After having worked for more than twenty years in the field of "abstraction", Ákos Birkás has returned to figurative art. Up until now he had only touched on this through photography when, from 1977 to 1980, rejecting "official" forms of Hungarian painting, he obsessively attempted to capture a friend’s anonymous face. Throughout the 1990s, the oval forms Birkás regarded as "abstract" faces gradually turned into sorts of informal bodies, progressively approaching human scale which by the years of 2000 had become veritable portraits suggesting the apparent symmetry of the human figure as much as the schizophrenic possibilities of the personality.
Some years later these portraits are projecting into the space of a painting in panoramic format. These works are based on newspaper photographs from the daily press collected since 2005 up to the present time. The world is perceived through pictures which are significantly defined by the media and at the same time the paintings supports the establishment of the truth, written in the slow painting’s process of creation. “The press photo provides a larger freedom for thoughts” said Birkás “In my works, it’s all about this way of thinking”. The figure is being taken into account in its dimension as a social actor, and the painting is becoming more akin to a film still, saving moments of tension.
The portrait as a classical genre is being transformed into a medium for the depiction of communicative situations. “I think the realism in painting still has a great communicative potential” said Birkás “leading to the question of thematic images that again leads to political questions”. The fact remains that Birkás keeps his outstanding qualities as a colourist. In describing the most banal garment it confers a luminosity that seems drawn from close observation of a religious scene by Veronese or Tintoretto: the Italian Renaissance masters he discovered in his youth in Venice during his first trip “to the West”, in the free world.
Ákos Birkás (born 1941) studied painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Budapest from 1959 through 1965. His abstract portraits are reckoned among the most significant artworks by Hungarian artists since the 1970s. His work is included in numerous private and public collections. A significant body is preserved in the collections of the Ludwig Museum (Wien and Budapest). A first retrospective exhibition accompanied by the publication of a catalogue was held by the Ludwig Museum, Budapest in 2006. Since 2005 solo exhibitions include Zürcher Studio, New York (2010/11), Galerie Eigen + Art, Leipzig (2008 and 2010), Galerie Zürcher, Paris (2006 and 2008), Ákos Birkás, Works 1975-2006, Kunstverein Göttingen and New Paintings, Knoll Galerie, Wien (2007), In Diesem Moment, Kunstverein Rosenheim and Private Matter, Kunsthalle Budapest (2005).