David Lynch once said that the reason he started making films was to ‘make paintings move’. Lynch is probably the most famous painter turned filmmaker, but there are many more who have set their aims on the blurring of the boundary between the inescapably subjective medium of painting and the seemingly subjective medium of moving image. Gyorgy Kovasznai was a Hungarian painter, writer and animator who shared Lynch’s desire to animate painting and through his work as an animator translated the impressionistic power of painting to the medium of the moving image.
Kovasznai’s creativity couldn’t be contained within one medium, his interdisciplinary approach set him apart from his peers and as Brigitta Ivanyi-Bitter states in her introduction to his life’s work, “he never had a solo exhibition as long as he lived, his writings were not published and his plays were not staged”. Kovasznai also encountered resistance from the communist government of Hungary who were reluctant to grant a release to the first film here, Monologue (1963), not because it contained mutinous sentiments but simple because they could not understand the work; it was not in keeping with their expectations of animated film.
Monologue is a cut and paste, stop start animation - in the simplicity of its method it provides a great perspective on its creator. I’ve always thought that collage is in some ways a great way to understand all artistic and creative process: if the artist is creatively fuelled by the world around him, if he absorbs what he sees and releases it again through his art then there is no more direct or honest approach than that of collage. Through collage, in a manner that would please Brecht himself, the illusion of reality is disrupted by the hands of the creator and his source materials are laid out honestly in front of the observer. In other media we would only be presented with the filtered ideas, with the result of the artists creative processes, but in collage we are given a greater insight into the physical environment of the artist. Collage is a direct artefact of the artist’s materials and his interpretation, united in form.
In Monologue the sound and music is also used in a manner that evokes the hard cut edges of the collage. Little attempt is made to blend songs or sound effects cinematically. The sounds and songs are samples, as cut up and disconnected as the pieces that make up the animation itself, effects and music are anchored to a single moment or image, there is no grand linking melody and no attempt at an overarching acoustic narrative. The film is a collage and taking advantage of the medium's own strength, although Kovasznai is a jack-of-all trades, he is proficient in understanding the unique strengths of each. There is distinct interaction between black and white human forms and impressionistic colours in the film. The humans remain black and white until the final section where colour and human are naturalistically united as the narrative of the voiceover concludes. The film is about memory and imagination and about the human passengers in the chaotic field of experience, black and white stick men in a world exploding with the rushing textures and colours of a century that advanced as unimaginable pace.
Memory of the Summer of ‘74 (1974) finds Kovasznai a decade later directly realising his intentions to animate painting through stop start oil painted animation. Yet again Kovasnai opts for a direct and simple approach, set to music the animation evolves like a child’s scribbles, bursting with colour and shape, the stop start construction is still apparent in the pace of the editing which keeps it feeling celebratory. Hullámhosszok(1971) translates as ‘wavelengths’ and the film is structured around the soundtrack of someone flicking between radio stations. The animation is again based in oil painting and through the use of a static perspective that makes the screen appear like a canvas we are invited perhaps to take a look at the interaction between the imagination of the artist and the stimulus he receives in this case via the radio. Again to me the film is Kovasznai joyously celebrating and dismantling the creative process in a stimulating and truly visually enticing manner.
To go into a detailed analysis of all the films here would rob the viewer of the greatest pleasure in watching Kovasznai’s work and that is to relax into the spontaneity and energy of his imagination. By refusing the traditional restrictions on animation he has created uniquely interesting films that invite a sense of playfulness often lacking in that no man’s land between art and entertainment. The strength of Kovasznai’s creativity creates a confidence within the work that creates a feeling of cohesion where so often the form and aesthetic are concerned with breaking down traditional narrative logic, actual or visual. I suggest you take the time to watch the films and investigate further Gyorgy Kovasznai whose work is such a good argument for the breaking down of traditional preconceptions of medium and form and opening up the creative field to free expression and experimentation.