Ernő Bartha’s being a sculptor doesn’t, not even in the least, answer to any attempt of providing a reasonable classification for his work. In his case, this originates in the unreasonable character of the very attempt to classify. If we follow a perfectly natural urge to avoid confusion (as the lack of identification is a major source for restlessness and frustration) and call him by the vague and completely unimaginative name of visual artist, we will once again bump into a sudden sense of fiasco, because helpless as it is, the syntagm will crush at first contact with any of his works. Consequently we might just leave it at that, abandoning the Carthesian spirit for a while somewhere in a slightly promiscuous, melancholy arena, ridden with the spirit of pedantry. This is it, Ernő Bartha resists classification, not because this is something he had in mind, and not even because the poor looker-on would lack the skills to perform the operation, but simply because the artist was disturbingly inspired to desert consecrated genres and what is even more disturbing, he refrained from entering a linguistic fiction of the kind, victims of identity crises use to camouflage the void. And still, there is something at the core, something so present, so live and so significant, that on a possible evolutional spiral, where the present moment is defined as a collision between past and future, this something would surely take a position beside, understood within an archaic, more precisely within a non-historic concept, resented by many because of its remote nature – actually that of creator. Dated and romantic as it may sound, the looker-on has no guilt at all in the fact that Ernő Bartha is actually a creator. Meaning that he acts, he produces, he continuously is in the middle of an epiphany, always giving form to something, to a sense of weightlessness, to an idea, a feeling, an instant of transcendence. Then what to call him, if not, simply, a creator? I mean – because my words have rushed ahead of my thoughts – a creator, but not simply, not purely that. First, because no creator is pure, only angels and the sterile are pure. Him, the creator, leads an ambiguous life, stands at the crossroads, wrestles with promiscuity and amorphous things, with the entrails of matter and the excretion of imagination, with the rigidity and stubbornness but also with the transparency of vision, with the rare smile cast by a vague possibility. The creator is not pure, a sort of priapism haunts him, he is in a continuous and painful state of erection, he then trods, as a satyr, across sublunary realms, across wet regions of the world, where matter is mellow and light, where thoughts are swift and fragile.
Second, a creator is never simple, as he is – and I am not going to say complicated, not even if I am perfectly in the right, because this is too predictable and everyone expects it – so he isn’t simple because he elaborates and emits messages, in other words he is a carrier and provider of sense, engaged in a major act of communication and this is far from being simple: it is complex, well, complicated, if you will. And the creator is something else, too, an apophatic thing, namely whatever that he is not. He is not a clown, for instance, he does not make a show of himself in the street, makes no photographs of himself sticking his tongue out or taking his pants off, he is not hunting for plastic bottles to parade as an ecologist – the creator meditates, warns, judges and punishes. Sometimes he does it in a gentle, sarcastic or ironic mood, at other times in a vituperous, impulsive manner.

So it happens, that even if Ernő Bartha produces genre-specific, tri-dimensional sculptures, using the most varied palette of raw material, he is not, as I have said, actually a sculptor, not like any other sculptor, in any case. Simultaneously playful and stern, dynamic and meditative, a mime with a moustache, a hussar with a lost gaze, or an Austro-Hungarian gendarme stricken by thoughts – Bartha basically is a creator of mental images, he stores internal forms which he later, giving in to pressure, places against the landscape outside. Once out in the open, these inner aggregates are looking for a place under the sun, they pretend to be objects and have a huge skill in behaving like the most diverse set of substances.

Frozen movement,
cosmic dance,
huge gastropods,
dissimilating their lubricity as weightless fossils,
women of bronze,
their skin trembling under the gentle and baroque
moves of fingers engaged in a Rodinesque sway,
portraits of stone,
of a Greek beauty,
women of grass,
with tiny breasts and exaggerated buttocks,
towards which phallic cannons aim,
heralding great cannonades
with their open mouth,
the great show of matter, that of the elements –
- the fire of bronze,
the chthonic nature of stone,
the silky fluidity of grass
and the ethereal vibrations of the dance
of the overall state of flight and levitation -
- this is how, like a chance poem,
the things Ernő Bartha offers out of a shyness related to not appearing as too vulnerable in our eyes filled to the brim with prejudice and stereotypes, settle in the form of sculpture.

Actually he re-creates, with an undeniably erotic quality of his touch, the elementary world, he reinvents the cosmic sensation, dreams on a megalithic scale, breathes, hesiodically, the emanations of the earth and throws grass skyward. Nevertheless the joy of vitality in the open air, the jubilation of an ample gesture, the ritual-like performance enacted on a scene framed by hills, the horizon and whimsical clouds, are not mere interjections, sounds or hasty sentences of a single person who has regained his liberty, and nothing more. They are, implicitly, an en-garde, a punishment for our failure in living a full life, for our hypocrisy in existing at the comfortable limit of precariousness. In the middle of a generous and open Cosmos, next to the vitality of being and a step away from the gates of revelation, we are leading a mechanical life, puffing like steam-engines, breathing stereotypes without ever tasting fresh air, we pass in disciplined lines, yet alone, behind the bars we reinforce by ourselves each and every minute. This is what TVmania is all about, from the viewpoint of discourse and morality, while on another
level, on that of the ability to dream, to imagine, to construct and exorcize, to find joy in melancholy with a trace of sadness and a vague feeling of the uselessness of the excess of civilization, Ernő Bartha has limitless possibilities. Because while the sculptor or any other artist, quietly settled within a single genre and a certain material, with a vision through which the essence of objects exceeds and eliminates inner form, has a narrow horizon and limited space, the creator, the one that fertilizes reality with his avalanching inner forms ready to produce hypostasis in any material, perceives everything as limitless and possible. And then one can cuddle, just like inside a protective aura, with rather a mystical vibration than any sense of exhibition, in one’s own hair, suddenly overgrown, the way it had only happened to Absalom and Samson, and one can sit, legs crossed like yoga, a Buddha withered and covered in leafage, on the rooftop of the world near Cluj, because, happily enough one has got plenty to see...
...I hope these are the same things that I, your chance visitor on a splendid summer day, accompanied by Vlad Ciobanu and Copel Moscu, am trying now to speak about...

PAVEL SUSARA, 2010 - View from the Rooftop of the World


The artist Ernő Bartha, born in Cluj, lives in the vicinity of his native town, in the village Vlaha. I paid him a visit a few years ago. I remember us sitting in a place called The Rose Garden, having a few drinks, eating freshwater trout while birds in splendid attires kept quiet above us, kittens played in the dust and I was thinking “this must be Paradise”. I rarely think like this and even more rarely utter such words, nevertheless that place somehow tricked them out of me. It did so because The Rose Garden sat in such quiet peacefulness of which us, urban citizens of the world (born in villages, of course) can lately gain information only based on certain cheap and supposedly kitschy flea-market paintings.
Consequently Ernő Bartha lives in the middle of such an idealistic painting, and instead of going hunting, fishing, picking flowers or taking the dog out, he spends his time re-designing old television sets. He does not meddle with them in order to mend them – he approaches them from the position of the artist, the sculptor, more precisely. Because, in terms of a profession, Ernő Bartha is a sculptor, as anybody can quickly figure it out, and not just any sculptor. His main domains are those of organic, archaic bronze statuettes and similarly fashioned huge statues, made of hay. I must add that despite the almost similar set of forms and motives employed in the two fields, we still have to speak of two different paths and two different attitudes. Whereas the small bronze statuettes only reach their effect in closed and possibly neutral spaces, while their looker-on would do best to use the magnifying glass, the hay statues tower high over the viewer, inviting us to pass beneath them while they engage in a dialogue not only with us, tiny people, but with the hills and peaks close to Paradise, with the trees and bushes around it, with the clouds above. They only argue when they are placed in urban surroundings: I remember them being exhibited in the Budapest Millenáris Park in 2008 – they simply poked fun at the matchbox-houses in their vicinity. I saw works of this type in Vlaha, in miniature size and made of antiquated bronze, in a surroundings that resembled a blacksmith’s workshop or a shop at the flea-market. This is already the studio of Ernő Bartha, where besides these small statuettes of a dry humor I spotted some strange objects that looked as if they had tried to become television sets and changed their mind at some point in time to become something else – something different each time: a bird’s cage, a stool, a stand for flowers or even a bookshelf. These were works of art as well, as I had found out, things of unexpected function, statues, or simply objects, if you will. They were urban objects, too urban in a space torn out of the Garden of Eden. Awesome, I thought, and I encouraged Ernő Bartha to try further variations of the theme and to create television objects for an entire exhibition. I was curious what might the television become in such a place, in the very middle of Paradise. (...)

ZOLTÁN SEBŐK, 2009 - Television as a Medium. Objects bye Ernő Bartha - (detail)

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