Saturday, 24 April 2021

'Heracles' in the Drawing Room


'Heracles', oil and acrylic on canvas by Orr Máté


Some time ago, most likely before the end of 2019, although the actual date is of little importance, we found ourselves in the Budapest studio of the painter, Orr Máté [in Hungarian the surname always precedes the first name]. Over the years Máté has become a very close friend and so whilst visits to his studio are not infrequent, it is always exciting when there is new work to be seen on the easel or, as does occasionally happen, an opportunity to turn the pages of his most recent sketchbook.

A preliminary sketch for the painting 'Heracles'

And so it was that we happened upon the preliminary drawings for a painting, 'Heracles', featuring the centaur, Nessus, in conflict with the Nemean lion. Not only were we captivated by the drawings themselves but were, in discussion, intrigued by the mythology of the Ancient Greeks given a new relevance to the present day.


A sketch for 'Heracles' taken from Orr Máté's sketchbook 

Of course the fate of Heracles is well known. But in this instance, in portraying the centaur entangled with the lion, Máté chooses a pose for his subject matter that seemingly embodies violence in a most brutal form and yet, on the other hand, one that also suggests its opposite. Here, in the artist's own words, we see, "a wide range of conflicting intense emotions: aggression, passion, the feeling of vulnerability, the feeling of power." The intended ambiguity becomes consistent with the experience of life.

A first drawing of the Nemean lion for the painting 'Heracles'

Interestingly, in looking at the early sketches, Máté gives the centaur a beard, later to be replaced with a more Hellenistic head, reminiscent of the sons of Laocoon depicted in the sculpture 'Gruppo del Laocoonte' and said to represent the original icon of human suffering. However, in the final work the composition is both balanced and harmonious, framed by two columns appropriated from the 'Ara Pacis Augustae' altar in Rome which, in themselves, become an allegory of peace.

Orr Máté at work in his studio on the painting

A fitting subject for the drawing room? Many would suggest not but for us, in acquiring the painting through the Várfok Gallery in Budapest who represent Máté, we have not only what we believe to be an iconic work but one that connects a distant past with the challenging times in which we live. The masterful  trompe l'œil effect is undoubtedly chilling, the cold marble creates its own stillness, the subdued palette an austerity but, in contrast, there is an energy, a dynamic, an unstoppable force. The painting lives. Here is life. 

'Heracles' in the drawing room, Budapest


65 comments:

  1. It's a conversation piece, that's for sure!

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  2. I first thought that you had bought a carved panel to hang on your wall. Then I began to have unworthy thoughts about the lion and Heracles, but you say that you had them as well, so that's ok then. Orr Matê is good isn't he?

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    1. Darling Tom,

      Yes, it is amazing, or at least it is to us, that the piece is completely flat. It really does appear as a slab of marble and makes us think of Venetian palazzos which all seem to have the odd marble sculpture lurking about.

      As for the action of the work.....well, that really is open to one's imagination and interpretation. Unworthy thoughts....alas, we have many!

      He is good. Very good, we think.:):)

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  3. While I don't like it, I recognise that it an excellent work of art and a valuable addition to your collection of originals. PS our late friend David proclaimed, 'Did you see the piece above the fire mantel?' I think that is where is was. I like that one.

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    1. Darling Andrew,

      It is always refreshing to hear alternative viewpoints and there is nothing, generally speaking, so provocative as art in its many guises and forms.

      How well we remember your friend David and think that he would have been referring to the portrait over the mantelpiece in Norwich. That is certainly easier to live with and we often say, hopefully, that it is "after Duncan Grant".... if only!:):)

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  4. I do love original works of art on a wall - they have so much more life than prints and this one is definitely full of life - that's for sure.

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    1. Darling Pat,

      Well, we would certainly agree with you about original works of art. And, for us, the artist is important since that brings, at least for us, another dimension into the enjoyment of the work. Knowing the personality behind the brush intrigues us and makes us think about the thought processes behind the works' creation. It all adds to the pleasure as well as knowing that one is supporting an artist to carry on painting!

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  5. I am reminded of High Renaissance art when looking at the preparatory sketches as well as the finished work, in particular the work of Leonardo da Vinci as I am currently looking at the Battle of Anghiari sketches for my Art History homework. The knack of making a painting look like a sculpture was a trick of Renaissance painters and Maté is very good at it. It is a splendid painting and I would be happy to have it in my drawing room too.

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    1. Darling Rachel,

      Thank you for your kind and generous comment.

      Máté would certainly be delighted to be considered in the line of High Renaissance artists. He is certainly very serious about his work which is the result of much research as well as artistic practice.

      Venturing into the process of trompe l'oeil was a new adventure for Máté who generally works with hyper realism and flat paint surfaces in combination. This work is definitely an amazing painterly trick and we are so pleased that you too would be happy for it to have a place on your drawing room wall. One thing is for certain, it ignites conversation!:):)

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  6. Whether an art object is a fitting _subject_ for your drawing room concerns only the two people who live in your drawing room. I would be interested in the art _modes_ you love most - paintings? drawings? sculptures? oil and acrylics? textiles? gold and silver art?

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    1. Darling Hels,

      Thank you for your comment.

      You are so right and, yes, we only ever surround ourselves with pieces which we love and have a connection with. Alas, as the years progress, this does amount to a significant amount of 'stuff''!

      Usually, we are drawn to figurative painting and increasingly we are enticed by large works. There is much that we should love to live with but cannot afford, so museum and gallery visiting provides a wonderful opportunity to see great works at close quarters.

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  7. Hello Jane and Lance, This Orr Máté painting is an amazing tour de force. We are used to seeing muscles rendered in "marble," but here the centaur's flesh seems pliable where the claws are digging into it. The whole trompe-l'oeil technique of a marble relief is marvelous, frame and all (and look at the lion's tail!). I like the annoyed expression on the face of the bearded centaur--very funny for the sketch, but he made the right decision and story-line for the final painting.
    --Jim

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    1. Darling Jim,

      Thank you so much for your kind and generous comment.

      We agree with all that you write here and are constantly amazed by the breadth and skills of this young artist. Although contemporary, he follows a traditional line of the best exponents in his field, we believe, and do think that one day he will be a name of note on the International stage.

      It is indeed intriguing to see inside the creative process and the details which are added, amended or deleted along the way. The expressions are interesting in that one cannot help but wonder just what exactly is going on in the minds of the 'players'.:):)

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  8. My thoughts mirrored Tom‘s. In any case, a great find!

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    1. Darling Meike,

      Thank you.

      Yes, our thoughts too....and some others which we kept entre-nous!!

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  9. I love the connection to and logic of the painting -- and how fascinating to see it from its earliest stages. It looks lovely in your home.

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    1. Darling Jeanie,

      Thank you for your comment.

      We love seeing the ideas develop from the initial thoughts in the artist's head, through the drawing of sketches to the finished product. However, we have to confess not to totally understand the mind of an artist at work!:):)

      And, thank you for your kind compliment. We love it there, a source of joy to us and debate for others.

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  10. Wonderful painter, wonderfully painted. As to the subject matter, well... à chacun son goût, as they say. (And I must admit I can't see much room for interpretation as to the activity portrayed here.) I will say that it's really rather peculiar that I could find this subject "unpleasant", while marveling at some completely grisly Renaissance work, some Holofernes being very explicitly done in by some Judith, for example. You given me something to think about here: why would the contemporary painting be troubling while I'd have nothing but admiration for the historical "great work"... hmm...?

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    1. Darling Stephen,

      Thank you for your comment.

      It is indeed interesting that in looking at this painting you find the subject discomforting whilst you can gaze in wonder at similar subjects of many centuries earlier. We can understand this.

      Perhaps there is something in how the historical context of viewing a painting affects the interpretation of the viewer. We do find it fascinating that a young contemporary artist, such as Máté, can be not only concerned with the topics which stimulate his work but, also, can give a contemporary interpretation which relates the viewer to his/her own current situation. This certainly can feel disturbing, perhaps as those who viewed the Renaissance works felt at the time?

      whatever, we are pleased that the painting gives you something to think about and, as you are an accomplished artist yourself, we thank you for your complimentary words.

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  11. Wild Thing - I think I love you..." comes to mind.

    It's quite the work of wonder! Jx

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    1. Darling Jon,

      Thank you for your comment.

      As always you find the perfect musical accompaniment to our posts. And, as always, now this tune is ringing in our heads!!:):)

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  12. Certainly a stunning work of art but I'm actually drawn to the photograph of Orr Máté in his studio.

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    1. Darling Sue,

      Thank you for your comment.

      The photograph of the artist at work in that rather peculiar light is something that fascinated us too. And, you may have noticed the extended handle to the brush. In this way, Máté was experimenting with a painting method as used by Velázquez.

      By using longer handles, the artist paints at a greater distance than usual. As a result, when near to the painting the subject matter is not particularly distinct and one has difficulty "seeing" it, whereas, at a distance, all becomes clear.

      A master of his art.

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  13. Dear Jane and Lance - Máté, whom I recall meeting, and seeing your other outstanding paintings by him, has really done something quite different here.. . . . and it's awesome! Besides the powerful subjects, I love his rendition of the Corinthian columns and veined marble. Such a wonderful addition to your fondly remembered, and truly stunning, Budapest drawing room.

    Hope both of you are well - thanks for the kind garden comment earlier. Sadly, today Bob is cancelling our planned UK trip (for May), yet again, as things just aren't going to be ready for safe international travel. Our hotel reservation at Heathrow was cancelled yesterday by them - they say it's now a Government 'quarantine hotel'!! We'll try now for Sept./Oct. This is the longest I've ever waited between visits home to Devon and I'm so homesick.
    Love Mary XX

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    1. Darling Mary,

      Thank you for your kind and generous comment.

      Yes, this is definitely a step in a very different direction for Máté. New technique, new research but the same fascination with mythology and human emotion. The columns, adapted from the Ars Pacis Augustae altar in Rome offer a fitting frame as the altar was used for blood sacrifices some 2000 years ago.

      We are fine although still in isolation as there is no vaccination process in place for those foreign nationals in Hungary without national registration, a process which will probably take another few weeks at least to complete. We are learning patience!

      Travel plans for so many have been disrupted and you must be so looking forward to the day of family reunion. It will be wonderful when it comes and come it will. In the meantime, take care and enjoy your delightful garden and its many colourful visitors!!

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  14. Well! OO <--- eyes the size of silver dollars. I like the photo of the artist at work. It's quite a work of art itself!

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    1. Darling Holly,

      Thank you for the comment.

      Yes, a few eyes have opened wide at the sight of the Orr Máté painting. You are not alone.:):)

      We love the photograph in Máté's studio, taken by his girlfriend, Viki who is an accomplished artist [and photographer] herself. So pleased that you like it too.

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  15. It is quite amazing just how life like that wonderful work is. I couldn't stop staring...and I'm still not sure I'm not looking at a real marble relief.

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    1. Darling Mistress,

      Thank you for your generous comment.

      Talk of sculpture was the preamble to this work and we really feel that we have the best of all worlds with this painting. At times, we too find it hard to believe that it is not made of marble and is not more than five years old!!

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  16. I must agree; there is great energy in the painting, and there will be understanding between the two in the end. Following the drawings to the artist's end helps that understanding. Once the lion seems even to be violating the centaur, which in the end will escape only with dents from the claws.
    I've always been in envy of trompe l'œil. I wish I understood how to reproduce marble or carvings on canvass.

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    1. Darling Joanne,

      Thank you for your most interesting comment.

      Yes, perhaps the painting is a metaphor for life itself. Although life may bring confrontations, one can win through, albeit with battle scars to show for the struggle.

      We too are fascinated by trompe l'oeil, both in how it is executed and in the final product. A dear artist friend, now, sadly dead, Elizabeth Organ, painted the most marvellous faux marble dining table. It turned every meal into a feast!!

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  17. Dear Jane and Lance, your recent acquisition is fantastic! It looks terrific in your home, and to have access to his preliminary sketches gives your story a feel as though this was a special commission for you.

    I had a look at an earlier post you link to in your sidebar, showcasing another piece you purchased. Orr Máté is so young! And you mention above that his foray into trompe l'œil is a new thing? I'm very surprised to read that. Your 'Heracles' is so wonderfully done. Lucky you to have such an evocative work to gaze at!

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    1. Darling Pip,

      Thank you for your kind comment.

      Although we do have works which we consider purely decorative, we do enjoy connecting on a deeper level with the art that we surround ourselves with. The background, the artist, the technique all serve to add layers of interest to the final work in our view. And, with a work such as this, there is the other added element of discussion and debate with others. We are missing that final element very much in these days of lockdown.

      Yes, he is very young but has always had a highly professional approach to his work. He paints every day, is meticulous in every detail of his work and, perhaps, most importantly, he loves what he does.

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  18. Oh dear ..... my mind must be similar to Toms as many an unworthy thought whirled around in my brain but, that didn't detract from how brilliant it is. I have always loved Trompe-l'oeil ..... the 3-D effect that Orr Máté achieved is absolutely mind blowing ..... I can never quite understand how anyone can actually achieve such an optical illusion.... and, to visit an artist in his studio must be such a rare treat ..... I love that black and white photograph of Máté at work in his studio. So atmospheric. Sending love to you both. XXXX

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    1. Darling Jacqueline,

      Thank you for your kind comment.

      Great minds think alike as they say!:):)

      We have to confess that although we have watched Máté at work on several occasions, we have yet to work out how he achieves what he does. Talent clearly plays a great part but we are always impressed by his dedication and commitment, painting several hours every day and always striving to improve his painting technique. We certainly would have neither the patience or the talent and remain content to surround ourselves with his work.

      It is fascinating to visit an artist's studio, we find. It says so much and does, for us at least, make a deeper connection with both the artist and his/her work.

      Hoping you had a most enjoyable birthday. Sending love. J and L xx

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  19. Dear Jane and Lance - if I was asked to make a guess, then I would have said that your painting was a piece of sculpture - Máté's talent is simply stunning.
    The veining in the marble, the centaur entangled with the lion, the Corinthian columns all make this an astonishing piece of work.

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    1. Darling Rosemary,

      Thank you for your comment.

      We too continue to be stunned by the realism of the piece. It even looks as if it would be cold to the touch!

      The entanglement of the subjects of the piece are representative of the way in which Máté often illustrates a dynamic tension between the various protagonists in his work. Who is winning? What exactly is going on? These are the usual conundrums which he poses to his viewers.

      It all adds to life's intrigue....or so we feel.

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  20. I have just enlarged your photo and I can now see even more detail, especially the fact that the lions claws are actually digging right into the flesh of the centaur.

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    1. Darling Rosemary,

      Welcome back!

      Yes, the more one looks, the more one sees and the deeper one is drawn in to the action. Intriguing...

      By placing it high and out of reach this also adds a dimension of discovery. There is always more....

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  21. That painting really DOES look 3-dimensional. Pretty amazing. I'm not at all familiar with this mythological story so I'll have to do some follow-up reading! But yes, the suggestion of violence and passion is intriguing.

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    1. Darling Steve,

      Thank you for your comment.

      It is always fun, we think, to look at a painting and find something about it to intrigue and draw one in. Many of our guests have been taken in by this work, believing it to be a sculpture.

      And, as you say, when one looks deeper, there is more than the mythological creatures. Indeed, as a contemporary work it is interesting to work out what the work can offer as commentary on our world today.

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  22. It really does deceive the eyes, I thought it was a block of marble. That sort of thing happens frequently when you adopt a sashaying gait!

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    1. Darling Mitzi,

      Thank you for your comment.

      How we love the thought of you and your 'sashaying gait' and can only wonder about what you wear, when and where you sashay. That you must delight any lucky onlookers we are certain, all of whom are no doubt reduced to blocks of marble as they stand in awe.

      These are definitely the times when more sashaying is needed. We shall think on this as we gaze at the faux marble in our drawing room. :):)

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  23. Dear Jane and dear Lance,
    Your Heracles looks right at home. The space has waited for just this fabulous piece of trompe l'oeil.

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    1. Darling Gina,

      Thank you for your kind comment.

      We could not agree more and are thrilled that you share the same viewpoint.Our first thought was to place a piece of sculpture on top of the bookcase and then this painting came into our lives instead.

      We love the games it plays of real or unreal, passion or power, winning or losing and, as you may imagine, it is a never ending source of debate amongst guests.

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  24. A really amazingly powerful work. And I love where you've hung it!

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    1. Darling Kim,

      Thank you for your comment.

      Yes, a piece not for the faint hearted for sure! A courageous artist we feel to express emotion in this way and we feel similarly daring to hang it on the wall for all to see.

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  25. Jane and Lance, The walls in our apt only feature one original painting from a dear (late) friend and my own photos, so it was really exciting to not only see this piece displayed on your wall but also to read about its history and some info about the artist.

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    1. Darling Beatrice,

      Thank you for your comment.

      In our view, it is more satisfying to surround oneself in life with things of meaning rather than value. The photographs which hold dear memories, the artworks which have a story, the bits and pieces gathered from travelling or acquired from others all give a richness to life. We are sure that every time you look at the painting which was painted by your friend, wonderful memories of good times past come to mind and how perfect is that!

      We are pleased that you have enjoyed learning a little more about our artist friend. We think that he is a rising star in the art world.

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  26. My dearest Jane and Lance,

    The painting of 'Heracles' in the drawing room looks perfect. I am very impressed by the painting as well as the solid draughtsmanship of Orr Máté in his preparatory drawings.

    What an incredibly talented artist he is. I love its monochromatic grey palette (what an art historian would call “Grisaille” – the style of painting first popularised in Europe during the 14th century, when artists often deployed grey scale paintings to imitate sculpture.)

    I love your interpretation of the artwork. It’s so very perceptive. I think you would give all the art critics a run for their money!

    Have a safe and good brand new week.

    With warmest wishes, ASD

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    1. Darling ASD,

      Thank you so much for your kind comment.

      You are right to mention the draughtsmanship of the preparatory works. This is how Máté approaches all his paintings and shows his training not only as a graduate in Fine Art but, also in Graphic Design. The two elements are usually combined in his works adding, we feel to the surreal nature of the piece as well as a rigour in controlling the materials being used.

      Máté was fascinated to explore new techniques for this painting, even to the lengthening of brushes to give a new perspective when working on the canvas. It is a source of intrigue to us how a young, contemporary painter can be so influenced by the past but bring a modern twist to the subject in hand. It all leads to a sense of unease, never knowing quite what to expect and, of course, leaving the way to find new interpretations of one's own.

      We should dearly hope that we could introduce you both to each other one day....

      We were delighted to read of your vaccination. Continue taking care, dear friend, and stay safe.

      Love from us both, J and L xx

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  27. Such a fabulous work by your friend and looks splendid in your drawing room.

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    1. Darling Libby,

      Thank you so much for your kind and generous comment.

      Each day, we se something new in this work. It changes in mood with the varying light of the day and night and the seasons. A work in constant motion!

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  28. As long as the Centaur and the lion are both consenting adults, I wish them a very happy time together, and in your drawing room.

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    1. Darling Lisa,

      Thank you for your fun comment.

      Well, consenting in age perhaps but in intention .... maybe that is not so clear! And, all taking place in our drawing room!:):)

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  29. Oh wow, what skill, but also what vision and emotion. I took the time to enlarge the images on your blog; you are correct - the trompe l'oeil is astonishing. I note that he paints with an extended brush, hence seiing the whole painting as he works - it takes much practice and bravery to do this, for a slip is easy to make. When I used to paint seriously, I'd often view my work in progress in a mirror, as means to see it afresh. Of course, with great works, we see them afresh every day. Perhaps I should post about some paintings I own?

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    1. Darling Mark,

      Thank you so much for your kind and generous comment.

      We are so pleased that you have been intrigued to look more closely at the images. It is indeed remarkable how lifelike and three dimensional this work appears to be. Yes, you are right about the practice as Máté works every day on his paintings and has never done anything else after university but paint. he has been fortunate with sales of his work that he has never needed to find other employment.

      And, how fascinating that you too paint. Yes, you really must show some of your work in future posts as the creative process is always interesting to read about. As you say, each day one looks anew at works hanging on the wall and there is never the same view!

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    2. I have just posted a pice about a painting I found in a junk shop and will blog about some of my own paintings soon

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    3. Darling Mark,

      we have been rather distracted later but we shall pop over today to look!

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  30. I'm not sure I could have something so disturbing, however beautiful, on my wall.

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    1. Darling Jean,

      Thank you for your comment.

      Yes, we understand exactly what you mean. For us, of course, in this particular case, we also have the artist behind the work to reassure us that all is indeed well.....even if the content at times is rather scary!:):)

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  31. Like that picture of Máté at work in his studio on the painting.

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    1. Dear Joe,

      Thank you for your comment.

      Yes, the image of Máté painting is rather haunting we think. There is always such beauty in watching a true artist at work, we feel.

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  32. Fascinating piece and your description illuminates it very well. What a wonderful piece of work.

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