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János Kalmár: Symbols of Faith /detail/
The Medal No. 58 Spring 2011., British Art Medal Society, Cardiff Conference, Wales, GB
April 24, 2010

The talk I am giving at the Cardiff Conference is not exactly the copy of this text. Spoken words are always different, more playful and easier for me to say. Both of them needs consideration, so when I started to make my first notes that were a kind of a summary of the points that I believe to be essential artistic motivations regarding medal and sculpture, step by step these notes have grown into this text, the base of my lecture.
I mentioned artistic motivation that may have so many reasons for its existence, but when looking for the real cause of an art piece, we have to leave behind all external elements and admit that it can only be found inside. What is the nature of this artistic motivation? First of all it is always personal and being such it is determined by the circumstances of the present situation that to some extent predetermines the qualities of the art piece as well. “The uniqueness of a work of art is inseparable from its being embedded in the fabric of tradition.” It means also that through this quality of uniqueness the art piece designates its position in the continuation of a tradition. On the other hand, looking at a sculpture or a medal, uniqueness and individuality are the two qualities that are characterizing the artistic content revealed through those visual artistic qualities that we experience when looking and touching them. This is nothing else but a personal quality of the piece of art that can be born just by faith.
Faith governs each of our steps at every moment, especially in art. The visual signs of a medal or sculpture reveal the faith of the artist, and only through another personal experience and through the faith of another person may that artistic content be understood.
What is interesting for me is the way how that personal faith is expressed in the works of sculptors and medallists. At the same time, I have always looked for the expression of the same conscience both in medals and in sculptures. I am using the words sculptor and medallist, because for me every medal is a kind of sculpture, but not every sculpture is a medal. What is the difference? Since every plastically created art is born to reveal its qualities in the very space where that artist is living, its language is also dependent upon it. It is just the difference in the size and proportions of different spaces that characterizes the unique qualities of a sculpture or medal, and so is the artistic content changing its size and proportion of appearance. It is fascinating to see how sculptors talk about the same theme using coherent symbols and elements in medal and in sculpture. In this case, the different qualities of the nature of medal and sculpture give us a rare chance to follow a kind of consequentiality. On the one hand, the differences between the two ways of expressions reveal the characteristics of the language of both medal and sculpture. On the other hand, through these differences we are allowed to discover something more about the inner motivations of that artist in relation with his art.


I believe that this quality of the medal helps to clarify, understand and decide the means and language needed for an art piece, because this character of the medal is full of playfulness, which offers freedom but does not overshadow its essential language of humour and tragedy.
For example the “Sunny side (My mother’s garden)” by Borcsa Szanyi is a case of loving humour. The solution of this peace is a border case between medal and sculpture and shows why I love to call medal a hand object. Through its size and accessibility, it unites the tactility of the medal with the equilibrated three-dimensional views of a sculpture. It just fits to the palm and shows its values from a reading distance, which is one of the important qualities of the medal. The “Landscape” has the same qualities but I feel it is more tragic, maybe because of the strong sculptural element functioning in this hand piece. It is pointing towards another solution. I would be happy to see it realized on a larger sculptural scale. The “Toys” bring me echoes of my childhood; the humming top was my favourite toy. In addition, as a symbol of the fragility of a unity that can only exist in movement, turned upside down, these three entities turn into organic living structures willing to grow towards the sky. It helps me understand the tendency that she tries to find in her researches of the past represented by archetypes, connecting us to laws of human nature. Considering the size and the character, and it not being a classical medal but rather a hand object associated with sculptural qualities, it raises the evident question of the realization of this theme again on a larger sculptural scale. We know well the feeling that when looking at a medal, we often think: “ah, this would also be nice to see in a sculpture...”. It is an exceptional quality of the medal to carry themes that are later realized in sculpture. So the “Microcosm” could be treated as a kind of continuation of her train of thought on a larger scale. At first sight, it is just a neutral ball, but it offers us the experience of its nature and complexity through its entrances and exits in a sculptural size where its inner values can be enjoyed. It is interesting to think about a sculpture realized also as a medal. Playing with this thought I realized that this work would lose its inner space when reduced in size, so I came upon the conclusion that there are major proportional attributes ruling both medal and sculpture. The differences between sculptural and medallic possibilities and contexts are nicely represented by her “Stairs”. It is a box the size of a human figure. There are tiny windows on it, so to know it better we have to look through them. We are changing the position from looking at the whole to a position with a partial view of the sculpture, and while looking through the tiny windows the partial view of the sculpture changes to a complex view of a medal.


... undoubtedly true that medal is a sincere companion of sculpture, therefore it is always present when it is needed, playing a role as a preparatory phase of a sculpture, or serving as a variation on a theme existing later as an independent art piece, or sometimes being born just for its own pleasure, not having any relation with sculptures.

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