Images of the Unimaginable
András A. Márton’s Exhibition “Hommage a Bolyai” at Arts Festival Zemplén August 2003, Sárospatak
The spectator is drawn into contemplation on some fundamental topics of history of thinking by András A. Márton’s paintings. Some points of orientation are offered as follows. The simple word “unimaginable” is my starting point that is used as synonym of “impossible” having a stronger sense of refusal in the meaning. For example the famous parallel-postulate of Euclidean geometry states it is impossible to draw more parallel lines to another given one through an external point. Literally speaking it is impossible as our experience of space is determined by our theory of space that makes it impossible to imagine and to represent visually two parallel straight-lines meeting. However for 2000 years this cardinal thesis has been the stumbling-stone or blind spot of Euclidean geometry aimed at defining not only the structure of innate notions of theory of space but also a non-intuitive system of logical necessity as well. Still parallel-postulate couldn’t have been integrated into Euclidean system for 2000 years. Meeting of two parallel lines, being unimaginable for our theory of space and being logically impossible due to conceptual contradiction couldn’t be proved by Farkas Bolyai either regardless of his devoted enthusiasm.
When János Bolyai stated that the parallel-postulate couldn’t have been and shouldn’t have been proved he cut the Gordian knot and stood up against his father, his scientist ancestors and the virtual evidence of the theory. Due to everyday experience within the frames of 2D theory of space meeting of two parallel straight-lines is impossible. However leaving parallel-postulate behind a logically closed theory of space can be constructed where straight-lines can even be curves and more lines can be drawn through an external point without crossing one another. This acknowledgement is referred to by János Bolyai’s famous words: “I have created a new world out of nothing”. In this statement “nothing” suggests that creation was not supported by theories while “new world”, which is not mere fantasy, includes the well-known traditional world as well. Euclidean geometry, with its formal aspects of everyday experience, can be recognised as special case of Bolyai’s absolute theory of space that can become logically well-established. The theory of relativity has shown that Bolyai’s “impossible” hypothetic thesis can be supported by empirical observation.
According to Bolyai’s recognition nature of human thinking is more austere yet wider and freer than experience-based everyday thinking have ever been. Two big turns in natural sciences, related to Einstein and Heisenberg, are to be recognised as equally important as Bolyai’s innovative spirit. It is not by accident that Márton had turned to János Bolyai. Motivated by diverse interest in art and philosophy Márton had left a successful engineer-inventor profession behind but still kept his affinity towards natural-scientific thinking that has always been present in his artistic approach. Space, rhythm, motion and music have been much more important for the artist from the beginning than qualitative diversity of colours. Márton is drawn to Van Gogh and Paul Klee mainly by their releasing of space and shape from burdens of everyday perception. It was beauty of Bolyai’s figures that must have enchanted the artist at first. Unlike Bolyai’s figures Márton’s pictures, exhibited here, can also be observed as trials to represent space that cannot be conceived by human perception. Severely constructed still airy and light shapes help us understand a much freer system of thinking beyond the world of direct experience.
Scientific thinking expanding much farther the boundaries of everyday theory of space, as proved by Márton’s pictures, can never be separated from the special aspect of mortal human who has limited cognitive functions. Tragedy of finite nature of human life is shown by the two Bolyais’ career. Farkas Bolyai tried to dissuade his son from studying the parallel theorem. Mindful of his recurrent failures to prove the parallel postulate he got to the conclusion that borders of human intelligence couldn’t be defeated. He wrote to his son in 1820.
“......nothing of poor mankind will ever be clear, not even in geometry either; this wound in my soul will never fade away. [.....]. How inconceivable and everlasting the gloominess, the total eclipse and dirt ... This is a never ending cloud on virgin verity and on geometry!” Farkas Bolyai was pleading his son not to lavish all his might on a mission that cannot be accomplished. “Having gone through the way I know it only too well how it is leading into the darkest of all nights. Light and joy of my life have all vanished. For God’s sake! I entreat you leave the doctrine of parallel lines alone. Pillars of Hercules are there in the region, do not go further on or you are lost man.”
János Bolyai didn’t follow his father’s pious admonishment. His words “I have created a new world out of nothing” could have meant blasphemy and pride for his father who thought this theory of his ambitious son was nothing but cloud-castle. The theory wasn’t appreciated by contemporary scientific public either.
Considering Bolyai’s results we cannot help thinking how frail an idealist man can be. In András A. Márton’s pictures abstraction and personal experience also appears inseparably. The dual nature of time namely cosmic space-time and time perceived by humans are summarised emblematically in the artist’s picture entitled Time. In almost all of his artworks his fragile figures symbolizing mortal human are unfolding the structure of endless space. Laws of gravitation and ascension are not only physical correlations but also sources of diverse analogies on associations of ambition, failure, dance, game and humour. Natural sciences seeking austerity display complications of individual life and history into ironical and bitter light while eternal verities are not having the last word. In some pictures grey background is representing forgetfulness by which temporal perspective is given to abstract constructions. In other pictures faint motion can be perceived by dynamism of history and individuals.
Motions just as at every experiment must be started by the spectator-observer who decides how to define their objects. Intellectual parallels and encounters are to be expected open-heartedly when watching András A. Márton’s visual experiments.