Written by rovart
Translated by Zoltán Bartko
MaJel Rovás Centre, Alžbetina 42, Košice, Slovakia
30 April to 30 May 2019
Thirty years ago, in 1989, the fall of the Berlin wall was the beginning of a new era. The fall of the iron curtain brought freedom to the Eastern part of Europe, handcuffed by the Soviets. On this occasion, an exhibition entitled Freedom and Identity was held at the MaJel Rovas Centre.
The exhibition was organised by the Rovás Association from Košice, in partnership with the Embassy of Germany in Bratislava, Slovakia. The subtitle of the exhibition is "Exhibition of artists of various ethnicities to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the fall of the iron curtain." The question was: how freedom affected the identity-awareness of the artists - members of ethnic minorities. The four exhibiting artists are the following: painter and graphic artist Ottó Szabó of Hungarian ethnicity, painter Andrej Smolák of Ruthenian ethnicity, painter and multi-genre artist Helmut Bistika of German origin and photographer René Fabini. "After the fall of the Berlin wall and the iron curtain, the Slovakian ethnic minorities became emancipated and we wanted to see this process in the works of notable artists. Though all exhibiting artists represent different ethnicities, their works have common points - the quest for liberty and the return to the essence of their ethnic groups. Such a common point is often the belief in God, prohibited in Socialism.", said the ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany in Slovakia, Joachim Bleicker, who opened the exhibition. "At the exhibition entitled `Freedom and Identity′ one may see works created just after the fall of the iron curtain, works with political and religious topics, time-lapse images of Roma people and current works of notable artists from Eastern Slovakia.", said Ágnes Kovács, director of the MaJel Rovás Centre. "This is an exhibition, unique in its genre, celebrating the 25th anniversary of our artistic association, Rovás. We are very happy to have the chance to exhibit works of various artists, created in various eras." This exhibition is special not only due to the valuable works, but also because the viewer may read quotes and find out many interesting facts about the exhibiting artists. "Painter Andrej Smolák of Ruthenian origin is, for example, the only painter from the former Czechoslovakia, who managed to paint on the Berlin wall in 1990. His painting became part of the longest gallery, the Berlin wall itself. This open air gallery is still an attraction to the tourists and visitors of Berlin." said the project manager and the curator of the exhibition, Daniela Capcarová. The intimacy of the exhibition is best expressed by the exhibiting artists′ own words: "In 1990, I painted the symbol of that era on the Berlin wall - the dove removing the chains." (A. Smolák) „When I first stood at the Brandenburg Gate, I wished I could fly, rise up and look wherever I wanted to... but the door was closed. I brought such a door to the exhibition." (H. Bistika) "The colour of the Roma people on my photos is like the leaves of the autumn trees - each leaf has a different colour, but all grew on the same tree - Slovakia." (R. Fabini) "In 1989, we established the `Velvet Revolution Promotion Dept.′ with my friends from the College of Fine Arts. We designed posters, fliers, brochures, banners and flags for the revolution. I captured this atmosphere with my painting entitled "In the Beginning". " (O. Szabó) About the exhibiting artists Helmut Bistika (*1963) - artist of German ethnicity, born in Medzev, Slovakia. After graduating from the Forestry Vocational School in Liptovský Hrádok, he studied social work in Nitra. He is a multi-genre artist, who - as he says - arrived to fine arts on his own. As a self-educated artist, he is active in painting, graphic art and he creates artistic objects. He likes to experiment with colours and materials and often resorts to the assemblage technique, giving space to his images. He leads creative workshops in Slovakia and abroad, mainly in German-speaking communities. He regularly exhibits in Slovakia and he has already presented his works in Belgium, Holland, Hungary and Germany. He regularly organises fine arts workshops in Levoča and the High Tatras, where he has already exhibited multiple times. René Fabini (*1979) - photographer. His 2008 photo series on Roma people was included in the renowned World Press Photo catalogue in Amsterdam. In 2008, he shot a series on the Roma settlements on an assignment by National Geographic, which were published in the English variant of the magazine in 2009. This series gave birth to the touring exhibition "Ethnicity", presented in multiple Slovakian cities. In 2007, he graduated at the Academy of Digital Photography in Bratislava, then he worked as a photo editor. He shot campaigns for renowned fashion brands, such as Chanel. However, he prefers to capture human faces and lives. His photos were exhibited in Cape Town, Marseille, Prague and even Amsterdam. Andrej Smolák (*1953) - painter of Ruthenian ethnicity. He graduated at the Faculty of Philosophy of the Šafárik University in Prešov, Slovakia, majoring in Fine Arts Education. Between 1987 and 1989 he studied at the University of Fine Arts in Prague, as a student of V. Pospíšil. In 1993, together with his brother Miro, he opened the first private gallery in Slovakia in the town of Snina, as a branch of the gallery MIRO from Berlin. Since 1994, he has been organising the International Festival of Fine Arts in Snina. His works have been presented at 70+ domestic and foreign exhibitions. He has received multiple awards, such as the European Franz Kafka Prize and the Salvador Dali prize. He performs chamber painting, aquarelles and even portraits. He is a member of the Moscow-based International Academy of Culture and Arts. Ottó Szabó (*1965) - between 1988 and 1994, he studied at the College of Fine Arts in Bratislava, as a student of Igor Rumanský and Jozef Lebiš. In 1994, he founded the Rovás Free Artistic Academy in Košice. As a graphic artist and painter, he has been active for more than 30 year; currently, he teaches at the Vocational School of Applied Arts in Košice. He publishes the RovArt virtual magazine, reacting to the current events and issues of fine arts, culture and society. His works have been presented at 20+ domestic and foreign exhibitions, so he is known not only in Slovakia, but also abroad. For his exceptional efforts in the field of fine arts, he received the Pro Cultura Hungarica award (in 2010). In 2014, he received the Knight′s Cross of the Hungarian Republic for his exceptional achievement in the field of fine arts. In 2018, he was awarded the Szervatius prize.