Gábor Andrási, art historian

Schroedinger’s Cat

Interview with András A. Márton

Having graduated as electrical engineer at the Budapest Technical University András A. Márton worked for twenty years at a medical instrument technology research laboratory, where the first computer assisted X-ray device was elaborated. The successful patent became basis of future systems developed to operate fully on computer technology. Soon products of leading medical companies were also advanced and taken to market.
In the meantime Márton attended Studio Huber Dési where he studied fine art. In 1978, at 48, due to continuous hindrance in research work and problems with patent protection Márton decided to leave engineering behind. This year (2002 -- the translator) in summer he will have solo art exhibition at Max Planck Institute, located near Berlin.

As painter you are still interested in natural sciences even though you have left engineering.
Apart from physics I have always been interested in different branches of natural sciences, so I cannot tell whether this interest is coming from my past profession or not. Certain analogies have always been important for me foreshadowing consequences that could be drawn to human laws.
What I was really interested in was space and time. A picture that I started to paint in 1986 was a summary of my ideas on space and time then. It was my first picture to introduce the humanized X-shaped figure with arms properly constructed out of an elliptic phase and with a circle for the head in the focus. It seems to be a snapshot of cosmic procedures.

How could you find landmarks in a country hitherto unknown for you?

These years I painted quite a lot and time by time I asked myself what I was dealing with. An art historian friend of mine claimed that I was looking for the connection between science and art. Being enchanted by the idea I was eager to get to know other opinions on the topic. A painter’s view: “Science and art like left and right hand grasping reality simultaneously”. The words of an aesthete are as follows: “Big existential questions are hidden behind every natural scientific problem”. I loved the nearly axiomatic, matured thoughts. After several years of graph-maniac trials of writing down my thoughts and having read an essay on physical optics I felt encouraged to express my concise idea: “Art and science are the dual nature of light”. The verity of this notion may not be taken seriously but it sounds good. From this time on I had left behind the theory of connections and went on searching for subjects inspiring my painting. Between 1990 and 1995 a series of approximately sixty small drawings, drawn on Nepal rice paper was completed and entitled Notes, including pieces like Maxwell’s Demon, Godel Theorem or Schrodinger’s Cat.

Out of 20th century masters Paul Klee seems to be the most important for you.
Having seen my pictures painted in the 1980s some spectators asked me if I liked Klee. The indirect question didn’t hurt me at all, just the other way round. Using some of Klee’s works as background for some of my pictures was homage to the scientist-painter and a way to express my own message.
I was sometimes astonished by my forms meeting hitherto unseen elements of Klee’s pictures but it was a statement in Klee’s Diary that most surprised me: “Man of my oeuvre is not ‘species’ but cosmic point”. My most important, central X-shaped figure is defined almost word-by-word similarly.

Getting acquainted with Bolyai’s geometry then has proved to be determinative for you.
It may have been an intuition that in the middle of the 1970s in Transylvania I bought The Confessions of János Bolyai written by Samu Benkő and at the end of the 70s the Appendix. I feel quite embarrassed to tell that after some time of superficial reading I put the two books on my bookshelf and haven’t reached for any of them for a long time. Appendix seemed to be too difficult while I thought Samu Benkő’s book was a fictional biography. The 1990s passed with buying almost all the volumes of Selected Essays published by Gondolat Publishing and I was studying the parts I understood. I was absorbed in the birth of quantum-physics, the theory of relativity, the development of space-concept and the problems of time. I thought time had arrived for a fundamental change in my concepts of universe or being “trendy”: I needed a paradigm shift.
Results of my experiments showed that my own universe didn’t tend to expand not even fluctuated but definitely constricted. Some motives coming from my studies could have been recognised in my works but the few laconic geometrical figures repeated time-by-time left me dissatisfied. I happened to find an interesting article written by a mathematician on Bolyai’s geometry by chance. Something was in the air foreshadowing changes in my thinking.
The two Bolyais became extremely important and I started reading Appendix and Samu Benkő’s book. Appendix was a failure at first but I was really impressed by Samu Benkő’s excellent, historically authentic descriptions and presentation of documents including the two Bolyais’ correspondence. In spring 1820 Farkas Bolyai warned his son in a beautiful, tragic letter: ‘Do not try the parallels in that way’. After this letter I couldn’t have escaped from the Bolyais for long. In the archive filing-cabinet of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences I asked for -- and to my greatest surprise -- was given Bolyai’s original file of figure he had manually drawn as supplement to Appendix. It was a great moment. This wonderful piece offering great aesthetic pleasure was in the focus of my works for a long time.

How can paradigm shift be detected in your pictures?
If we cannot decide which geometry proves true in our Universe then I thought a “new world” should be created on canvas populated by elements, signals and symbols – as I call them Materials of Universe – describing hyperbolic geometry. Paradigm shift has been accomplished. When pictures were given titles, that I think crucial, I was keen on connecting them to numbers of paragraphs given by Bolyai and to texts of Latin. Figures are sometimes functioning as architectural components giving space to immense motion. 16 out of 23 figures were inserted in my pictures.

Painting is principally intellectual but partly it has something to do with personal relation to different materials and methods.
I love roughly woven linen coarse “grainy” fabric suits my topics. Figures are painted with small brushes in proportional scale-up. We can’t help thinking that once Bolyai had followed the same ways when he was drawing.
In my thinking Geometry, represented by figures, is a substitutive image for the desired but never to be achieved Outlook and Way-out. Light over the terrain of visible light, that is crucial to most painters, is the light I use for my pictures.
Working with things I have previously mentioned gives me stability, the Archimedean point in a bit woeful world, even though I wouldn’t force anyone or anything move. However I guess a shift towards cooler orbits may do well to our Globe.

May 2002, Műértő [Art Magazine]