There are several distinct threads that have developed in George Baloghy’s paintings over the years. One has been the appropriation of other artists’ work for his own ends. In this series he has placed Picasso’s figures in recognisably Auckland landscapes. Baloghy is European by birth, and his outlook has always been influenced by his relationship with the northern hemisphere.
A European transported to the new southern world, a familiar refrain for much of the development of New Zealand. Picasso in Auckland is likewise a plumbing of the Great European Art tradition of the twentieth century placed squarely into an antipodean setting. There is an emergent Maori art and Pacifica cultural experience in this country, but this exhibition reaffirms the connection with the great western tradition.
Appropriation is common in art, and even in Sleeping Peasants at Bastion Point the figures are not original to Picasso, but appropriated from a nineteenth century French pastoral painter, who appropriated it from Breughel of the 16th century. Thus the painting is an appropriation of an appropriation, the point being that some images are beautiful or powerful enough to want to be recycled endlessly, much the same as some movie stories are re-made over and over, each time for a fresh audience.
Baloghy has a deep admiration for Picasso, widely regarded as the man who defined twentieth century art. This exhibition is homage, discovery, the re-living of the fantasy visual world of Picasso in the streets of Auckland, up close and personal.
The work can be seen at a number of levels depending on what one knows about art history and the local Auckland landscape. The tension is inherent in the contrasts between the primitivist and cubist figures and the realist landscapes they inhabit.
Baloghy interweaves an array of playful and inventive binary opposites into each painting; the intellectual with the absurd, the surreal with the beautiful. They are simple, yet also exceedingly complex, like puzzles. Overlaid on all this is the artist’s own aesthetic, his own idea of finding beauty in exotic juxtapositions, finding the universally heroic in a local context.