Akos Birkas


Akos Birkas (born in 1941, deceased in 2018) studied painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Budapest from 1959 through 1965. His abstract portraits are reckoned among the most significant artworks by Hungarian artists since the 1970s.
His works are based on newspaper photographs from the daily press collected over a long period of time. In these he observes political, social topics and considering the further editing of photography as a reflection of societal events.
In his paintings he wants to figure out the arranged truth of the mediatized pictures. The painting supports the establishment of the truth, which is related to the slow development process of painting; in a way he is retaining, preserving a moment of the fast media-world.
Very characteristic for his work are the large-size and the expressive colour structure. The paintings open up the viewer electric atmosphere, carefully arranged scenes, where everyday situations, out of political events are treated.


The Hungarian painter and photographer died in 2018 at the age of 76. As gallery we represented his work since the early 1990s. Birkás, who was born in Budapest on October 26, 1941 and studied painting at the Academy of Arts from 1959 to 1965, is best known for his "Heads" series. From the mid-1980s to the late 1990s, he created nearly 200 of these abstract oval head shapes. They are a symbolic condensation of the human face, as Alexej von Jawlensky also developed with his "Meditations," "Abstract Heads" and "Savior's Faces." What Birkás appreciated most about this form of representation was the "pathos" and the "metaphysical" that could be put into abstract painting.

With these existentially deeply felt portraits and self-portraits, Birkás attempted to escape the prescribed realism of the academy. Between 1970 and 1979 he devoted himself to conceptual photography. He created photographic self-portraits that were not without self-irony. With this medium he also took a look at the art world and thematized the museum and the person in the museum. In his more recent paintings, he increasingly resorted to realistic design principles. However, his portraits of people did not want to correspond to photography's claim to reality. Instead, Ákos Birkás combined two canvases, each with one half of the face of different people. The new face, however, did not prove to be a homogeneous whole, but irritated by slight deviations. On large-format canvases, he also treated people in everyday situations or social problems, such as the growing migration movement as early as the mid-2000s, as a takeover of images from international magazines.

From 1966 to 1984 Ákos Birkás taught at the College of Fine and Applied Arts in Budapest. After the fall of communism in the Eastern Bloc, teaching assignments followed as a professor at the summer academies in Salzburg and La Gomera on Tenerife, as well as at the École Nationale des Beaux-Arts in Dijon. Scholarships took him to Schloss Wiepersdorf in Brandenburg, to Berlin or to the Villa Concordia in Bamberg. In 1986 he took part in the 42nd Venice Biennale and furnished the Hungarian pavilion. In 2006, the Ludwig Múzeum in Budapest presented a first retrospective of his works.


Altmann, Susanne: Im Wandel, Januar 2017