This exhibition is truly lovely. To a restive, anxious London in summer comes a sweet breeze from the east: from other distant summers. 50 years ago, behind the Iron Curtain, across an ideological divide, and out in the countryside, the Pécs Workshop met.
They were an avant-garde group of five artists in communist Hungary, who met each summer between 1969 and 1971 in Pécs, close to the Croatian… well, Yugoslavian, border. Helped by workers at the local factory, they fused industrial enamel to the discarded iron plates. And the stunningly fresh and vivid patterns they made are now on the walls of the one-room Mayor Gallery. And it feels like a little miracle of compactly curated artistic accomplishment!
Every work on show seems lovable. I was reminded of the big Vasarely retrospective at the Centre Pompidou from earlier this year. But where that Hungarian exile was big, brash and iconic, his five compatriots seem quiet, modest and considered.
In the patterns, and the school-like setup, there are also more distant echoes of the Bauhaus, celebrating its 100th anniversary in countless shows around town and around the world.
Here’s the names of the artists involved: Károly Kismányoky (whose Untitled work from 1970 is the first image in this post), Sándor Pinczehelyi, Károly Hopp-Halász (the second image is Radial Enamel from 1969), Ferenc Ficzek and Kálmán Szijártó. Their teacher, who helped put the workshop together and introduced them to the factory workers, was Ferenc Lantos.
Three summers after foundation, the workshop split up. Several of the group got involved in Land Art - it was the 70s after all.
But before they got involved in that earthbound cul-de-sac, I’m very happy they worked together on these lovely enamels. And that this gallery has made us in London, in 2019, aware of it again.
Pécs Workshop is at Mayor Gallery (London). June 5 - July 31 2019