The representation of permanence and change in Gábor Szilasi’s images
21 • 04 • 02Gábor Szilasi
The possibilities of representing permanence and change have been the most salient interest of Gábort Szilasi for a very long time, whether he has photographed buildings or the streets and residents of Montréal. Systematically photographing Saint-Catherine Street twice, first in 1979, and then again twelve years later, was an enterprise with this kind of logic. The same question was addressed in the colour series he prepared for the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts’ 1990 Monet exhibition, for which he took photos of the painter’s garden in Giverny, with such details well-known from the paintings as the Japanese bridge.
Szilasi took his first photos in Hungary, and these early shots already show essential characteristics of his mature work. He studies people’s relationship to each other and their environment, with humanism and a fine sense of humour. His pictures have a painterly quality that is only surpassed by their documentary value. His assumption of a distinctively outsider position further enhances the objectivity of his images.
His series from the 1970s, which look at non-metropolitan Québec (Charlevoix, Beauce, Lotbiniere, Abitibi, Lac St-Jean), seek out and document, often with anthropological precision, the milieus of individuals. The same principle inspired his work in Greve, a small Italian village he visited in 1986.
In the 1970s he created a new form for the visual representation of his fascination with the individual and their surroundings, combining in a single image the black-and-white portrait and the colour photo of the room where the portrait was made. Throughout his career, he also made portraits of the figures of the art world, chiefly in Canada, but also in the US and Europe.