Schiller – Foltyn 1920 – 1924: (In)formal affinities

Opening: 23. 6. 2022 at 6pm
Exhibition duration: 24. 6. 2022 - 9. 10. 2022
Curator: Miroslav Kleban
Space B, Hlavná 27, Košice

This exhibition of two key representatives of Košice Modernism – the Czech painter František Foltýn and the Hungarian painter Gejza Schiller – is an intimate exposition consisting of a selection of works created in eastern Slovakia between 1920 and 1924. This time period provides a glimpse into individual artistic expressions in the interwar period of today’s Slovakia, and the choice of Fotlýn and Schiller is not accidental. Their work, especially between the years 1922 and 1923, displays a creative symbiosis that shines through the formal language of their artistic expression. The current exhibition and the accompanying publication are a continuation of the scientific research of Košice Modernism. Both the exhibition and the research focus on the selected artists not as rivals, but as colleagues and good friends. Their joint exhibition in the Great Hall of the County House in Uzhhorod in 1922 is considered a significant milestone in their work; a year later, in 1923, they exhibited together in the East Slovak Museum.

Foltýn and Schiller were described in the contemporary press as modernists (Slovenský východ, 1923). Foltýn’s glosses on art, which were published in the daily newspaper Slovenský východ, provide an insightful contribution to the theory of modern art. These writings, which are published at the end of this study, form the basis of research methodologies attempting to understand contemporary thinking about the essence of modern art. The selection of works in the exhibition is tailored to a narrower thematic focus, namely landscape painting, while this secular subject is explored in its deeper essence. Here, too, we find an analogy to the interpretation of Foltýn’s texts within the framework of the provincialism of art and the emergence of modern movements. Their perception of landscape is cubist and expressionist, based on the teachings of the father of modern painting, Paul Cézanne. This approach was later challenged by emerging artistic movements that tied landscape to a specific place and time, i.e. circumstances, that Foltýn also commented on. The Košice period of both artists is strongly marked by an avant-garde approach to traditional themes. The landscapes that inspired their work extended from Košice to the territory of the former Subcarpathian Ruthenia. The work of both artists is marked by a structural search for shape and surface solutions, while combining elements of expressionism and a futuristic approach. Schiller tended to stylize pictorial form with the use of complementary colours and tended towards a simplified, even primitivistic, artistic expression. The formal aspect of his work was probably influenced by his stay in Berlin where he studied the works of the group Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider). Foltýn’s approach is somewhat more civil in the spirit of monumental neoclassicism and cubism.

The current exhibition is a subjective interpretation and analysis of a small selection of works by the two artists, based on formal and thematic affinities. The story of both artists is detailed in the extensive publication Košice Modernism. The ambition of the exhibition project is to assemble a collection of works, from state institutions and private estates in Košice and Budapest, to demonstrate the living questions and issues of modern art in the easternmost tip of the First Republic. The exhibition confronts the artistic movements of Western Europe from the beginning of the 20th century with the specific manifestations of our local environment.

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