Attitudes in Movement: Peter Szasz
by Peter Szasz, Dec 23, 2009
An Experiment with Drawing
The drawings were done with Japanese bamboo pens, brush and Sumi ink on Arches watercolor paper. The average image size is 12" x 13" and frames up in a 20" x 20" simple black frame. I kept about 45 of them, but did many more than that.
So, why faces? What is it about these faces, drawn in the abstract and at first glance seemingly similar, that expresses a whole different world from portraits? Unlike portraits, they have a curious power to stop me and in a way, make me confront myself. And the viewer can feel this too.
I began drawing these faces as a way of self-study, to be with myself, and did this over a period of two years. I have long been interested in using drawing as a way to explore my own inner states, a way to engage in a process of discovery akin to journaling, but with a brush rather than a pen.
Surprisingly, the experience of creating these faces turned out differently than I thought. It was much more impersonal. At the beginning I called them A Man Watching. However, the emerging image was watching me, the artist, draw.
What appears is a face expressing an attitude or a state of being, reflecting a certain inner movement which is just as unique in its own right as the physical characteristics of a portrait would be-a face unique in its inner content as it results in a visual image. In drawing this way, I attempt to capture a moment of this movement, which is one of the reasons why no two of the faces are even remotely alike.
When I begin a drawing, I find that coming to a sense of inner quiet is most helpful. There is no preconceived idea or image in mind-other than it will be a face. I may have no feeling whatever at the start, but in the process feeling may come, feeling without an object, which is more desirable and much more interesting to me. Then as the drawing emerges, the image gives shape to this feeling. It delineates it. A line or a brush stroke expresses this feeling.
What I wish for in these faces is to show visually various aspects of this shifting energy of presence...and perhaps to express a more collected state. For the viewer, I wish that he or she may have a moment of awareness of the movements of his or her own inner state while viewing these faces.
Entering into this process is never done lightly, just any old way. The aim always is to express something that is essentially true-that is, true in essence, true of essence-and not to embellish. Embellishment so easily becomes a lie. There is an expression in one of the traditions, a 'merciless sincerity with oneself.' In doing these drawings I know if I have come close to that, how I measure up-and many times I don't measure up.
The drawing always begins with delineating the right eye-the right eye of the face. For some reason, it is the most natural place to begin. I don't know why. One could come up with various conjectures, but they all would be fantasy. The most cogent connection I came to was remembering back many years ago when I briefly studied Tibetan thangka drawing from a young Tibetan master. When drawing the Buddha in a Tibetan thangka, one always started with the right eye. There is something absolutely correct about that.
Ink lines are laid into wet brushstrokes and the ink begins to run, and it becomes a dance between the accidental and intentional. Incorporating the accidental becomes a large part of the process.
Each brush stroke attempts to express a certain degree of collectedness, which, of course, fluctuates - trying in this way again and again, many drawings are thrown away, one after another. This is somewhat how my process goes. If the drawing does not convey a sense of presence, it is thrown away. Not everyone gets to go to heaven.
About the artist
Peter Szasz was born in Budapest, Hungary. He came to the United States in 1956, and graduated from Washington University, St. Louis in 1963, with a major in architecture and a minor in fine arts. He opened his studio in 1973, doing architectural illustration while raising a family (www.peterszasz.com ).