Here and now – among the threads of timelessness

Weaving is an ancient profession. The richness of its technique, its inexhaustible variety is part of the cultural heritage of mankind. A significant artistic genre of the cultural history of art is tapestry. which redefined this technique and elevated it to art. Tapestry art on the border of fine arts and applied arts involves both the demand for message transfer by images and the endless repository of special technical possibilities of threads and weaving by hand. Tapestry is a unique and sovereign, timeless genre spanning over periods in the history of European art. It is still alive and changes; it is a uniqe representative of the art of the 20th and 21th century with its renewed values of forms and content. The technical characteristics, the individual approach of local features open exciting dimensions.

Hungarian Tapestry Art has formed its own character following the traditions of French manufacturers. Outstanding personalities of the Hungarian tapestry art, spanning over more than 100 years and involving several workshops, are Noémi Ferenczy, Leo Belmonte, György Kóródi; we could list the important names of this artistic genre. All of them learnt the determining basics of their profession in Paris.

Noémi Ferenczy set the roots of the still living approach of Hungarian tapestry art, based on her example craftwork developed into a separate artistic genre which can be synthesized in a special unity and performed individually. It marked the route which the Hungarian tapestry artists working in their own workshops has been following since then: the long, creative process, sometimes lasting for 1-2 years, whose phases – from planning, drawing through the selection of threads to weaving – are the results of a conscious creative consonance. The richness of the texture can express almost everything in the artist’s hand. The uniqueness of the timeless genre of tapestry art involves that the process of the creation of tapestries still preserves the traditions of several hundred years in our fast changing world concentrating on instant results.

The Association of Hungarian Tapestry Artists aims at the synthesis of the many-threaded heritage of this art, continuing the creative practice of the unity of planning, drawing, manufacturing-weaving. Making large tapestries gives the possibility to create something together, to merge the creators’ autonomy with the humility stemming from the joint work.

The ‘adoption’ of the more than 100-year old weaving chairs, which are suitable for realizing large tapestries and teaching this genre on an academic level gave a unique tradition-preserving role for the community.

The creative approach of the jointly made monumental tapestries with renewing intentions about national holidays, prominent figures of our history and cultural history can be linked to the Artists’ camp in Gödöllő, the spirit of Artúr Lakatos and his drawing school, to the Greco workshop and the tradition of Hungarian Gobelin workshop; at the same time the artistic tradition of Noémi Ferenczy and Károly Plesznivy school – through their students – continues in the artists’ community of the Association.

Through the years the Association of Hungarian Tapestry Artists has become an artistic association with more than 80 members and it has united and represented tapestry artists living in Hungary and abroad since its foundation, to which a long road led. The first professional organization of the history of Hungarian tapestry, dedicated to professionalism, was the Gobelin14 Group founded by Jolán Fett in the 1980s.

(Hajnal Baráth , Ildikó Gyímesi, Beáta Hauser, Erzsébet Katona Szabó, Eszter Kneisz, Péter Balázs Kovács, Anna Kubinyi, Ida Lencsés, Éva Nyerges, Tamás Oláh, Zsuzsa Örsi, Eleonóra Pasqualetti, Éva Penkala, Flóra Remsey, Katalin Zelenák, since 1987- Edit Balog)

During the time of transition Rózsa Polgár, having moved back to Hungary from Switzerland, the leader of the Textile Class of the Association of Hungarian Fine and Applied Artists significantly contributed to the new thematic concepts of the genre of tapestry. The tapestry inspired by the Hymn made by the eight artists (Beáta Hauser, Ibolya Hegyi, Ágnes Kecskés, Judit Nagy, Lívia Pápai, Zsuzsa Péreli, Rózsa Polgár és Gizella Solti), called upon in the spirit of national renewal, gave a new impetus to this genre.

In the spirit of joint creative work in 1995-96 nearly 50 artists encouraged by Rózsa Polgár, Ágnes Kecskés, Katalin Martos, Éva Nyerges and Tamás Oláh made their first joint monumental artwork entitled Tapestry without borders consisting of seventy-eight tapestry squares in their own workshop. Quoting Judit Jóry, art historian’s words „it is not only a noble contribution to the celebrations of the millecentenary, a tribute to the 1100-year presence in the Carpathian Basin, but it is a collective millennial message of a handful of Hungarian tapestry artists in Europe ‘without borders’”. The woven tapestry squares were edited and sewed together by Hajnal Baráth. The artwork received the grand prize of the 14th Textile Biennial in Szombathely. The professional devotion of the artists and their common donation formed the Association of Hungarian Tapestry Artists in 1996 under the leadership of Ildikó Dobrányi, president and Ida Lencsés and Erzsébet Szabó vice presidents. The Tapestry Workshop of Budavár was formed soon under the protection of the association. The Gobelin workshop of the state-owned Applied Arts company got into a difficult situation by the end of the 1990s. The large weaving chairs and the heritage of the workshop was saved from demolition for the Budavári workshop of the association by Ildikó Dobrányi. This example of professional and human cooperation made it possible to create the second joint tapestry on the occasion of the Millenia, the 18 sqm Saint Stephen and his work in 1999-2000, and between 2003 and 2006 the third artwork, the 20 sqm Corvin Tapestries, which consist of three parts and is placed in the exhibition area of the Szechenyi Library National Memorial Place.

Ildikó Dobrányi and Ágnes Kecskés started to make an exhibition for emphasizing the references of the genre to fine arts and giving an overall picture about it, when they encouraged to create an international exhibition on tapestry complying with the exhibition philosophy of the Museum of Fine Arts. The international tapestry exhibitions entitled Tapestry I and Tapestry II in 2000 and 2005, organized together with the Museum of Fine Arts belong to Ildikó Dobrányi’s invaluable merits during her 10-year activities as a leader. Ibolya Hegyi had a significant role in the organization of the event, which belong to the top ones in the world, and to which Lívia Pápai’s and Marika Száraz’ contribution was also substantial.

The Association of Hungarian Tapestry Artists has already been the participant and the organizer of nearly one hundred international and national exhibitions. The most important exhibitions were the exhibition in the Textile Museum in Washington in 2001, the exhibition in UN headquarters in Geneva in 2002, the exhibition in Ceri in Italy on the occasion of Hungarian Cultural Year in the same year, then in 2005 in Vancouver and in 2011 in the headquarters of European Council in Strasbourg and the exhibition organized for the celebration of the 100-year Culture Palace in Târgu Mureș. The Association organized an exhibition entitled Transcendental maps on its 15-year jubilee in the Museum of Applied Arts in 2011, where artworks made jointly by sixty artists were on display. The aim of the Weaving codes exhibition in 2013 in the French Institute in Budapest was to present a wide selection of individual artworks. Renaissance spectacles, Years and Colours, Silver lights, Light celebration,4th Tapestry Art Triennial, Limes and we could also list the collective exhibitions presenting jointly made artworks.

Ildikó Dobrányi’s illness and her death in 2006 meant a significant loss for this genre. The serious financial burdens inherited by the members, the ‘homelessness’ caused by the liquidation of the registered office seemed insolvable tasks which led to serious crisis in the organization. In this difficult situation Ida Lencsés, the former vice president took over the role of the president, Ibolya Hegyi, vice president left the Association and she founded the Ildikó Dobrányi foundation as a tribute to her. Edit Balog, vice president managed to find a new registered office in the 11th district in the autumn of 2008. The membership wove their fourth collective artwork entitled The Lights of Europe in honour of the Hungarian presidency of the European Union in this small workshop in 2010-2011. Between 2010 and 2011 the honorary president of the Association was Rózsa Polgár, and Ida Lencsés worked as a managing president, since 2011 the Association has been working with Edit Balog as president and Ida Lencsés and Indira Máder as vice presidents. In 2011-2012 the 9 sqm tapestry, Duna Limes was made. It won the grand prize of Pelso 2013 – 9th National Ceramic and Gobelin Biennial. Among thematic tapestries narrative composition is typical of the sixth joint artwork in 2013-2014 evoking Petőfi’s life entitled ‘Fragments of the Whole, the Whole of the Fragments‘. It is also typical of the seventh artwork, the Radnóti memorial tapestry, which was made in 2014-2015.

A unique achievement of the Association of the Hungarian Tapestry Artists is jointly made seven large artworks. It is without example that sovereign artists incorporate their styles, messages, their ‘personal language of weaving’ in jointly weaving large tapestries. Hungarian artists living in Switzerland, France, Belgium and Romania worked together on these artworks. The artworks jointly made by the Association can be linked to the genre of historical tapestries. They are great treasures which are unrepeatable rich compositions of artistic self-expression thanks to the extraordinarily great number (compared to the world) of Hungarian artists.

Edit Balog, president
on behalf of the presidency of the Association of Hungarian Tapestry Artists