About the Art of János Sugár

The oeuvre of János Sugár includes works ranging form complex installations to video, to sculpture, concept art, photo and drawing. His characteristic language of forms include abstract spatial and graphic constructions and symbols. His social and political sensitiveness is far from moralising, at the same time, it is one that reveals the true essence of phenomena ironically and analyses it systematically.
Already in the 1980s, Sugár was one of the most influential young artists. He was a member of the Indigó Group, led by Miklós Erdély, and then one of the leaders of the Béla Balázs film studio. After the political transition in Eastern Europe, he was one of the founders of the Intermedia Department of the Hungarian Academy of Fine Arts, in 1992, he participated in Documenta IX – so far the last Hungarian artist at Documenta.
His interests are manifested in a vast field stretching between two poles: One is analysis and intervention reflecting on the current environment and context, such as in his Mute series he cuts up and transforms excerpts from TV programmes, placing the dialogies into a new context. In his public space installation Elnézést (Sorry), he intervenes in the visual world of streets by placing pseudo traffic signs with a fictitious text. He has made serious efforts to get the authorities to approve the casting an old graffiti in bronze. On one occasion, he turned the facade of the Műcsarnok (Kunsthalle) upside down on a gigantic banner. He has recently been sued for a graffiti.
At the other pole are his almost abstract installations: using basic materials, he constructs almost virtual spaces out of glass sheets, (Az irreverzibilitás elefántja a jelen porcelánboltjában – The Elephant of Irreversibility in the China Shop of the Present / Műcsarnok – Kunsthalle, Budapest), from fibreboard and wires (A fizika bútorzata – The Furniture of Physics), and his pralinée moulds are recurring elements in his art for a long time.
His installation entitled Kairos vs Expeditus is based on everyday objects, a chair and a ladder, and he makes them symbolic with a simple gesture, covering them with black velvet. Two videos shown on small displays on the chair and the ladder lend another dimension to the work: Kairos, standing for the right moment, is represented on the chair by a camera showing a gate at the Frankfurt airport. Expeditus, signifying activity, shows the artist fighting a coil of cable the size of a man in a hotel room. Like fibre board or empty pralinée moulds in other works, the cable is an element of Sugár’s abstract language of forms.
His most widely known video, the Typewriter of the Illiterate, consists of images cut from newspapers and magazines, with a Kalashnikov submachine-gun on each of them. The images are morphed into one another around the submachine-gun. The images add up to media analysis with a direct emotional effect.

Zsolt Kozma