Sándor Szász

The strange co-existence between control and chaos visible on Szász’s canvases is, interestingly, also an integral part of his approach to painting. His subconscious evidently plays a large part in the conception of his work, but the way in which details are immaculately executed suggests that his organizational side never permits instinct to totally dominate. The genuine affection Szász displays for the gestural aspects of his practice can be probably tracked down to the early stages of his education – he studied music for many years and for some time entertained the idea of working as a mechanic.

Apparently contradictory yet surprisingly coherent, Sándor Szász’s paintings present apocalyptic scenarios that, if on the one hand are vaguely reminiscing of the brand of Surrealism made notorious by Francis Picabia, on the other hand, they seem to refer to the imagery of sci-fi cinema. His characters, invariably faceless, live in bleak landscapes enriched by the presence of mysterious relics. It is not clear if these rusty, semi-abandoned, stranded machines or ships constitute an exotic discovery or are instead the cause of these figures’ predicament. What doesn’t change is their collective engagement in some kind of labour that, coupled with the dramatic colours of his palette, render a twisted update of the Eastern-European tradition of realism as a way of chronicling, and often glorifying, the mundane and the universal. The first big difference to notice is that – stunning technique notwithstanding – there is nothing conventionally glorious in what Szász’s represents in his work, if not for a melancholic sense of failure. Unlike the standard propaganda paintings that defined much of the 20th Century, where workers were depicted united in the common goal of erecting a better future, in Szász’s paintings the future is patently dystopian. The atmosphere in works like Kurszk (2011), where a group of men can be seen standing in line in front of a fog-concealed tank waiting either for evacuation or recruitment, or the chillingly titled Symphony of the Orphans (2014), where another group of men in uniform is busy rescuing a casualty while walking in a pond of water in a freshly-destroyed landscape, is unmistakably dark. Even on these rare occasions where the human figure is absent, like for example the geometric pattern created by the corroded bars of what looks like an electric post in Phantom (2012), the idea of natural and industrial elements surviving a tragic event never goes away.