It was in 1944 that Incze János Dés executed a series of illustrations of fairy tales, the publication of which was, however, prevented by wartime conditions. During the 1950s the artist returned to these illustrations, intended for Nagy Olga’s anthology of Hungarian traditional popular fairy stories from the village of Sic, but in 1957 the publication of the drawings was rejected by an editorial decision.
Although no explicit reasons were given for this rejection, the incident stirred up a major reaction in the press. Writers and artists sprang to the defence of Incze János Dés drawings and in doing so also made reference to what they assumed had been the motives for their rejection. These articles appeared in the weekly publication Utunk. In the course of this one-sided debate the writers ranged themselves against the requirements of socialist realism, to which, absurdly, illustrations of fairy tales appeared to have been subjected, with a realist style of representation being called for even in them. The painter Mohy Sándor and the sculptor Márkos András went on to defend the genre of illustration in itself, emphasising the fact that Incze’s drawings are fine examples of how one can capture the world of fairy tales by using an expressive and contemporary idiom and avoiding “a superficial view of children, seen through adult eyes rather than from inside, from one’s own memories of childhood, and thus assuming a viewpoint that is bookish, hypocritical, ‘Sunday-best’, and ludicrously didactic” (Márkos András).
Incze János Dés’s illustrations reflect the mature visual universe of his paintings. When he fulfilled this specific commission as an illustrator he did so in line with his own characteristic way of looking at people, with its humorous sense of the grotesque and “clumsy” drawing style, assimilating the fairy stories to this key.
Ana Botezatu is well known as, among other things, an illustrator, but the works exhibited here were not executed to accompany any particular text. In her manner of working she employs, spontaneously, craft methods such as cut outs using coloured paper cut with scissors, or “drawing” by exposing photosensitive paper to light. Both methods work with silhouettes, leaving room for that childish surprise and delight which accompany the birth of the image. When the folded paper is opened up, or when the mask is peeled off the photosensitive paper – that is the moment when the figures appear and begin to lead a life of their own and to tell a tale. Ana Botezatu is gentle with her figures, directing them with minimal interventions, leaving them in their mysterious state in which their language cannot yet be understood. Between the figures, which carry out all kinds of strange actions, we may observe affinities, as if all of them belonged to a larger story – one which is written only in that way, in images.
While The Beheading of the Dragon does not set out to draw a forced parallel between the visual universes of the two artists, they can nonetheless be legitimately placed alongside each other because of the striking manner in which they both approach the task of illustration.
Incze János Dés (1909-1999)
He received his first intimations of art at Satu Mare, in the studio of Aurel Popp, and later developed under the guidance of Ziffer Sándor at Baia Mare. In 1935 he settled in Dej, where he was the cantor of the Reformed Church, and for the whole course of his career as a painter found inspiration in the wealth of subject matter provided by that small town.
Ana Botezatu (1982)
She studied at the Cluj University of Art and Design, graduating from the Ceramics Department in 2005. She lives and works in Berlin. Her work includes drawing, illustration, book-objects, animations and design. In 2016 she exhibited animations and illustrations in the Romanian Pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale.
The Quadro Gallery is planning, through a series of exhibitions, to draw attention to a number of works from the field of the decorative and applied arts, which have frequently been passed over by art critics and historians, even though the fresh and sustained approaches we meet here are relevant both for the history of art and for a better understanding of the period in which the works were produced.
In the socialist countries those marginal fields of art were less subjugated by the social realism (in comparison with the plastic arts). The artistic practice and thought were permitted to manifest more freely, showing new directions of expression. In the 1960s those fields caught a strong impetus from society’s general need of modernization, the improvement in the standard of living and the birth of a new type of comfort. Those phenomena shouldn’t be read as being exclusively a mean to synchronize with the Occident. In most of the cases, the means of expression present in the two blocs were similar, but the reasons were frequently different.
The substantial collection of tapestries, executed by Maria Ciupe between 1964 and 1973, must be interpreted in the context of the renaissance in Romanian textile art. The beginning of this development can be dated to around 1965, and in this phenomenon we see Maria Ciupe engaged in raising textile art from the level of an applied art to a serious genre, the place it had occupied in its best days in the course of the history of art.
Maria Ciupe's synthesis was realised at a late stage in her career (the artist was 56 in 1964 when she started the series). At that point, the younger generation had already embarked upon a search for a way out of the classical constraints of the genre. This sustained personal synthesis has an identifiable place in the history of art in Romania, since it is among those which achieved a restoration of the dignity of the genre. Maria Ciupe's tapestries go through a number of compositional stylisations that move beyond the realist vision to recover the modalities of coalescing the image (through collage and transfer) specific to the historical avant-garde. They are characterized by a refined chromatic, the colour palette oscillating between the natural colours of wool and earth and the vivid hues of the rugs of Maramureș.
The tapestries have not been brought together in an exhibition since 1973, and the preliminary sketches have never been placed on public display. The latter offer us an intimate insight into Maria Ciupe’s creative process, showing the viewer an approach whose modernity is sometimes manifested more freely in the sketches than in the finished works.
The mock-ups transposed into tapestries on the scale of the human body and of inhabited spaces are no longer pictures to look at but become presences with which one can live. They cease to be windows onto something and become means towards “the re-enchantment of the world”, as is the case with Maria Ciupe’s greatest tapestries.