About the objects of the poly-dimensional Universe

by Géza Perneczky

János Szász Saxon’s nearly twenty-five-year-old artistic work focuses on panel-like compositions which he calls poly-dimensional fields. In this context ‘poly-dimensional’ does not mean transgressing the usual three-dimensional world and entering a space of four or five or even more dimensions. It simply means that in Saxon’s paintings one form is repeated in a smaller or bigger scale – as he defines it, in a smaller or bigger dimension – what is more, the composition is made up of repetitions of the basic form in smaller or bigger scales.

However, Saxon’s paintings have more than a simple repetition: the strict logic of it. When, for instance, we start to diminish the basic shape in a 1:3 proportion, we must keep to this scale in the further process as well. Moreover, we have to observe the rule of theoretically maintaining the 1:3 proportion in both downwards, towards the smaller sizes and upwards, when we increase the patterns towards the bigger scales. Other proportions to be observed are also possible, for example 1:4 or 1:5, or those described with fractions, powers or logarithmic scale-shifting. It is important to assert the basic principle of the composition, the similarity despite scale-shifting. Since the process of scale shifting should be done to infinity to both directions, amplification and diminution, this formal system with everlasting iteration could theoretically increase until it fills up the whole universe. This is, however, not possible in everyday life. Thus, with his works the artist must settle for starting the process of iteration growing towards infinity and finally crowding the universe. His pictures can only be models and examples of creating a world of self-similar structure that expands to infinity.

The systems modelled in this way are conceivable to us, since not only its forms but the distances stretching between them and the set-up parameters also diminish or increase in the initial order and proportion. Due to this, three or four steps are enough to see what this expanding new world would be like if a god accepted a painting by Saxon to use it as a model in creating a new universe. I must admit that it is more than a witty stylistic device, since physicists and astronomers dealing with cosmology claim that the order of smaller groups of bodies in one galaxy is repeated again and again in a bigger proportion, in the form of aggregation of stars. What is more, galaxies themselves form groups and aggregations that repeat the set-up observed in the smaller units, thus organizing even bigger units in the depths of universe. It means that the distribution of matter in the world is not continuous but periodically iterated, or condensing and rarefying in a regular way, and that the universe in its bigger proportions is similar to its smaller parts. In other words, it does not only have gaps but maintains the initial arrangement in its forms and proportions as well, that is, has the character of self-similarity. Most of Saxon’s works vary this universe of gappy and self-similar structure in forms of panels and models that you can even hold in your hand and which are easily conceivable and adjusted to our scale. Mathematicians describe these self-similar organisations as a special case of symmetry. They mean symmetry that is realised through scale-shifting, and describe its laws with the help of fractal geometry.

Let us turn away now from the prestigious realm of the universe and the connecting mathematical research and pay attention to the genre of panel painting preferred by Saxon. Generally speaking, the well-known forms of paintings called panels in the technical literature originate from the earliest forms of panel paintings made for altarpieces.

From the end of the Middle Ages it became more common that these paintings left the altarpieces and the flat plane figures were hung on walls as a separate portrait of a saint or decoration of the room. Another change was that in the avant-garde stream of the 20th century panels tried to emphasize the represented motifs by having the same contour lines. In that way the pictures did not keep the original, normally rectangular shape. The paintings with altered, adjusted shape are called ‘shaped canvas’. Can we call Saxon’s paintings with chipped edges and a hollowed structure shaped canvas?

I am convinced that we cannot. There is a significant difference. On the one hand, the shaped pictures in the traditional sense emphasize the shape of a motif with their shape which is different from the normal panel, or in a lot of cases they themselves are the motif of the work of art. There is nothing important that belongs to the composition besides the plane of these paintings. On the other hand, with Saxon, the message of the works are not conveyed by the plane but the parts that the artist has nipped off or taken out of the colour field of his painting. In other words, the motif system of his pictures is represented and visualized by the gaps. We can feel that in his pictures the homogeneous plane, the colour field is almost meaningless ambience, and the part containing a lot of information starts where the continuity of this plane is broken, and when reaching the edges carved into the panel, our eyes look into the void. (see pages 10, 50, 51)

Saxon does not shape the material of the panel, but he communicates with forms interrupting the continuity of the material, with logically repeated combinations of the proportions and scales of those forms. When he leaves the plane of the picture, he enters an immaterial world, where he finds support in the rhythm of scale-shifting and the logic of self-similarity. It is a transcendent world where he endeavours to enrich the special meanings of his works.

Géza Perneczky
7 October 2010, Gallery B55 Budapest, Opening ceremony
(Translated by Éva Lachegyi)

About the nature of fractal geometry and the relationship of Saxon Szász’ art with this field of mathematics, see booklet ‘Dimension crayon’, 2000, and the book ‘The Poly-dimensional Fields of Saxon Szász’ 2002. Both issues were published by International MADI Museum Foundation.