Words by Claudia Bigongiari
All images © Marton Perlaki
Marton Perlaki (1982) is a visual artist native from Budapest and currently based in London.
Before approaching photography he used to draw, something that will always be part of his practice.
When he got admitted to high school he had to take up religious studies as his major since the school got freshly taken over by the Catholic church. More than curiosity, it was the disappointment regarding the Catholic studies along with the suggestion of a friend that made Marton try an after school course of general photography. On first impression he didn’t really fit in, distracted by all the technical procedures. But then “what really got me hooked into photography was the dark room process, the magical aspect of seeing a black and white image appearing on the paper” he said laughing and thinking he sounds a little too sentimental.
After high school, Marton studied photojournalism, which allowed him to understood pretty quickly that he didn’t want to become a journalist but he would never stop photographing. He became a fan of Diane Arbus and Richard Avedon and started taking pictures, portraits of whomever was available, friends, family… He was also attracted to music (a passion that came from his mother, classical violinist), cinema and theatre.
The Budapest University of Theatre and Film Arts was, in fact, the next step in his education, where he graduated in 2011. He hasn’t dedicated his time to moving images ever since but studying there he learned what he calls ‘a sensibility to technical precision’.
The precision on lighting and framing is an element in Perlaki’s work as much as the suggestive non linear story telling.
His visions can be considered something close to collages, where fragmented elements (small details, one wrinkled hand, a piece of leg or face) create together a new whole, a new result, where nothing is permanent but vulnerable, leaving room for interpretation.
The feeling is that Marton Perlaki’s images are made of a multilayer and levels of meanings, unusual photographs where the drawing-like lines and abstractions open the gates to the curiosity of discovering them. At a first gaze everything seems disconnected, but then you find the thread and all the connections and meanings are just under the surface.
Soft Corners is a group of works exhibited at the Trafò gallery (Budapest) in 2020 where drawing finally takes its seat back in Perlaki’s practice. Gestures and transformations are fundamental to understand the numerous images collected since 2018 with a different and way more personal purpose. It started as a project about identity, his family structures and dynamics, especially focusing on the change after the passing of Marton’s father. As well as the dynamics, the internal roles changed. ‘I was very much interested in my place in this changed family structure’.
He took portraits until he decided that photographs alone weren’t enough to depict the frailty and vulnerability of that period of his familiar situation.
He turned instead to drawing: there are three enlarged drawings in Soft Corners, images of Marton’s mother and father’s faces, one upon the other. Minimal lines replace the multitude of portraits, as if he was removing what became superfluous and seeing only the essential. Putting away photography for a little while let him open up to new perspectives.
He went back to the dark room and started working on photograms and light drawings, again lines and gestures were controlling the space. In the darkness and solitude the photographer was looking for ‘a delicate balance between intention and accident’, where everything is suspended into that multilayer of possibilities.
Same condition for the few figurative images, a melting ice cube, bubbles, butterflies: things that show themselves in a temporary balance right before disappearing somewhere you can only suggest the multiple endings of the storytelling.
Representation connects with abstraction and Soft Corners becomes a group of visual conclusions about identity and relationships and transformation.
The title of the show at the Trafò gallery comes from the picture of a green stairwell corner where you can see only the lines meeting, just a couple of essential strokes. It could be at Marton’s family house, maybe it has some particular affective meaning, or perhaps not. Rethinking about Marton’s affection to music, you can consider photography not so far from music: it moves you emotionally, without even knowing every detail, without following the lines, but only feeling the sense of catharsis it provokes.