Structured emptiness - Exhibition of Ferenc Csurgai

One of our artists István Pölös was a curator of the highly successful “Structured emptiness” exhibition, which displayed the concrete sculptures of Ferenc Csurgai. We asked István about his role as a curator as well as the acceptance of the exhibition.

István Pölös: Ferenc Csurgai sculptor has just turned 60, so this gave the great actuality of the exhibition. Though he graduated at the painter specialization of the Academy of Fine Arts, his diploma work was a 3/3 m ferro-concrete relief. He has been working with concrete for 33 years already. With his sculptures he tries to disconnect the concrete-related industrial connotation by casting translucent, structured sculptures. In his sculptures he examines the interactions of forms and emptiness, chaos and order. In addition, he is also an inventor and a scholar, he notes the patent of a specifically formulated concrete. He gives lectures at the Academy of Fine Art; as an art teacher he also leads workshops at two other Hungarian universities. He took part of several national and international exhibitions, and one of his sculptures is displayed for public in Tokyo. He often works together with architects too, for example he took part of an architectural project abroad led by one of the most well-known Hungarian architect’s office 3H (architects: Katalin Csillag and Zsolt Guntner).

Artodu: How was that Ferenc Csurgai contacted you and Marianna Ilyés with the request of curatorship? What did this invitation entail for you?

István Pölös: We have known each other for a long time with Feri, we both follow each other’s work. He often shows me the negative prior to casting of his sculptures; on the other hand, we also happen to show him the mock-up of our house under planning. If I remember well, we were just watching his newly completed 3 meter high sculpture titled “Sky is in you” on a Saturday morning, when he called us for the curatorship of the exhibition. Never in our lives have we ever organized an exhibition, so actually this request was quite unexpected for us. Artodu: Ferenc Csurgai mentions in one of his reports that you and Marianna were able to let the artworks be seen from a completely different perspective. What was your conception? What could you see from the outside that requires a special architectural way of seeing things?

István Pölös: As I see it, we as architects view each sculpture as space as well, some of them can even be considered as structure mock-ups before realization. We didn’t aim at presenting the whole oeuvre; instead we concentrated on the most important elements of the career. Some sculptures were not displayed in a traditional way on pediments, but floating with emphatic lighting. Luminous pediments were used too and we also applied some clusters of lights. We didn’t show the titles of the sculptures on the walls, so you could orientate yourself in the room by the floor plans glued onto boards. We divided the floor into 60 equivalent squares. You could identify the sculptures by the floor-square number, which the visitors found very exciting.

Artodu: You kept reporting pictures and videos of the exhibition. According to the pictures I got the impression that the visitors could enjoy an extremely precisely and wholeheartedly organized exhibition. How long did it take to prepare the event?

István Pölös: It took about three weeks. We made an 1:20 paper model of the space and the sculptures, and we were able to implement our idea on paper in about 90%, so that on the spot we had to change the position of only two sculptures because of the local lighting, in a way that we could take photos of them in the daylight too.

Artodu: The exhibition actually was so popular that it was extended by a few days. Would you share with us some of the feedbacks that reaffirmed you in that it was worth putting such energy and enthusiasm in carrying out this project?

István Pölös: Well, there was among the visitors, who visited the exhibition six times. Children and adults drew pictures in groups at the exhibition. The exhibition was also visited by Péter Zalán Salát, designer of the Hungarian pavilion of the Leipzig Book Fair 2017, but also László Polgár, one of the best and most innovative Hungarian supporting fixture designer was here. Even the sculptors and painters of the artists’ residence of Szolnok viewed the exhibition. Sándor Apáti-Tóth, photo artist congratulated in person to the organization of the exhibition. Several dominant members of the Hungarian architect generation aged 45-50 complimented the exhibition too (Árpád Álmosdi State awarded architect, Móni Csendes Prima awarded, Jenö Szendröi awarded architect). György Verebes, Munkácsy awarded painter’s opening speech was seen more than 750 times. To me children drawing pictures at the exhibition meant the most important feedback, who thoroughly enjoyed themselves in that space and seemingly were not bored.

Artodu: What has this experience given you personally, that you were one of the active organiser of the exhibition?

IstvánPölös: That was a great feeling working together with Ferenc Csurgai. Feri has not showed many of his drawings so far. Part of the truth is that he makes few drafts; he constructs the sculptures in his mind and he has the capability of such a surgical precision that he can immediately cut the negative of the sculpture. Fortunately while searching in one of his academic notebooks he dropped two little drawings made some 35 years before, which drawings almost advanced his further entire life work. These drawings were displayed on the wall in 12sqm size. I am glad that these forgotten drawings have been found.

Artodu: How have the sculptures of Csurgai and his view of space influenced you as an architect and artist?

István Pölös: I have constructed models by his influence. But in architecture we represent a more simple, more angled, more controlled design. The difference is most distinct in our viewing tower designs, this is the type of structure that both of Feri and I have already designed. In the specific forms the personal reflection of Csurgai is much stronger, his humbleness toward his profession and his commitment to quality. The great drawings together on the enormous concrete table, thinking together, the lighting tests with a torch at night and the quality of the sound coming out of his self-made concrete megaphone meant a great experience. He makes even the megaphones by himself, which shows its own merit as an independent artwork.

Artodu: What inspiration did you return with after the exhibition? István Pölös: After the exhibition Feri gave me his 12 sqm drawing as a gift that I really appreciated. From now on it will hang on the wall of our office, I hope this will always remind me this wonderful joint work. The joint work has not yet finished with that experience. Yesterday I asked Feri to help me at my independent autumn exhibition with his experience. This time the exhibition will not be about my architectural works, instead my pictures will be displayed. The exhibition will be staged in the city centre of Budapest in a beautiful environment, a former palace, but let the exact location be surprise.

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Photo credit: István Pölös

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