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István Halas - The Sunlit Path

Portraits and CTP


From the mid-1970s, István Halas took portraits of artists, writers, ordinary people he met in everyday conversations, and sometimes of himself. The names of most of them are still known, their faces are recognisable and identifiable. Many of them are no longer with us, only looking back at us from Halas' pictures, searching for our gaze. The title of his exhibition at the Liget Gallery in 2016, where many of these photographs were also on display, was Live Fish and Three Points. Hence the aquarium that surrounds us as a metaphor for life, which necessarily has an exterior, the world from which the viewer looks into the gaze that stares at it. In this image, Halas' portrait praxis can be understood as the glass wall, as the definer and delimiter of the existence within. The surface through which we look at the gaze directed at us. Halas, however, is not a "soul-seeker", nor does he want to become one. He just wants to be the one who holds up the glass wall, in which the photographed person can see himself, and the viewer can see the photographed person through it, while in a certain refraction of light, he can also see himself. In this metaphor, the world beyond the glass plate is the medium of existence for the subject of the portrait, beyond which, where we stand, he is non-existent. The gaze beyond, if we look into it, may seem strange. We see him, but he does not know whose eyes he will look into, because he only sees the "glass eye" of the camera. He tries to look and to see, but the image reflects only his perplexed wonder. The portraiture of Halas from this side of the wall. Or is it rather beyond?


The CTP series is the result of years of research. It is largely based on earlier photographs, which Halas reuses. The acronym is the English name for the computer-to-plate process, which appeared in pre-press in the mid-1990s. The process involves the "wrought" image, prepared and processed in a computer program, being "engraved" by a laser onto a light- or heat-sensitive printing plate, which is used to make the print in the printing machine. In fact, it is an engraving which, unlike chalcography, etching or woodcut (which were also once used for printing reproduction of photographs), is not created by human hands, but similarly to photography, by the light, in this case a laser equipment. The process is reminiscent of the way in which archaeological finds are photographed, organised and then used as data. In the artistic practice of Halas, this "archaeological" and "museological" gesture, as proven by his recent exhibition entitled Catalogue at the Szent István Király Museum in Székesfehérvár, plays an extremely important role.

Gábor Pfisztner

Translated by: Viktória Popper

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