The Central Cafe in Budapest is a functioning monument built in the 1880s in the fever of construction heralding the Magyar millennium. The air inside is pulled by soft and hard sounds made by mouths full of air or flesh, virtual brittle material being chewed, cracked or swallowed. The synaesthesic pleasures of language in use within a situation are the particular sounds of Hungarian language at the next table, a tone lingering on an inflected vowel, packaged by a mouthful of turnip, starchy sounds like protchk and kritp.
Most of the time the hardworking voice or eye is trapped in a dead-end contract with a systemic language. In the Budapest Fine Arts Museum, you glance across walls for the most part hung with historical paintings; varnished surfaces that were originally sealed by the picture-maker’s frozen pact between observation and technique.
Picturing a complex story makes demands on the teller, it needs linguistic invention to make the tale stand up and move among its viewers or listeners. In the room with El Grèco’s paintings you’re among some very active tableaux.
The painter known as The Greek began his training in Greece in a Byzantine style, trained in Venice at its aesthetic height, and developed a synthesis working in Spain. It’s little wonder that he became self conscious of language, the mannerism he developed is clearly about making a picture work under the pressure of a complex storyline vigorously policed by the Spanish church. As I was looking at the painting of The Penitent Magdalene a sense of its story came across in colour glints that made some sense of the hammered out and wrought forms painted so distinctly from each other. Hands are prominent, they’re sculptured and they’re both being used, the sharper one touches flesh, the other rests edgily on a skull. Between the two a subtext takes place understood in a haptic way, you feel the difference between flesh and bone.
Outside the gallery in Hero’s Square is a monument that does strange things to its spatial environment chewing over old symbols. A group of riders surround a central column, horses seen front and side hide the column base. The stillness of the plinth is colonized by a slow off centred movement, hooves on smooth stone, the plinth is the base of a very tall form and also a trail repetitively staked out, developing a comparatively small but distorting vortex that can be felt from the distant edges of the square.