He didn’t actually ask me that. I can’t translate what he did say because I only got the gist of it and I’m certain there wasn’t an ulterior motive in sight. But it’s the phrase that sprung to mind when Goya von Gerendássy Ács György, known and loved by many as simply ‘Gyuri’, invited me up to his studio to see his art work. The phrase is a bastardisation of phrases in Horatio Alger, Jr. The Erie Train Boy, a novel by Horatio Alger, first published in 1891. In it, a woman writes to her boyfriend:
I have a new collection of etchings that I want to show you. Won’t you name an evening when you will call, as I want to be certain to be at home when you really do come.
The boyfriend then writes back:
I shall no doubt find pleasure in examining the etchings which you hold out as an inducement to call.
But back to Gyuri … I run into him pretty regularly in Jack Doyle’s and as my Hungarian slowly improves, we have more to say to each other. I knew he painted. But I had no idea what. I was really just curious to see how a working artist lived. I am also the first to admit that my art lexicon is limited. I have a vague idea of surrealism, impressionism, and such but am generally clueless, preferring to find solace in what I actually like rather than what I should like.
Gyuri started his artistic life by winning some children’s drawing competitions. He took drawing classes at the Kálmán Könyves Grammar School in Újpest, under the auspices of Béla Gábor. From drawing, he moved to silver and goldsmithing and then to graphic design. When the exhibitions kicked in, Gyuri started work at Képzőművészeti Kivitelező Vállalat (Fine Art Production Company) as a sculptor producing small-scale decorative sculptures and reproductions of original museum art pieces. He worked on sculptures of Zsigmond Kisfalusi Stróbl, Imre Varga, Pál Páczay and László Szabó. For a year at the end of the 1970s, he was a goldsmith at the Ponte Vecchio in Florence and discovered that the Mediterranean lifestyle suited him. If he had his way, Gyuri would introduce the siesta to Budapest during the summer, napping mid-afternoon and then staying up half the night (hmm… sounds familiar!).
Since 1997 he has been painting again – mainly commissioned work – and taking part in exhibitions organised by the Független Magyar Szalon (Independent Hungarian Saloon).
In an interview published on bpressmedia.hu, his work is described as having some ‘impressionist and surrealist characteristics’. He says he makes decisions by listening to his mind, which means that he listens also to his heart. His art searches for answers to questions like what road should we take in the world, why are we here? When a goldsmith in Florence, he found beauty everywhere; everyone was an artist, he says. And Budapest could be that way , too.
It’s probably no surprise to learn then that this quiet, unassuming, and very talented man is a lineal descendant of the great Spanish painter, Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes. His dad studied art in Paris and was an art advisor and restorer at the Fine Art Museum in Budapest. His godfather was Kálmán Németh, the Kossuth-award-winning wood sculptor whose house can still be visited in his hometown of Fót.
While his art is bright and colourful, Gyuri doesn’t just want to influence people’s emotions, he also wants to make us think. One exhibition catalogue described him thus: ‘His pictures are the results of the eruptions of emotional states that have been smoldering for a long time. They are the erupting volcanoes of thoughts that have been niggling for a long time. Finally, these could manifest themselves on canvas on one afternoon.’ But according to Gyuri, he’s as much a surrealist as an impressionist. In our rampant consumer society, when it seems as if everything is conspiring to do our thinking for us, he wants us, his viewers, to start thinking. In one picture, he painted the House of Parliament (above) surrounded by tin houses on both sides of the river, drawing attention in his own quiet way to the social problems in the city.
Gyuri lives and works in Budapest and is very attached to the city because of its cultural and intellectual tradition. Széchenyi, Petőfi and Kossuth come to his mind when he walks the streets. Erzsébet tér used to be home to the Nemzeti Szalon – a 1920s exhibition space, where both amateur artists and art school graduates showcased their work. His wish for the area in which he lives? A place where both artists and their fans could meet; an exhibition space, a coffee shop, a restaurant, somewhere that is open all night.
In the meantime, if you see him in Jack Doyle’s, say hello.