Exhibition curator : Petr Krátký
Church of Saint Lawrence in Klatovy
29. 7. - 29. 10. 2023
Hungarian artist Erik Mátrai (*1977) graduated from the painting studio at the Hungarian Academy of Fine Arts in Budapest in 2004 and later earned a doctorate from the same school in 2013. In 2004, he attended Valencia Polytechnic University in Spain on a study exchange, and in 2006 he was presented the Derkovits Award, a Hungarian prize traditionally given to young artists under thirty-five. In 2007, he won the Márciusi ifjak Award, in 2009 he was made a member of the Hungarian Academy in Rome, and he has been a member of the renowned Young Artists’ Studio since 2011. Mátrai has participated in artist-in-residency programs in Frankfurt and New York and has taught at the Institute of Visual Art of Eszterházy Károly Catholic University in Eger, Hungary, since 2014. He was presented the Master of Light Award in 2017.
Erik Mátrai generally works with a broad range of media. His paintings and videos, which are inspired by themes from religion and the history of art, are made using the latest technologies and the tools of classical iconography. He is constantly experimenting with new materials and techniques and most frequently works with basic natural elements and phenomena such as symmetry, reflections, water, or fog, all with the goal of conveying an easily understood and pure message. His site-specific installations, in which he explores the connection between the artwork and space as such, are often situated in religious spaces or imbue their surroundings with transcendental meaning.
Erik Mátrai’s installation Rotational Ellipsoid was designed specifically for the interior of the Church of St. Lawrence in Klatovy. It consists of an ellipse, a shape that has long been a presence in his work. In this form, it represents a three-dimensional view of a circle. An ellipse is a basic geometric shape with two focal points that has been present in architecture since time immemorial but that spread immensely during the Baroque, when it gained significance as a central element in the era’s stylistic vocabulary.
Rounded shapes have appeared in Mátrai’s work on several previous occasions. The first time was in 2007 at Budapest’s Acb Gallery, when he created a sphere by attaching paper clips to thread hanging from the ceiling. In 2011 at the “Bad Church” in Eger, he exhibited a hemisphere measuring eight meters in diameter, which he reflected on the surface of two water basins installed on the floor. Reflected in the water, the hemisphere became a full sphere, and when visitors walked between the two bodies of water they found themselves at its very center.
In Klatovy, Mátrai works with the same theme, though without applying the natural laws of optics. Instead, he uses modern technology to produce the desired visual effect. The three-dimensional version of an inverted ellipse that he presents at the Baroque church in Klatovy is given a sense of mass thanks to the use of fluorescent paint and black light that serves to reflect individual points on the object and thus fill the exhibition space. As a result, the work – characterized by a strong emphasis on symmetrical composition inspired by the visual language of the Baroque – dominates the entire exhibition and enters into direct communication with the surrounding architecture.
The art of Erik Mátrai always stands out for his parallel use of manual and digital techniques. Though based on very simple ideas, his works have a stunning effect on the viewer. We become witnesses to the artist’s vision, which is presented to us as an illusion of reality shaped by the representation of visible reality and the depiction of images from the imagination. In this, his work differs from that of other contemporary artists who explore similar themes on the boundary between reality and illusion.
Erik Mátrai lives and works in Budapest.