Márton Nemes - Exhibition Text
Originally published to accompany Márton Nemes collaboration with Ybl Creative House (Budapest, Postponed)
November 2020

As an artist, Márton Nemes embraces the dualities that surround him as a result of his personal experiences and socio-cultural background. Whilst his use of fluorescent, saturated colour and opulent, polished metals could be considered a rebellion against his conservative, austere upbringing in Hungary, he maintains within his work and practice a discipline and studiousness impressed upon him from an early age. Similarly, Nemes came of age during the peak of the digital revolution as part of the first generation of digital natives, never offline, yet he marries conceptual contemplations of his innate online existence with a perhaps unexpected passion for the material mediums of painting and sculpture that underpin his artistic output.  Finally, Nemes studied industrial design at a time by when technological advancements in engineering and manufacturing had rendered many traditional vocations obsolete, yet he continuously strives to integrate both innovative production methods and more conventional craftsmanship into his artistic practice.

All of the above should give some context to the environment within which Nemes continues to create, and the artworks and series on display in Me, You, Us are the latest in a body of work through which he demonstrates a meditative consideration of contemporary concerns and customs, all packaged in pristine Day-Glo escapism.

In his Void series of works, Nemes investigates a shared sentiment that has permeated virtual vernacular and could be posited to have personified much of the last twelve months. ‘Staring into the Void’ is a uniquely millennial slant on Nietzsche’s “abyss” that embodies and expresses at once apathy, nihilism and melancholy. The void is hopelessness made manifest, a vacuity within which to cast past regrets, present anxieties and future aspirations. And just as Nietzche declared “And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.”, so too do Nemes’ Void’s, whose surface sheets of matt gradient self-coloured steel reflect a spectre of their viewer. To me - aware as I am of Nemes predilection for social media and scrutiny of its societal and interpersonal implications - the Void works almost act as oversized mobile phones, perpetually cracked screens illuminating the face of their captive audience with a dull light, moths to counterfeit connectivity.

Likewise, reflection is equally at the core of Nemes’ Me, You, Us series - from which his Ybl Creative House Buda exhibition takes its name - in which he explores the concept of underlying reciprocity between an artist and their audience. By employing the personal pronouns Me, You, Us as stand-ins for Nemes, the viewer and the artwork respectively, the traditionally implicit exchange of ideas from an artist to their audience through their artwork is made explicit. As the viewer is reflected in the sections of mirror-polished steel, they enter - either voluntarily or reluctantly - into not only a direct discourse with the artworks but also, by extension, unavoidable communion with Nemes himself. Whether looking at the artwork, looking at themselves or looking at themselves looking at the artwork, the unpreventable participation pits contemplation against conceit, viewing against vanity, observation against self-obsession.

Nemes’ Nothing Without series of diptychs perhaps best expose his approach to, and application of, medium and material, with these paintings existing as the exact inverse of each other’s positive and negative space. Whereas in previous series he has played on the experimental addition and subtraction of abstracted elements to arrive at cohesion completion, these works present that process as a harmonious give and take that allows for two at once fragmented but resolved cooperative compositions, within which no material or space goes to waste. 

Finally, the aforementioned series of artworks are all set against a complementary backdrop of one of Nemes’ sizeable wall murals that reflect an eye for exhibition-making influenced by his interest in stage and set design, as well as architectonics. The interior of Manchester’s famed Haçienda nightclub, WW1 ‘razzle-dazzle’ warship camouflage and the ardour of the abstract expressionists collide in what is an impressionistic construction composed of close-ups and cropped details from previous artworks.