You Need a Master
„ he considered worthy of his love and benevolence all his pupils, who took his teachings impassively, still those who risked some sensible objections now and then were closer to his heart and existence.”
J. L. Borges
In the morning report, Zeno Zivatari, the 24-year old reporter declared: ’I have made a fantastic career. It was enough; I’ll give it up, and start something else.’ Only the accidental thread of Arianne could help me out from the labyrinth of the parking house in the middle of M…, as there are no road-signs here and the letters on the displayers of the elevators can mean either the parking place or a market. Adventures after adventures, butterflies in the stomach, a shiver keeps going down the spine, but finally, I can proudly say, I always get out. Nevertheless an artistic oeuvre is assembled from such fantastic achievements.
Oeuvre. There is a longing for eternity deeply in all biological creatures. The simplest ones are satisfied with simply passing down their genes to their descendants.
„Poor ill Keats was, in 1819, listening jealously to Ovid’s and Shakespeare’s immortal nightingale having a sense of foreboding of his own mortality.” (J. L. Borges)
As for us, human beings, we have several parallel images about immortality. Religions even set the rules of social coexistence and so lay down conditions along the route to eternity. In our age the ambiguous immortality of power and money can be taken granted only with really strong scepticism. We believe in them, although we know that their main indicator, the possession of the objects is only provisional. Since we ourselves build in their faults which cause their destruction for the sake, we could make and sell new ones.
The idea of passing down our intellectuality, still or again, appears to be the most secure method. It is the method of creating lasting pieces of arts, ideas and teachings, the method of masters and their pupils.
Life is hard. I personally mostly believe in the latter possibility. But how problematic it is to decide whether these works have a real eternal value and it turns out only years after their creation if they can make the soul of their creator immortal.
We, who try to create arts, write in our autobiography that our master was Árpád Csekovszky. His works are having a good chance to immortality. Their future will be determined through the rambling channels of arts history and the even more confused world of art trade. However, the immortality of master-pupil connection was already proved during the life of ’Cseko’s. If you open the Encyclopaedia of Hungarian Ceramists, the most frequently mentioned name in it is his. If an article is published on the Hungarian ceramists his name is always mentioned.
Every Thursday he, in his freshly washed and ironed brown smock, used to look through slowly and carefully our drying mouldings on the shelves, took a glance over our readings and sketches which were left on the desks. He stopped here and there, took a piece in his hands, turned it around once or twice, then, with one hand in front of his mouth, cleared his throat and said: „This is interesting. Try it again.”
Thursdays meant the order in continuity. To work is only possible systematically. The freshly washed and ironed smock taught us the importance of preparedness. The word „interesting” was the evaluation: the idea is useful, it has a character, still, it can reach a level that can be regarded as artistic after some further refinery. He encouraged us, raised our self –assurance, and eased our inhibitions with these words. With the expression:” Try it again” – he mobilized our creativity and announced that our struggles will help our technical improvement and solve our problems originating in the lack of our knowledge both in the field of handling the different materials and the history of arts.
We still remember the sentences and reactions my master, our master told us in important moments. He hardly ever entered into discussions about any theory of arts. And actually, in the last 50 years, these theories have lost their importance due to their abundance and inconstancy. Theories might be important in certain periods; however, none of them is able to explain the divine miracle called creativity.
„You always have a piece of paper and a pencil with you, don’t you? In case you get an idea, let’s say on the tram.”– He said quietly to make us understand that this is the language we have to use.
„We’ll close the doors and hopefully we can spare some money for the paints.” – He noticed some other time.
We can still recall his still actual pithy remarks when he commented the actual political manifestations of the age: „ Ministers and critics come and go like the trams but we artist stay as we are.”
Csekovszky’s most memorable instructions were taught without words. An example for this is a story from 1963-64 when two members of our class spent a month in the Zsolnai Pottery Factory. They decorated the awry, faulty bowls with flowery patterns arranged in Chagall’s style. They were threatened to be fired from the college and the „corpus delicti” were strictly locked up. We, the rest of the class, stole the keys and checked the pieces. Coming out from the room and locking the door we came across ’Cseko’. He did not say a word only smiled and waved his hand. Nobody was fired. Then much later the world got accustomed to this style, the postmodern. And the type of objects, which Susan Sontag called „camp”.
Another example is the case of a poor Greek colleague’s. He was working on his creaking diploma piece at snail- pace. In no way could this delicate little man be put out of his Mediterranean patience. Cseko kept smiling and nodding at him encouragingly. This way they both remained with pleasant recollections of each other and the Greek had nice memories of making pottery.
Perhaps the end of the 20th century was the period when it became evident, that the work of art represents the personality of the artist who manifests themselves in their works. As a result of this, three pedagogical principles, which are equally effective from a business point of view, became distinguishable in education. One of them is the system of the charismatic guru’s, who gives possibility for the selection leaving behind mental and physical human wrecks. The second way is a technocratic style, which covers an easily measurable technical and artistic knowledge where individual abilities are indifferent. And the third one, which brings its fruits throughout one’s lifetime, is a centric method for the permissive and helping development of the personality.
Csekovszky stood for this permissive and helping method. Even long after we had finished college he was present at the formal openings of our exhibitions, sometimes he also said the opening speech. At other occasions he simply looked at our work and gave us some advice or encouragement. I think that the majority of the artists who are mentioned in the first volume of Ceramic Art in Hungary, (Volume I. Artists and Data) name the tolerant and helping Csekovszky as their master.
The interviewees of the important sequence of reports on arts Published in the New Yorker stated that it is not definable what art really is. Whereas, among ourselves, I hazard an approach: art is some kind of liberty, a human method based on strict ethics and a common production of the conscious and subconscious mind.
It is a rare possibility to become initiated to it without the guidance of a master.
The last thought I would like to add to this recollection is how ahead of his age Csekovszky represented a still valid life-style of love, morality and tolerance. In the old days, when I got acquainted to him, his contemporaries could not understand him. In their daily arguments he was considered to be slow and conservative. Nevertheless, he was only brave to accept discrepancies and the different views of his pupils and not to react to aggressive oppositions.
It seems as if the life and artistic principles of Árpád Csekovszky in opposition to the insane 20th century and its lunatic competitive craze stood for a new, grand view of life the basic principle of which is self – regulation. He tried to represent everything the modern people dream about - an environmentalist, organic lifestyle, a politically correct opinion and behaviour, a cordial country life.
I am walking in the city of Budapest, in Zrinyi Street, looking back from time to time and St Stephen Basilica seems to be higher and higher. When I arrive at Roosevelt Square it mounts up above the houses.