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Tamás Melkovics - Chance of Waves

The Weight of a Head-Centered Culture and Its Surpassing

On Tamás Melkovics' New Sculptures


"Since we have been a conversation and have been able to hear from one another…" – this famous line by Hölderlin was the first thing that came to mind regarding Tamás Melkovics' sculptures. Martin Heidegger, in his renowned lectures on Hölderlin, highlights that artworks always draw both the creator and the observer into an ongoing dialogue. This is why viewers of Melkovics' works may feel that their true significance and weight come not from mere aestheticism and experimental form, but from a significant, yet unpretentious, ability or rather a desire to engage in dialogue with the immortals of sculptural tradition.

I deliberately didn't say pioneers, because as the world-renowned artist Agnes Denes mentioned in an interview: "Thinking of ourselves as being pioneers of something is retrograde thinking." Indeed, Melkovics is driven not by retrograde thinking but by a desire to join an ancient yet still vibrant conversation, which, if there is such a thing as a universal sculptural tradition, takes place among its greatest figures.

And since, as Heidegger reminds us, conversation is closely linked to listening, active silence, or attention and hearing the other – not merely as a consequence, but as a prerequisite or even a constitutive element of all dialogue – Melkovics' sculptures are imprints of such fruitful listening, as their creator truly listens to the greatest in this dialogue.

He sits in his sunlit studio overlooking the Danube, listening to ancient Babylonian and Egyptian stone carvers; the Greek culture stretching from Mycenae to Hellenism and then Roman continuation; concurrently, the entire pre-Columbian sculptural traditions, from Olmec, Zapotec, Maya, Toltec, Mixtec, Aztec, Moche, Inca, Amazonian, Paracas, Chimú, Nazca, Mississippi, to the Chaco cultures; the medieval and Renaissance cathedral-building Freemasons; the great moderns, such as Auguste Rodin, Henry Moore, Brancusi, Noguchi, Calder, Tony Cragg, Anthony Goldin, and the great Austrian Bruno Gironcoli.

Entering the midst of such a lofty conversation among such minds, it can be easy to find oneself struggling to speak meaningfully, despite having a head full of clever ideas. To succeed, one must first find their own tone and the autonomous position from which to dare to speak. This requires first identifying the subject matter, which in turn necessitates reduction.

Tamás Melkovics' large cast iron sculpture, Container Head (2024), on display here, is evidently filled with sculptural ideas and insights amassed over many years. However, the modular compositions and their large-scale drawn counterparts around the steel head are the results of a conscious and consistent, if you will, modernist rigor carried through a reductive creative approach.

As is well known, Alfred H. Barr, Jr., founding director of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, published a genealogical chart outlining the evolution of modern art in the catalog of the museum's seminal 1936 exhibition, Cubism and Abstract Art. In his teleological, rational narrative structure, Barr distinguishes between geometric abstract art and non-geometric, or as he puts it, "biomorphic" abstraction. He associates the former with intellect, rationality, and classicism, and the latter with intuition, mysticism, irrationality, or romanticism. This duality is also reflected in the use of forms, as biomorphic (organic) abstraction favors rounded, soft, and circular shapes, while geometric abstraction prefers sharp, straight, and angular forms.

I believe that Tamás Melkovics' sculptures can be linked to the tradition of biomorphic abstraction in modern art, while also engaging with the more rational, geometric trends, such as Constructivism, if such a dichotomy still holds any meaning. One could say that Melkovics strives for a productive synthesis of these two possible traditions, placing symbolic bridges between them with his modular sculptures.

The principle of modular construction that defines his large sculptures, whether made of aluminum or steel castings, or built from hand-carved limestone modules, leads us back to the metaphysical tradition that posits reality is built from unity-based linguistic, mathematical, physical, biological, and chemical structures that form various connections, relationships, and interdependencies. In this sense, his sculptures bear close kinship with theories of musical modularity or the science of semiotics, as for him, the interplay or combinatorics of formal units logically precedes the material – the form comes first, seeking the appropriate material, not the other way around.


He observes whether the material can bear the form.

If it can, he proceeds and tests this on increasingly larger scales. If not, he takes another path. This is why in Melkovics' art, high-end technology and the ancient sculptural instincts walk hand in hand. Thus, parametric design, 3D modeling, and printing coexist peacefully with the sculptural intuition cooperating with the gravity affecting both material and form.

Friedrich Nietzsche, in his famous work Thus Spoke Zarathustra, draws our attention to the fact that our intellect-driven, human-centric culture is also a head-centered culture. Nietzsche thus suggests that it would be best if homo sapiens, who stands upright from the horizontal plane of the earth to the sky of reason, instead stood on all fours or on their head. Tamás Melkovics contemplates even more radical considerations in his solo exhibition Waves of Chance, when he places a decapitated and scalped head at the exhibition's origin point. Perhaps the only more ruthless proposal is found in LUE (2024), a limestone and aluminum head sculpture hidden on a bookshelf, which, in the spirit of ancient, pre-modern animism, magically transforms a lifeless stone into a human head through sculptural magic.


Whether the more cruel act is the non-human gesture of beheading or the anthropocentrism of head formation, I leave it to you to decide, and with that, I hereby ceremoniously open the exhibition!

Opening speech by Zsolt Miklósvölgyi

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