For Marton Perlaki, less is more

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In the artist’s latest exhibition, Soft Corners at Trafo Gallery, Budapest, lightness and softness are central

“I gravitate towards vulnerability and fragility,” observes the Hungarian artist Márton Perlaki in reference to his exhibition Soft Corners at Trafo Gallery, Budapest, Hungary. Unfortunately, the physical show has now closed due to Covid-19, but the accompanying catalogue has just been released by Oui Non Editions. The exhibition’s title connotes this connection to ephemerality, as does the work within it. A melting ice cube, several bubbles; “metaphors for things that won’t last forever”.

Despite these playful references to fragility, a darker narrative of loss anchors the show. Perlaki’s father passed away, and the family’s dynamics shifted; the artist began the series in 2017 as a personal project to explore the “shift in his family’s life”. However, standard photography felt inadequate to explore the subject, and Perlaki turned to other mediums: charcoal drawings, photograms and luminograms. Soft Corners provides a window onto that experimentation: the exhibition is “an essence of the journey”.

© Marton Perlaki.

Despite, the deep subject-matter, the abstracted portraits, curious details, and strange still-lives, which populate the work, exude a certain lightness, or “softness” as Perlaki would describe it. Fluid lines, amorphous shapes, luminous colours compose the frames, and Perlaki succeeds at translating his editorial aesthetic into the realm of personal work. Self-portraits, photographs of his mother, and images evocative of non-verbal psychological tests and therapeutic tools from Perlaki’s childhood feature, but the artist refuses to be literal: the work is always somewhat abstract. The large-scale charcoal drawings titled Parents blend outlines of the faces of his mother and father. Minimal lines and block colours compose the pieces, which are simple yet vessels of much meaning and emotion. 

For Perlaki, creating the work was both therapeutic and exciting, and it resonated powerfully with visitors to the exhibition. Deriving from such complex emotions, but evolving into such simple forms, makes for powerful work; work, which feels deep but not prescriptive, allowing individuals to take what they want from it. “People interpreted things in different ways,” says Perlaki. “The reoccurring themes were there but took different forms depending on their own experiences.”

© Marton Perlaki.
© Marton Perlaki.

Soft Corners is on show at Trafo Gallery, Budapest, Hungary, which is currently closed due to Covid-19 but will reopen on 11 December 2020. The accompanying catalogue is available via Oui Non Editions. 

Hannah Abel-Hirsch

Hannah Abel-Hirsch joined British Journal of Photography in 2017, where she is currently Assistant Editor. Previously, she was an Editorial Assistant at Magnum Photos, and a Studio Assistant for Susan Meiselas and Mary Ellen Mark in New York. Before which, she completed a BA in History of Art at University College London. Her words have also appeared on Magnum Photos, 1000 Words, and in the Royal Academy of Arts magazine.