Éva Mayer –Áron Zsolt Majoros: Cradles, Komárom, Limes Gallery, 2018. 05. 18.

If I had to summarise the elements and context that feed into Éva Mayer’s art, then I would have to mention the sacrality of place, the problems of identity, dealing with personal traumas and the formulation of taboo questions. She explores and visualises topics not from the world of art - since in contemporary art these are no longer revelatory - but those that are important on a societal level and are absent from public discourse. Éva Mayer, despite continuously experimenting with new graphic techniques and thus expanding their definition, is not concerned with reflections on art history and its re-evaluation, but rather focuses on societal issues with which she has a personal connection, such as grief and illness. This is not to say that traditions of cultural history are unimportant for her, as most of her installations are based on the use of cultural-metaphorical elements, base shapes, archetypes (houses, churches, stations of the cross) and their role in establishing a space.

These archetypes, however, never belong to the distant past. The artist accentuates their contemporary importance with textual elements consisting of passages and excerpts. The strongest are probably the 200-year-old interrogative questions taken from the Somorja witch trials, which were used in the 2010 installation “Lack of layers, or the borders are in your head...” to create an air of oppression and aggression. It can be stated that this is Éva Mayer’s most political work, in the sense that political decision-makers impact the individual’s private life and constrain his or her personal space or, in a wider interpretation, the micro-community (cultural, ethnic, religious) to which the artist belongs. It needs to be emphasised that I do not mean the political nature of the work as a synonym for political art, but rather as an emphasis on the conflict in which political decisions and events impact the existence of the individual (or destroy it.) The word of the collective and the word of power come into conflict with the word of the individual. This narrative is familiar mostly from the trauma discourse of minorities or societal groups in some kind of regressive position (women, people of colour, or ethnic minorities) that is present in post-modern art and in the Eastern European neo-avant-garde in the artists’ interpretation of identity-pursuit and -creation. In the works of Éva Mayer, the problematic of identity is less explicit and is present in a more covert form. While it is true that in the ‘60s and mainly in the ‘70s, the primary domain for expressing identity was the artist’s body, with Éva Mayer it is pieced together from the amalgamation of culturally coded symbolic objects, or rather forms, graphic works, sounds and texts. Her story is personal in a way that is embedded into the wider narrative of a community (or a society, as was the case for example in the graphic installations of „TrialSplit” and „Transcom2”) highlighting the important role of a community of a shared fate in trauma-processing (a concept also expressed in the present work through the audio material of women’s stories) and the relationship between the individual and the community. The micro-stories of women suffering from endometriosis, heard through narrated excerpts and written on tableaus, depict a complex system made complete by the interplay of the spatial relations of visual elements, including the once-sacred nature of the space.

At the same time, it is true that the works of Éva Mayer work best in spaces of a sacred origin. Or, in other words, the true domain of her works is a sacred or desacralised space, maybe because the used forms are archetypes, that is to say fundamental symbols of Judaeo-Christian culture. Therefore, Éva Mayer does not build a private mythology, but her personal experiences and traumas are placed in a more general problematic, one which is common for all of humankind. All this is placed into a visual and spatial expression, built from the purest symbols of this cultural milieu. The artist does not utilise a retrospective, reflective point of view, but envisions a forward-moving process, as seen in her emphasised concept of post-traumatic growth. In a sacral space, as is the case here, in the forward-facing, clearing and absolving act of liturgy and ritual, this becomes intertwined with the possibility of healing and coping. The understanding of the connection between space, symbols and creative action, and liturgy is not uncommon in Hungarian art (see for example the works of Ilona Lovas) but is the prevailing characteristic for the art of Éva Mayer. The 2007 „Diagnosis with a hanger” graphic installation is for example a precursor to „Cradles”, featuring lithographic and screen prints on hangers, as the first stations of a sickness-narrative.

My short analysis has thus far omitted an important element: that this complex work was created with the contribution of a creative partner. Just as this story involves two people, this is also the tale of the sculptor husband, who is not a mere assistant and observer, but a man becoming an intrinsic part of the process. Three-dimensional works have thus replaced graphic works. The installation, therefore, does not have the characteristic female voice, which is to say that the creation of meaning does not happen through elements articulating femininity, but rather the installation speaks with a universal voice, one fit to express the shared fate of man and woman through the unequivocal symbol of the cradles (their number, 9, referencing the months of pregnancy) and the child-images therein, or absent from them. The stories and feelings of female subjects (narrated by the excellent actress Éva Bandor) from members of a virtual community with Éva Mayer included, accompany the senses and experiences evoked by the objects - symbols of longing and waiting. The inbuilt neon, the cracks in the cast, and the image of the child appearing or missing in the cradles hint at the vulnerability and unpredictable nature of fate. The infants located in either end of the cradles reference the statistic according to which only half of the women suffering from endometriosis succeed at becoming mothers. The authors also widen the concept’s boundaries by choosing a symbol that is an increasingly rare element of households with children, and is usually connected with more archaic, rural culture. Similarly, street signs are also universal symbols. Their basic function - giving direction, protection, providing safety (preserving life, even) - is suspended by way of their placement, the audio of the stories, and by the cradle-objects.

Áron Majoros’s sculptures, executed with confident technical prowess, are an expression of personal relations and relationships despite their schematic (but not underdeveloped) and impersonal appearance. His growing, receding, fracturing female figures, and his Andromeda belong, in my understanding, primarily to the interpretation of a sculpture unveiling itself, similarly to Gyula Pauer’s Maya. The true sculptor, the artist perfectly understanding the ways of the material, generates meaning from absence: the immaterial, empty sections are just as tangible as the carefully crafted forms. This creation from absence and the fragmented nature of the work can fully develop into a symbol of the soul and human relationships.

I believe words are superfluous to the works of Éva Mayer and Áron Majoros, since, as I have mentioned before, their use of easily understandable symbols of universal validity makes the artists’ declared objective - the investigation and uncovering of social taboos - possible. They create an added level of complexity by including acoustic and textual elements in addition to visual ones, through which they can express the different stages of their personal problems. For them, visual art is equal with communication: fit not only for processing trauma, but also for visualising its path, thus creating possibility for identification. Through this they accomplish the fundamental objective of their work: to foster tolerance and understanding between individuals and – evoking the function of sacral art – to generate change with the creation of and exposure to of works of art.

Lili Boros