it is born, urges me to find anew what I have previously found. When I say I am painting a wall, the memory of all the walls I have seen or painted before is there in me. And I strive to paint a strong and dense, yet permeable image of receptive colours.