Attila Bartis – Old and Recent Work (2014–2019)
21 • 02 • 21Zsolt Petrányi
Both a writer and photographer, Attila Bartis depicts the world, his world, with concepts, stories and images at the same time. He represents the most classic approach to photography. He believes in the importance of choosing the right technique and materials, in subtlety, the need for expertise—even though he could rely on automatic settings. In the same vein, he believes in the abstractive power of black-and-white, the transcendence of light, the metaphysical meaning of shadows. His images are informed by classic compositional principles, known from art history—they are well-balanced, as if everyday reality were gracious enough to offer the kind of moments, the type of order, that corresponds to the carefully designed works of painting.
Though most of the photos are related to the island of Java, where Bartis has lived and worked in recent years, alongside Budapest, they are not documentarian in any regard. For him, that distant world is not an exotic scene he can show as a curiosity when he returns home, but a space where he can experience the pure values of life. There he finds a way of life and mentality that have all but disappeared in Europe; there nature and man exist in a proximity that still manifests the original, overwhelming power of mysticism.
If you have known the creator of these works only as the author of internationally praised novels (The Walk; Tranquillity; The End), you will probably also search these images for sentences. For something that can be said. For the story. Instead, these photographs will appear to have been created, intentionally, to deny articulation. Their essence is unspeakable. Words fall short of accurately communicating the visible combinations of things and lights.
Bartis releases the viewer from the constraint of analytical thinking, and encourages you to consider life, your own life, from a viewpoint that is somehow visceral, impossible to describe in reasonable terms—one that yearns for transcendence. This change of perspective is what really inspires Bartis to work with images instead of words. This is what charges his photography with energy. Doing without colour is not a form of archaization, photographic nostalgia, an attempt to depart from empirical reality—instead, it offers the possibility of focusing. Black-and-white reveals details you do not normally experience, lines and contrasts, lights and shadows, that suggest the world we live in has been created by a force that is impossible to comprehend and describe—a world that is consequently best compared to a perfect work of art.