Kiállítás Ningbo-ban (Kína) / Exhibition at the Ningbo (China)

Ningbo (China) Cultural Plaza june 6, 2015.

Kalman Magyar
Exhibition opening text

Forever Friends – Domjan and Qi Baishi

2015, June 4 – June 14

Presented by Peking Hungarian Cultural Institute

“FOREVER FRIENDS”: What an excellent and appropriate title for our exhibition today. In fact, the meeting of Domján and the great Chinese artist Qi Baishi was a determining factor for Domján’s art throughout his life. How else can someone be influenced, so much, by one person, if friendship is not the driving force? JózsefDomján’s visit to China in 1955, exactly 60yearsago, initiated for him a lifelong association with Chinese traditional art.

But let us meet with JózsefDomján briefly: His life may be grouped into three phases: He was born in Budapest in 1907, March 15, to a very poor family. He did not start out as an artists, but even in his early life, he showed great affinity to art. He was a manual worker building machines,but he lost his job during the Hungarian financial depression of the 1930’s and for 3 years, he wondered through-out Western Europe by foot. During that time, he was able visit many great museums of Europe.

Subsequent to his return to Hungary, he was discovered as an exceptional talent and was admitted to the Hungarian Academy of Fine Arts. After his graduation he stayed on to teach at the Academy for a few years; this is when he meet his wife Evelyn, who became life-long partner in family and art. Initially, Domján established himself as a well know “SPIRITUAL PAINTER”–  a modern contemporary artist. During his many travels and exhibitions in Western Europe, eventually he became a respected woodcut artists. His invitation to China in 1955 resulted in at least fifteen major exhibitions around China inimportant cities, as well as the life-changing meeting with Master Qi Baishi. At that time hereceived the “Master of Colour Woodcut” recognition, which he understood is only given once every 100 years.

After the China visit, more exhibitions followed in Europe andby 1956 he received the most coveted prizesfor a visual artist in Hungary ,the Munkácsy Prize, followed by the highest recognition from the State, the Kossuth Prize.  However, at the end of 1956 he left Hungary and moved his family to New York, USA,  by that time he had three children.

Phase two of Domján’s life was a complete rebuilding of his art and initiate a new carrier in the USA, where he was not known at first.  He was very successful and eventually his works were shown in most of the important museums in North America and around the world. After five hundred exhibitions, the family stopped recording additional ones. There are no other Hungarian artist today who has more works in the collections of major Museums in North America than Domján. As fate may have it, in June of 1970, his house burned to the ground. The family lived in Tuxedo Park, New York at that time and he was 63 years old. Everything was lost, painting, prints, wood-blocks.

This is when phase three of Domján’s life begins.  He built a new studio which was fire – proof, and recreated hundreds of new woodcuts – some of which are seen at our exhibition. We may consider this phase to be the most characteristic of Domján’s work. Many more exhibitions continued until the end of his life. He passed away in 1992, in New York, USA.

How do we characterize Domján’s Art? May be a few brief comments will be useful:

  1. His works are contemporary, and visually attractive, demonstrating a very unique technique in hand-printing from a woodcut – let it be one colour or more.
  2. At a closer evaluation we find folkloric images and symbolic forms which are repeated and are based on Hungarian and, in many instances,on Chinese folk-art
  3. Visually exquisite, no other woodcut artist, that we know, is able to create such striking images, which are always moving and living.
  4. We find DomjánArt to be similar to the works of the great Hungarian composers: ZoltánKodály and especially BélaBartók. Although, their music is contemporary, it is often based on folk music. Such is Domjan’s Art, whose images are contemporary – but at closer examination – we see Hungarian and, now we know, Chinese folkloric impressions.

This exhibition includes works, which are either folkloric, universal themes or demonstrate heavy Chines influence and symbolisms: like dragons, snakes, birds, flowers, just to mention a few. Please do not just look at the images from afar – there is a “second life” of those, if you move closer and examine the “building blocks”.  The shown images are from the last – third – period of the artist and we consider themto be a good cross section of the immediately recognizable DOMJÁN imagery.

This exhibitions also clearly suggests that Qi Baishi and Domján were fatefully friends forever, how else could such vivid dragons, snakes, serpents, birds, flowers come alive in the images created by Domján? It demonstrates, Domjan’sdeepest and most admiring appreciation of the great Chinese master, whom he never forgot.

Today, by viewing this exhibition, we can witness – how a 6 months visit to China, 60yearsago, in 1955, by a 48 year old Hungarian artist has changed his life and art forever. The wonderful images attest to the unique and permanent fusion of European and Chinese art and folklore in Domján’s sensitive and creative images.

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  • 2015. 06. 06.