Mucsarnok / Kunsthalle, Budapest, Hungary
My first visit to Budapest was when my brother Webber and I drove a mini from the UK to India from 1969-70. In 2016 the beautiful 19th century inner city buildings were much the same, apart from some wear and tear no doubt in part from the Russian occupation, with the last troops being withdrawn on June 19, 1991.
My return was triggered by an invitation to create a work for the major exhibition Small Gestures | Nature Alliance | Eco-avantgarde.
Leading international artists working closely with nature were invited, and, in addition, for the first time offered an in-depth look at the development of this movement in Hungary.
As is my usual practice, I chose to make a new work with no preconceived ideas before arriving. Immediate work was carried out researching geology, geomorphology, flora, fauna and social history of the wider Budapest district. Wonderfully, a Kunsthalle staff member knew of a nearby very old working quarry, Budakalaszi Kobanya, having been mined since Roman times. An incredibly rough and dusty track led to this ancient quarry where I was met by the owner, dressed immaculately in white. Superb 2-3 metre long off cuts showing the natural surface were selected – a terrazza type marble.
This was to be a living sculpture inspired by the concentric radiating gills of fungi – the gills represented by radiating stone shards and the organic matter, food for fungi, being segments of a log of acacia wood retrieved from a fallen tree dumped in the local council parks and gardens yard.
Limestone Acacia was installed in the gallery during the exhibition and, following the show, reinstalled in the splendid grounds and fledgling art and nature sculpture park of Nadasdy Castle (about 3 hours away). Fungi is now doing its magic, consuming the wood and setting the stone shards in motion earthward bound, albeit very slowly, to one day stand radiating on the ground like symbolic ‘gills’.