Shumen, Bulgaria

Artist exchange

Published on August 3, 1973 in Hajdú-Bihari Napló

Answering to an invitation by the Debrecen City Council, two painters from Shumen spent a month in the Debrecen Creative House, located in the breathtaking Nagyerdő. Due to the sister city status between Shumen and Debrecen followed an invitation from Shumen City Council for painters Imre Égerházi and Gyula Madarász to spend a month-length study tour in their city, in return.

Report of the study tour of Shume

Published in quarterly report of the Association of Hungarian Fine Artists, Eastern Hungarian Regional Association, issue no. 1973/2

Based on the proposal by the Association of Hungarian Fine Artists, Eastern Hungarian Regional Association and with the support of the City Council of Debrecen, we participated in a month-long study trip in the sister city of Shumen. With this, the cultural exchange between sister cities Debrecen and Shumen begin.
Two artists from Shumen spent a month in the creative house located in the Great Forest, and in return the City Council of Shumen invited painters Imre Égerházi and Gyula Madarász and stayed in the Bulgarian city between July 31 and August 30, 1973.
During this period of secondment, besides studying Bulgarian fine art, we made connections with creative groups for the purpose of broadening the nexus surrounding our county’s creative camps.
This is how we came into close contact with the artists of Varna, whose collective exhibition we were able to attend. In addition to friendly conversation, we also had the opportunity to study the results of the profession.
We invited renown artist and secretary of the artist organization of Varna, Benu Benevet, to attend the International Creative Camp of Hajdúság for the following year.
We had close relations with the organization of Shumen. Secretary Vlado Vicsev, familiar to Hungary as he attended college in the country under Vilmos Aba-Novák, made sure we familiarize with the artist scene of Shumen. We made strong collections while conversing with colleagues in private or while attending exhibitions.
Of course, they also took interest in our professional works. Hungarian fine arts have a respect in Bulgaria, we were told and experienced. We also took the opportunity to make connections in Shumen, to ensure future artist exchange events. On request from the camp in Hajdúság we invited a Shumen-based artist, Vlado Vicsev, to Hajdúböszörmény. Vicsev is a member of the Bulgarian Association and an acknowledged artist. We also had the opportunity to meet with members of the Shumen City Council, on multiple occasions.

The City Council made sure we enjoy our stay and have every opportunity to conclude a successful study trip. A multi-room villa was made available for us, one that had facilities for studio work. Our scholarship covered our catering needs. We attended an 8-day trip in Varna, covered by the City Council, and had the opportunity to familiarize ourselves with sites of historic precedence. Pliska and Veliki Preslav had large-scale excavations. We realized the Bulgarian government spends profusely financing exploration into the country’s history. The excavations in the Bulgarian czar city stretched for numerous kilometers. Bulgarian people digging out its own traditions and history right in that moment, covered by the dust of centuries of oppression.
We enjoyed some impressions in Shumen which made the trip unforgettable. They greatly respect our own Lajos Kossuth. Everywhere we felt the Bulgarians’ love for Hungarians.
There is two Shumens to know. The old, with characteristic Turkish houses, summon the past. We have seen the Turkish of the fables, in its sluggish pastime, its fanatic religiousness. And we got to know the new Shumen, evolving with its modern houses, factories, and establishments. We experienced the diligence and kind-heartedness of the Bulgarian people, their love and respect for Hungarians, and spent an unforgettable month among them.
We thank you all who gave us this opportunity to represent our country in Shumen, sister city to Debrecen.

Debrecen, September 10, 1973
Imre Égerházi, Gyula Madarász

About Imre Égerházi’s exhibition

Published in Hajdú-Bihari Napló, October 29, 1975

Cultural Committee of the University of Agricultural Sciences in Debrecen organized an exhibition for the Káplár Award-winning painter, born in Hajdúhadház. The exhibition mostly compiled of oil paintings and monotypes drawn from experiences in Bulgaria. Imre Égerházi was stunned by the beauty of the Bulgarian landscape: the mountains, the sea, architectural memories, the history. He familiarized himself with Bulgarian poetry, especially Atanász Dracsev, who “filter feelings through the net of intellect to made them into words.” The art of this Bulgarian poet can be discovered in more than one painting. Like the artwork titled “Hodzsa háza Sumenben” incorporates not only the visuals but the atmosphere of Dacsev’s poem “Erkély” – but not with an illustrative intent. The Turkish influence, the 600 years of oppression (felt for 150 by us Hungarians) also appears in the paintings. From this world of thought, these limitations much of the Turkish customs ingrained in the present, like the carved stone turbans of the cemeteries, and the life trees, and relics with Turkish symbolism and writings. Gravestones of “600 év I.” lean on each other, imposing associations of great human emotions living on. The symbolism of “Sumeni tornyok” stands as a witness to the declined Muslim world, representing the past in figurative order. A silhouette of an ikon touches the red sun, symbolizing the dying religion of Muslim. The artwork “Naplement” is also connected to a poem of Atanász Dacsev. The grand bushes and trees of the seaside, the objects, and the sun and the night, the human faced wall of fire all gets anthropomorphized, one can see giants in the rocks, and human shadows in the clouds without the whole symbolism being offensively intrusive, or the reality being poisoned by surrealism. So, this painting does not become illustrative but stays moderate.

In Égerházi’s paintings one looks for the spirituality of the Bulgarian history incarnated in our present, an identity still strong after 600 years of Turkish oppression, the romanticism of the streets oozing with the culture of the ancient. Therefore, the mementos of the ruined city of Preslav fill with archaic notions, Madara’s arabesques of stones. Shumen’s culture also has fragments of Hungarian history: the campaigns of Hunyadi, the lost battle of Varna, the 100-day visit of Kossuth in the city, and the house he resided in (which since became a museum). Égerházi sometimes amasses these, but at the same time puts them in order, not as something illustrative but rather a uniform and internally felt poetic experience. Elements of this atmosphere are kept on a leash by a strong structure. Like in the atmosphere of “Kinyílás” is kept together by a few ribbons of lines, or in “Naplement” where graphically it is divided into parts, and in “Sumeni török negyed” he goes into details, and “Preszlávi romok” he operates with gradients parted by geometry. The vision of Égerházi is primarily graphic, scale related, but at the same time gradients, from his rich interior, are locked between lines. And exactly this uniform character, this style leaning into romanticism, the representation or “feeling out” the pictorial structure is what sometimes become one-sided. Égerházi utilizes the cleanness of picturesqueness, his brush creates sensitive and arrested color compositions, but surely his creations would benefit from using more colors besides his basic choice of warm browns, resulting in somewhat toning down the structure of his art and, at the same time, raising it.

All this could lead to the advancement of his pictorial and graphic style, alas his artistic present, as said by Ervin Tamás, is also “represents an artistic culture of something that matured for a long time and based on the deep knowledge of the self.”

Ervin Tóth, PhD.

Paintings of Shumen

Exhibition of Imre Égerházi and Gyula Madarász
Published in Hajdú-Bihari Napló, June 7, 1975

Imre Égerházi works on a wide scale, considering both the experienced and recreated reality and in terms of genre. His large-scale color monotypes are especially receptive and beautiful with their atmosphere and overall impact. Among them are mainly those which are not satisfied by simply reproducing the sight, but from tiny motives and feelings he created a synthesis, by projecting separate spaces and timelines next to each other, recreating the experience by the method of abstraction. Such is the monotype about the Turkish cemetery, Madara and the drying kuchmas, and such is the artwork titled “600 years I.” He plays with these elements boldly and also colorfully and deeply, and I honestly think the experiences in Shumen enrichened his pictorial techniques, his expressional style.
On 7 oil paintings the strongest characteristics are the strict structure, and the clean forms and atmosphere. Standing out “Naplement” as a grand representation of reality turning into art. And how he does that? The spectator can feel the power of the sea, the timelessness of clean forms and the function of rich and creative elements growing into fairytale-like greatness, all at once.

József Bényei

“During my study trip I was impressed by the beauty of the Bulgarian landscape, the mountains, the sea, the cordiality of the people, the great architectural monuments, the historic heroes who gave their lives of their freedom; like all the poets from Hrisztó Botev to Geo Milev.
I admire the momentum and energy of the ones forming the present and building towards a great future, their achievements, and of course the artists painting or singing about them.
One of my greatest experiences was familiarizing myself with Bulgarian poetry, mainly folk lyre and Atanasz Dacsev, a poet never so sudden but always filtering his feelings through a net of thought. Looking at my paintings created in Bulgaria and one can instantly see the reason why I felt so strong about Dacsev and what could I gain from his artistic creativity.”

Imre Égerházi

A letter of kinds for Imre Égerházi, addressed behind the veil

Imre! You who now spread your canvas on the other side, we remember you, here on your exhibition on this world, in the Bulgarian Institute for Culture, and I, as your friend, companion and colleague, remember the great adventure.
On July 30, 1973 we sat on a train bound for Shumen, the sister city. Two painters filled with excitement, both tired but we can’t shut our eyes as the beauty of the landscape mesmerizes us.
We pass rose groves, settlements with houses covered by reverse conical tiles, and sometimes, in the distance a tower with a crescent can be seen, like a memento left here by history.
We wanted to see all, and on return to Debrecen we wanted to paint it all.
We spent a joyful month together in Bulgaria among friends, in love and mutual respect.
The drafts created in Shumen, or at the ruins of Preslav, or at the shape of the Madara Horseman carved in stone, are all stand here at the exhibition as a reminder of Imre Égerházi’s creative hands.
So much memory of those days spent together!
Where we met the sights of Hungarian and Bulgarian history.
The air and the relics of the Kossuth Museum, summoning our lost revolution and an exiled Lajos Kossuth. Near our residence stood the brewery raised by the working hands of those persecuted after the revolution of 1848.
Some of the most memorable experiences are those from the Vladiszlav Várnyencsik Mausoleum of Varna. We saluted Władysław of Varna at the memorial raised in his name, paid our respects among Polish tourists in front of the king of both our nations. With tears in our eyes.
Varna provided lots of surprises. The ikon exhibition in memoriam Cirill and Metód, and a national graphic exhibition both gave us insight to Bulgaria’s present and historic artistic culture.
We enjoyed the beauty of the sea, but also experienced its wrath when our pedalo drifted further and further from the Golden Shore in a wind came sudden.

Imre! I’m sure you could add plenty to these words of remembering to color it even more.
But you tell the tale with your paintings now, more concisely, more focused, more colorfully.
On your artwork shows all that is the Shumen people, their environment, and lives.
We have this to say to you, on the other side: we’ll guard your memory loyally, and, through your art, the world opens for a culture of a friendly people.
We, your children, and admirers say, you live among us, by your immortal artwork representing your philanthropism and friendliness to all.

Debrecen, May 16, 2005
Gyula Madarász