Young artist achieving performance through boxing
Szilard Gaspar is a skilful young sculptor and a brilliant performance artist from the Cluj School of Art, Romania; born in 1991, the artist is also a most promising young professional boxer, successfully representing Romania in many different international sport competitions. His specific boxing abilities allow Szilard Gaspar to pursue a very special conceptual approach in performance art, since the leading theme in the artist’s research is at this moment the nature of the struggle between human power and matter; thus, his sportive talent enriches Szilard Gaspar’s research from both a spectacular and a credible perspective.
Szilard Gaspar has been fighting against boxing bags made out of clay during his last two performances, in October 2014 at Bazis contemporary art space in Cluj Napoca, Romania and, again in December 2014 in Budapest, during a performance match organized by Flash Art Hungary. (Adina Zorzini)
Szilard Gaspar’s “First Museum Show” is a spectacular conclusion and a thrilling promise. Featuring a diversity of artistic media, from sculpture and installation to video, from performance to photography, the show is nevertheless tightly coherent and unified by a certain dominant atmosphere and by the particular attitude towards art making in which all the exhibited works are rooted.
Having serious experience as boxer and being an academically trained, visual artist, Gaspar has reached the point in his artistic development where he can be considered a mature, although really unusual sculptor and performer. He is not merely sculpting, modelling or casting; impressively and daringly, he is performing sculpture. His performative interactions with clay can be easily misunderstood by anyone who has no basic representation of the nature of fight sports and / or refuses to take into consideration the intensely educated talent and the exquisite physical and mental precision they actually require, when performed at advanced levels.
Gaspar’s art fits well in the history of performance art, which is saturated with artists expressing themselves in dynamic manners, via actions that often connote aggressiveness, exaltation or display some liberating emotional outburst. But such performances, even when they require endurance, for example, are still almost always unskilled or de-skilled in some sense, except for the cases in which some sort of professional performers (actors, dancers) are involved. To the contrary, Gaspar’s stake is to displace and re-contextualize solid, highly specific skills, to make boxing skills, moves and specific beauty migrate into the realm of art, without simplification or compromise, and to be deployed for expressing new meanings. His aim is not to exuberantly let emotions out, but to precisely master physical explosiveness and body dynamics, in order to meet aesthetic ends. This is no second rate, care-free therapy of sorts; this is about mind and body being conjugated in a strenuous effort aimed at making inert matter yield into providing meaning.
Literally and culturally, the boxing ring is concomitantly an object, a place and a visual metaphor. It hosts and symbolizes overcoming fears, pushing the limits, confronting an adversary, but, more importantly, adversity as such. It provides and represents the limitations that human beings can use and most likely need, in order to activate, to manifest their potential, to bring into actual existence more than they are normally capable of, to really know themselves. The sculptural objects in the exhibition pertain to this semantic realm, they allude to effort and pain, as well as to the meaningfulness of overcoming them. The exhibited photographic images are related to his dynamic performances, but they do not merely document them, but also bring into existence new dimensions of their aesthetic potential. They are at the same time elegantly painterly and tactilely sculptural, testimonies of dynamic actions and arresting images in themselves; the large sized images possess a monumental quality that tensely enhance their inherent, visual finesse.
Objects and images conceptually and visually work together in an exhibition that is ultimately a well-rounded embodiment of a process, of a contiguous series of creative acts. “Flow state describes the mental state of someone who is fully immersed in a specific activity, being almost completely oblivious of all the rest of reality. Flow is a state of concentration and energetic engagement, however, one in which the person enjoys what he or she is doing to the point of losing track of time, as well as interest for anything else, other than the performed activity, which he or she considers important and deeply meaningful. “Flow State. Betuker / Gaspar” brings together two artists for whom working in manners that presuppose a full immersion in the process of making art is utterly important, although their approaches are as different as one could imagine: if Betuker Istvan roots his art in a very focused and personal practice of painting, Gaspar Szilard draws on his experience as a boxer to dynamize his use of sculptural materials. The exhibition features a diverse array of artistic media: from painting to sculpture, from photography to performance.
The art on display looks deceivingly effortless and unsophisticated. There are simple topics and even traditional genres here, accompanied by simple actions, by a particular dynamism exerted upon traditionally “artistic” materials. The spectacular quality of simplicity is the main takeaway, as one is reminded that good art’s simplicity (like that of sports or craftsmanship) is born out of sophisticated mastery of skill and that its elegance doesn’t need to appear complicated, in order to be acknowledged.”
– Bogdan Iacob, curator