Czabán’s Raw Magic of Budapest

Twenty uniquely exciting works multi-layered in cultural identity by photographer György Czabán are exhibited at the gallery Studio BaseArt and Photography in Utrecht.

Good photography has the power and magic to take you onto a trip into new spheres, worlds and depths. Hungary can be regarded as a truly lucky country in this sense, since it has given the world of photography such masters as Brassaï, Capa, Kertész, Moholy-Nagy and Munkácsi. But can great talent be a misfortune?  Hungarian writer Arthur Koestler said: "Hungarians are the only people in Europe without racial or linguistic relatives… therefore they are the loneliest on this continent. This perhaps explains the peculiar intensity of their existence… hopeless solitude feeds their creativity."

And this solitude gives power through hunger for work to the photographers of present time too, so talents like those of the big ancestors arise again. György Czabán is definitely one of them, whose strong lyric photographic language results in making alive a world of strong epic storytelling about the world he comes from. Maybe it would even make more sense to relate his pictures to the worlds of novelists like Kerouac, Bukowski, Henry Miller or Ginsberg, while also to the frantic worlds of free jazz, avantgarde film or multi-media arts, than to that of the photography.

The most interesting and important direction of his photographic activity is the one that records the both authentic and special scenes of urban spaces in Budapest presenting the clashes of attitudes, identities and opinions of the city. On his works hydrants, scuplture details, abandoned houses, cardboard figures, ruined stairs, people, dolls, and the most different objects forgotten on the scene make up the very special character of the city with unique freshness, punctuality and depth. Historic city places, moods, devastations and funny scenes mingle with the present day’s speed, simplicity, sloppyness, colours and power. A Jesus-statue embraces an armed soldier, huge female lips stand forgotten on the top of a socialist building, ruined stairs show the nice wrinckles of centuries and people constantly on the move trying to make their homes on the bleak and find themselves finally in Paradise at their small and ruined bars, cafés, pubs.

The civil tradition, the spas, the temples, the public sculptures, the nice streets, the cobbled pavements quote the past that embraces the graffities, the scratchities, the mistakes, the forgotten pieces of concrete and paint, tiles and any kind of junk of the present through Czabán’s lense of untouched originality.  Like if the collected and found music fragments of Bartók would mix within the frames of a huge jam session with the graffities, drawings, signs, etchies by Banksy in an elevating and funny, yet at the same critical visual language using strong metaphors.

The exhibition is titled Budapest from Bartók to Banksy because György Czabán’s world is really just like that. Since he is a truly big adventurer and traveller, who looks through the glasses of tradition seeking always for something new that he finds and discovers frequently to pick up and show to us, to pick up and save for the time to come. His uniquely coloureful, exciting and easy serie of Budapest proves the wit, playfulness and profound experience of a Buddha on one hand, and an always unpredictable, exprerimenting and stunning unknown guide’s first class diary on the other.

We should be really glad that this small country sends so many talented eyes that see the essence of our world through their lenses and show it to us. If you wish to take a good trip into the very middle of it, have a look at György Czabán’s show. I bet you won’t regret it!

Boris Steinberg


György Czabán was born in Budapest in 1957. In 1989 he graduated as economist at the Budapest University of Economy.

Had numerous great solo exhibitions of photos in Hungary. Some of his most loved pics have been made into hyperrealist paintings. Six huge albums have been made up of his photo-series, one of them presenting the Budapest serie.

Has directed seven movies, fourteen television films and loads of documentaries and short films. Founder and leader of the Közgáz Vizuális Brigád independent film studio, founder and manager for long years of the first avantgarde jazz club in Hungary. Editor and presenter of the leading independent cultural radio station in Hungary, the Tilos Rádió.