STREET ART: ZOLTÁN BOBOREKI-KOVÁCS

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When we visited Košice, Slovakia, a few years ago, we heard Hungarian spoken in the street, and on a walk in the hills encountered a family picnicking over a bogrács, a typical Hungarian cauldron. Košice was once Kassa, part of the kingdom of Hungary, and was one of the areas lost at Trianon after the First World War.

Public art can be an exciting introduction to a previously unfamiliar artist. The Story of the Old Kent Road introduced me to Adam Kossowski, and an unsigned cartoon in a river boat on the Danube opened to me the fascinating world of Pál Molnar-C. In Budapest a few weeks ago, I stopped to look at a heroic piece of relief sculpture (above) on a building in Károly körút, just opposite Deák Ferenc tér, which I took, from the modernity of the building and the style of the work, to be a piece of Socialist Realism celebrating Communist power and the harvest, a remnant of Hungary’s fifty years under Soviet rule. It was unsigned, and so I thought that this interesting and neglected bit of artistic flotsam, marred by modern graffiti, would forever remain a mystery to me.

However, when I posted a picture of it on Facebook, Peter Langh, who owns Gallery 567 in Budapest, told me that that artist was Zoltán Boboreki-Kovács and that the sculpture represented the annexation of Upper Hungary following the First Vienna Award – part of the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia and taking in Košice/Kassa. So, obviously not Socialist Realism. But its idealized figures, its juxtaposition of the maternal, the bucolic and the military, its strong faces and dramatic gestures, all indicate how similar nationalist art and communist art can be.

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Boboreki-Kovács (19007-92) trained at the Academy of Fine Arts, Budapest, and in Rome, and was associated with the Szolnok Artists’ Colony, where he became interested in sculpture. Wikipedia says of him that he created realist monumental sculptures, that his compositions were closed and block-like, and that his art was characterized by pure forms and folk styles. At first he worked in in stone, then switched to bronze and wood. He also created sculptures for buildings. He left Hungary for South Africa after the war and his heroic style changed under the influence of modernism, abstraction and African art. His Hungarian Calvary (1941)(above) in the Farkasrét Cemetery is still in the style of his Re-annexation tableaux (below).

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ALAN COLLINS

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The Angels of the Apocalypse sculpture on the Seventh Day Adventist European HQ in St Albans faces on to the main street of the town and its angular shapes are familiar to everyone. So familiar to me that, despite having lived there for years, I’d never bothered to find out anything about it.

It’s by Alan Collins, ARCA (1928-2016), an English religious artist who lived much of his life in the USA and who taught at Seventh Day Adventist universities. His sculptures in Guildford Cathedral, better known but less visible than his St Albans angels, won the Sir Otto Beit medal in 1964, and he made the lettering on the Kennedy memorial at Runnymede, a remarkable commission because he did not specialise in letter cutting.

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The Angels of the Apocalypse were made in 1965 in fibreglass for the Adventists’ building, a rare piece of

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modernist architecture in a conservation-conscious town more interested in its Roman, medieval and Victorian past than in the 20th century.

"ALTERNATIVE VISIONS", CHELTENHAM

Max Frances, Hidden

I was in Cheltenham at the weekend, exhibiting at Handmade in Britain in Cheltenham Town Hall, a well-chosen craft fair with very good quality work in all media. While I was there I went to The Wilson, Cheltenham’s museum and art gallery, which has a famous collection of Cotswolds Arts and Crafts, which I have wanted to see for a long time.

We caught The Wilson’s temporary exhibition “Alternative Visions: Undiscovered Art in the South West” just before it closed on Sunday. Several of the artists deal with physical or mental pain and their work is raw and sometimes difficult to look at. I was struck by the directness of their statements and the absence of artbollocks.

Sometimes they are witty too. I very much liked Max Frances’s statement attached to his sculpture “Hidden”, in which he said, “I am an artist made of wire, string and the bones of someone else I used to be. For me, creativity is as necessary as respiration. I fight my demons with pencils, and paint them into corners. Inspiration comes from nature and the magic and mystery to be found behind the banal mask of the everyday. All nature is precious, but I am especially fond of vultures. As a scavenger myself, I enjoy using found, recycled and unexpected (cheap) materials. I find beauty that is overlooked, ignored or disdained.”

GARCIA SANABRIA PARK, TENERIFE

The García Sanabria Park in Santa Cruz is a restful evergreen space made in honour of a city mayor, though the Rambla de Santa Cruz on which it stands, with its central avenue of shady trees, is restful enough. All paths in the park lead to a fountain monument, erected in 1938, conceived by architect José Enrique Marrero Regalado and designed and executed by sculptor Francisco Borges Salas.

On one side is a relief portrait of Sanabria, on the other, in the fountain pool, is a far-from-idealised female figure, Fecundity (above), who gives her name to the sculpture. On the third side is a figure representing Work, on the fourth, a nude male (below) that struck me because he holds a six-pointed star, a symbol not to be expected in a fascist country with no Jews (Franco began his rebellion in Tenerife), though in fact the star represents The Future.

“Fecundity” has had a chequered history. Long regarded as the most significant piece of public art in the Canary Islands, in 1950 it was condemned as immoral and removed from the park until 1970. It is thought that the censorship was a cover for jealousy of Salas by influential colleagues.