József Csató Develops An Aesthetic Battle Between Distortion And Flexibility

József Csató’s newest body of work deals with abstraction. His systematic application of paint leads these abstract works to obtain a more tangible quality, crossing between the ideas of spatiality and geometry by illustrating two or three-dimensional characteristics. Although the artist’s paintings often showcase multiple vague compositions of still life, Csató insists on geometric shapes and forms that merge in the painting’s space and then come together to render a new macrocosm. Variety in forms and concentration on spatiality both deal with the concept of motion in the artist’s works. The plethora of different mediums used—such as dried paint, foils, silicon, ash, graphite, glue or wax—not only demonstrate the imprint of a multi-layered dimension, but also the depth of the creative tools he uses to create his vague arrangements. In addition, these materials may provide manifold optical effects that inevitably stimulate the eye for further motion and energy.

József Csató, Promised change, 190 x 240 cm, 2020

Words: Yannis Kostarias

Csató’s practice entails remarkable signs of deconstruction; the artist works closely with the idea of breaking a recognizable entity into a more vague appearance, aiming to re-interpret it. The new forms involve fresh potential to engage with by dismantling visualizations. New contradictions are portrayed in largely geometric shapes and beautifully blended colours with pastel hues. Usually, the painting’s background remains monochromatic and the rest of the composition contains a variety of colours with resourceful storytelling. The main imaginative arrangements on canvas are often accompanied with a refined set of sinuous black lines that build a dominant and mysterious illusion with their direction. In many paintings, these black lines seem to outline the inner body of the artist’s twisting visualizations. More often, bolder brushes provide an obscure and antithetical view with the refined morphology of these lines. Here, the colour-washed effect puts an additional emphasis on the idea of deconstruction that tries to reduce the decoration’s initial visibility such as in Afternoon berry ritual, 2020 and Blank Invitation, 2019.

József Csató, Afternoon berry ritual, 150 x 175 cm, 2020,

Although the use of colour and form display the artist’s remarkable visual vocabulary, his colour manipulation does not compare to his shapes. The figures’ shapes dominate his style and render a powerfully stimulating layout that draws attention. Highlighting Neo-Cubist attributes, the figurative forms retain multifaceted perspectives and are presented as semi-abstracted, almost always contorted in form. The artist’s visual themes become the main subject, making the viewer more intrigued to engage with the painting result. Capturing his compositions in amplified dimensions, Csató not only consolidates the painting’s enlarged subjects, but also optically implies more interpretations of his work, rendering additional types of rhythm on canvas. Even though the proportions of these vague figurations stand for their considerable size or intensity, they do not lack pliability. Csató orchestrates an aesthetic battle between distortion and flexibility within his compositions, illustrating a visual dialectic and struggle to understand the symbolic discourse of the artist’s work.

József Csató (b.1980) lives and works in Budapest, Hungary. He finished his studies at the painting department of the Hungarian University of Fine Arts (MKE) in the class of Dóra Maurer in 2006. He won the honored Gyula Derkovits Scholarship in 2013, 2014 and 2015. He obtained the prominent Esterhazy Prize in 2013. He was an artist-in-resident at Krinzinger Gallery (A) – AIR program in 2017. He participated in many group and solo exhibitions across Europe including Budapest, Vienna, Berlin, Stuttgart, Düsseldorf,  Nürnberg, and Copenhagen. His works can be found in representative Hungarian and International private and institutional collections.

József Csató, Unexpected process, 130 x 160 cm, 2019

Can you tell us about the process of making your work?

I have thousands of sketches in my books (I draw them every day). The first part for me is to find the right sketch or idea to work with. Sometimes I stick to the papers sometimes not, and let the canvas tell me what to do. Anyhow, every important idea or form finds its way to the final paintings, making a strange kind of own mythology.

How would you define your work in a few words (ideally in 3 words)?

Relaxed, Easy to Attach to, Strange.

Are there any new painting ideas, themes or even techniques that you presented on your new body of work at your latest body of work?

It changes day by day for me, every painting kind of opens me a new door to decide I walk in, or not. What i see now is I’m getting closer and closer to figures.

Does the word ‘deconstruction’ may recently apply to your painting vocabulary at any point? If so, which are these elements that keep you motivated by such ideas or motifs?

Before I started developing the recent works, I was really into collages (still am). It brought me  lots of forms and ideas even techniques about making a picture. Collage has a lot to do with deconstruction and construction. From time to time I reach back to it and use it, it keeps me fresh. Overpainting or repainting is also an everyday experience for me.

Could you share with us some further details regarding your recent painting named ‘All the boys in sneakers’, (2019)? 

All the boys in sneakers, started easily and become a struggle of course. 🙂 The only component that never changed was the black ink shape (figure) I was working a lot on the background to keep it fresh and to find the right colour. I used acrylic, oil and ink. The sneakers were the last things I made on it.

József Csató, All the boys in sneakers, 160 x 130 cm, 2019

Can you name any artists you, lately or generally, take inspiration from?

Would be a long list. Film makers, musicians and painters of course, but my all time favs are Morandi, Beckmann, Guston, Bonnard, The Memphis Group, Oskar Schlemmer and so on.

How do you know when a painting is finished?

When a painting doesn’t bother me anymore, than i can stop painting it. If i have a new idea from it for a new painting, then it has done it’s job. I overpaint everything that I have  that “something’s not right” feeling. I am really cruel about it.

What about the place where you work? What’s your studio space like, and how does it affect your process?

I’m really lucky to have two studios. It Is because my base studio (summer studio) in Artus is can not be heated. (it’s located in an old factory building and has huge heights) Therefore at every winter, when the weather starts to get cold I’m moving to my winter studio, which is smaller place and located in a completely other part of Budapest. Twice every year i can have a fresh start: I clean the studio I’m leaving, so throw out everything I don’t want to carry. Of course from year to year it affected my process and also my everyday life. It makes me keep things at minimal (in need, or stuff, anyhow..).

József Csató, Sleeping with screens, 140 x 130 cm, 2019

Which exhibition did you visit last?

The filmmaker John Akomfrah’s exhibition in Seccesion, Vienna.

What do you hope audiences will take from your work?

I am really happy to see when someone has a story about my painting, (although it was not my intention to make one). I really like when someone has a memory coming up form childhood, or from a person through a painting. When i see i don’t have to speak, they have their own link to it. Sometimes i feel they have more to do with a painting than me.

Are you a morning person or a night owl?

I still can’t tell. Normally due to family life with kids, i wake up early in the morning and start the day, but in these strange days my biorhythm went back to it’s normal I think, which  is more like a night owl’s. I never worked nights in my studio, but maybe I should try it now. Who knows.. we have all the time now to experiment.

Which are your plans for the near future?

Finding out if I am a night owl or a morning person.

Additional Paintings

József Csató, Blank Invitation, 160 x 130 cm, 2019
József Csató, Served, 175 x 150 cm, 2020

© All images are courtesy of the artist

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