Portrait of Zénó Kelemen as a Young Artist – His Ten Years of Sculpture


Sculpture, androgynuos

He creates sculptures in the unextended sense, without leaving the three dimensions of the three dimensional genre; he exposes his statements and his confutations within these frames. His works are not kinetic, do not change their shape or physical condition, are not variable, nor were they created for decay (or for a single viewpoint); they are made from solid matter. This solidity is sometimes eased and modulated by light (a reflecting polished metal surface).
In other words: the fourth dimension is not demonstrated by Zénó Kelemen, but it is represented within the three, leading us to its inference.

In the meantime, individual works also refrain from reflecting on content, from imitation, and so their sunlike quality (masculinity) – apparent in the fact that we can encounter and walk around them as things in themselves – is not just an external, but also an internal characheristic.
On the other hand, Zénó Kelemen’s sculptures are also moonlike in that by not being imitative,

moreover, not reminding of any sort of knowledge, they appear to our receptive consciousness as secrets, and will call us to unravel their own hidden internal laws. The statement-like, that is, concrete sculptural form is not accompanied by a statement-like statement, that is, an evidence.

Due to this sunlike quality, the scuplture is rarely a consequence of its surrounding physical or other environment – that is, the majority of its plastic forms is completely independent of context – but some of them are not! Step-variation, which can be defined as a location specific sculpture (and not as an installation) is one of the exceptions: it is a figure derived from the interior design characteristics of the exhibition space; it is a purely reflexive, moonlike formation.
In the spirit of this same principle, his sculptures and plans designed to be installed in built environments not only initiate a dialogue with their environment – after all, avoiding this would be the difficult task in the case of an object installed in space – but as items that cannot be deduced from the laws of the geometrical architectural environment in the absence of a base, they render it uncertain; and by their sometimes explicit public furniture functions, they accomplish a (not just aesthetical) self-contextualisation.
The sculptor’s ingenious personal solution, his successful attempt at merging the opposing formal orders of geometrical and organic sculpture corresponds to the solar-lunar sythesis and androgynous character manifested in different aspects.

Space-time, convergence

During his years of study, he was captivated by the ever-changing shapes of the flame and waters – in these continually changing bodies, the possibility of experiencing the fourth dimension of time is manifested. They demonstrate that three makes no sense without the fourth, that is, a space conceived as a rectangular coordinate system with three axes is in itself abstract, if not outright fictitious. The hegemony of the analytical method that tends to divide our world into lines, plane figures and regular bodies for the sake of understanding has lasted at least since the impact of Cézanne has become more widespread, and it has been almost unquestionable in the contemporary era of 3D modelling.
By introducing the Moebius principle, Zénó Kelemen creates statues whose masses will not break down to planes and then to lines, that is, to many simpler Euclidean forms from the single comlpex one. Therefore, when trying to understand them, our conventional concept of space will fail us. Instead, we come to question the necessity of analysis, that is, the content of the sculpture will be a statement of the same thing as that of water or fire: the meaning is not a total of the meanings of the parts.
Similar contemporary phenomena might be familiar from experimental electronic music: the branch of Detroit techno in which the beat is not separated from the tune. The distinction is a basic characteristic of the music of western cultures: by contradicting the principle of the tune built on the skeleton of the four-four beat, it accomplishes the affirmation of indivisible time. What makes this music the closest parallel is that 4/4 is there in it, too – as one track; the others are either not divisible by four, or have different loop lengths, or commence with a delay within the unit.

As regards the tradition of fine arts and liberal arts, Zénó Kelemen represents the spirit of the 1920 Realistic Manifesto of the Pevsner brothers (the proclamation of constructivism), which, sensible of eastern esoterical (indian and later theosophical) wisdom, counters exoterical cubism based on the western analytical principles of Cézanne. Defending a deliberate pursuit towards an awareness of space-time, the manifesto denies the sovereign legitimacy of lines and planes. This had counted as an internal opposition before, and constructivism continued to move towards a passion with a very different orientation – the most furious materialism – as early as this stage of bolshevik dictatorship.

Another inevitable milestone if we speak about Zénó Kelemen’s sculpture in terms of its treasury of forms is Max Bill, an outstanding member of the Bauhaus, a school that also evolved in the context of the theosophists who published “occult physics”, among other things. If the Pevsner brothers eliminated the distinction between external and internal surfaces of the sculpture, then Bill has introduced the Moebius principle as a logical extension of this. After all that, it might seem unusual that the same artist unfolds the school of Concrete Art as it is pursued to this day based on the Manifesto of Concrete Art drawn up by Theo van Doesburg in 1929. A basic tenet here is the idea of “colours and planes” as sovereign entities, not connected to any other content, standing in itself, and inclining towards repeated analysis in its means and methods.

Zénó Kelemen is not interested in either esoterical or manifestly anti-esoterical cosmologies. In any case, there is a connection between his works and the figures of more recent geometries. The principles of his formal solutions bear similarity to those of the speculative visualisations of subatomic particles in superstring theory, as both operate with the application of a more complicated Moebius principle.

Individualism, magnetism

Compared to Max Bill’s art, which is freed from references, the way Zénó Kelemen arrives at différance is by tracing back individualism. The title Self-Line is an open allusion to this. Due to a key aspect of his creative method, his sculptures lend themselves to an interpretation also relevant in the art of movement: they can be seen as spatial calligraphic pheomena. This is because the scupltures do not originate from a title or a concept, nor even the plane figures which are split to render the sculpture its shape, but from a single movement carried out by the artist himself. Not a series of movements, corresponding to the prevalent principle of convergence mentioned before in connection with dimensions. Similarly, Eternal Dance makes reference to all this in its title.
Naturally, it would be no use trying to extract the original movement from the sculpture. On the other hand, the sight, while gliding on dynamic arches from different angles in the interpretive effort, eventually sets up a space-time construct in consciousness that can be traced back to nothing other than this movement.

The act of carrying this potentially magnetic movement through an object takes on a special status in Prayer, a sculpture designed for Erzsébet square. In this case, the movement is the equivalent of an abstract concept (one far more complex than the word itself), and produces a sculptural body that results in a space-time construct similar to hermetic figures rendering the links between different worlds when it is explored by the spectator.
Magnetism delivered by specifc movements of the two hands, a practise surviving in certain contemporary massage techniques in fragments, is also relevant to this theme. Similarly to occult and mainstream physics, these connections are not created by the artist intentionally; however, he cannot deny all this, either. This is why individualism is a keyword to his art: because he does not aim to illustrate acquired content.

Body and its surface

Zénó Kelemen is concerned with inner personal and professional questions. He visually prompts us to take a stand opposing statics and a conventional analytic conception of space. (Statics is relativised by monumental sculptural bodies of materials that allow associations to metal and stone, supported at two points or just one.) The principle of convergence is only applied and not seen as exclusive, corresponding to the principle of androgyny. Therefore recently, as a central problem, he has been pondering over the separability of the mass and the surface.
The initial steps of this experimentation are realised in reflecting on the differences of meaning between the polished bronze and the white synthetic resin versions of Eternal Dance. The surface of the synthetic resin version is homogenous, while that of the bronze one is polished to be relfective in some places, and matte in others. All this implies that the distinction between external and internal surfaces can be relevant.

Self-Line, Wave-Wall, Strike Direction and the work exhibited in Győr were given surfaces without distinction: pencil hatching runs parallel to the edges bordering the surface, but ordered in strands of a stroke’s length, not denying the human factor. The question raised by this procedure as well as the black oil pastel surface treatment of Step-Variation is: what are the measures at which the conceived and actualised surface, separated from the body, neutralises the body, or, to the contrary, neutralises itself in the face of the body.

Domed Loop, designed to be installed in front of the Budapest University of Technology originates from the same problematics – while also overruling a number of the statements made here so far. What happens is that the shape arrived at by splitting, then twisting, elongating and re-linking, thickening and thinning the basic geometrical form and merging further surfaces into each other – similarly to the other works – results in a different sculpture by night. LEDs arranged arbitrarily – that is, not by the dynamics defined by the edges of the surface – illuminate the polished white synthetic resin surface. The lights are inividually programmed to fluctuate, to lighten up and fade so slowly that it remains concealed from hurrying passers-by. One has to halt in order to perceive the lumino-kinetics, in a composition that thematises represented indivisible time here – which also finds its closest parallel in music (drone music).

Endre Lehel Paksi, January 2011