Grenze, 2014, oil on canvas, 80 × 100 cm. Photo: Uwe Walter, Berlin. Courtesy Galerie Eigen + Art, Leipzig & Berlin.
As you'd expect, the generous proportions of Eigen + Art's Leipzig HQ are ideally suited to show large canvases by the gallery's well-known stable of German painters (among them Martin Eder and Neo Rauch). If those artists are renowned for both their provocations and their technical ability, then, on the evidence of this, Ákos Birkás's tenth show for the gallery, those talents are something the veteran Budapest-born painter shares. After a long period of calm abstractions – for example his ovoid Heads series of the 1990s (some of which resemble squashed Kenneth Noland targets) – Birkás's most recent canvases are realistic and troubled. And they arrive at a crucial point in Hungary's politics since the collapse of the Berlin Wall. His heads now have faces and stare out at us. Birkás is not interested in capturing moments of unawareness, of blissed-out states of absorption. Contra Michael Fried, the paintings of Birkás are all about theatricality: the theatre that is modern political struggle.