I have known Ádám Kokesch for 20 years, as I was his teacher at the Hungarian University of Fine Arts, Budapest. In truth, however, I was more his supporter than his teacher, who provided him with the time and the trust required for developing himself and his work, and processing the influences that were significant to him.
Rather than being a seeker like other painting students, Ádám, almost from the beginning, has been working on his – still developing – programme. His works have always been characterised by impersonality and technical precision, striving for ‘clear’ communication. I remember one of his first pieces: a mattress made of transparent plastic and tufted with factory precision. He was unsatisfied with the work, as it had an – invisible – defect. He took his first visual motifs from the round, gridded figure of the TV monoscope with its solid colours. He has worked with a precise hinterglas technique (continuing to this day: he paints on glass or fibreglass plates from behind). The geometric order, the vibrant colours and the precise boundaries of visual elements brought to mind Concrete painting and the hexagon-shaped colour wheel of Goethe’s Theory of Colours (1810). I would have been content with this reference, had Ádám not used the terms database and data gate, taken from the language of computers. Later, however, it became clear that this was not a known category of painting, but an unfolding means of communication similar to a language system of sorts, and based on a unique, unbridled, poetic logic. The paintings showed rosettelike motifs of various sizes with lines of force between them. Then the painting surfaces turned horizontal and became plotting boards, on which Ádám placed tiny buildings and sculptural forms.
The unusual form and installation of the painting surfaces prompt viewers to formulate various interpretations: in some instances, they are positioned knee-high as seats; in others, they are held by an articulated arm at the ceiling, or are placed on advertising pillars in the street, feigning to contain information. The painted hinterglas components of recent works are added, with ever more generous consistency, to the expanding arsenal of mass-produced objects collected from various areas of use. These explicitly aesthetic, peculiar object ensembles are valid in themselves: they are – as Ádám puts it – ‘entities’ that are a law unto themselves, flouting any attempt at interpretation. They are rendered significant by their safe execution and natural, good proportions, which simultaneously alienate the familiar and allude to another reality.
‘It is where the vantage point of Joseph Cornell, Imi Knoebel and Reinhard Mucha intersect that I feel most at home,’ states Ádám in an interview. His works, however, are fresh and autonomous; they cannot be linked to any known artform.
Ádám Kokesch has had numerous solo and group shows in his home city of Budapest, including at Trafó in 2014. He was part of the 13th Istanbul Biennial (2013), curated by Fulya Erdemci, and has undertaken residencies in New York and in Nykarleby, Finland, as well as at Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw. Selected by Dóra Maurer, artist, Budapest.
This article was first published in the March 2015 issue.