A conceptually coherent selection from the oeuvre of Miklós Erdély is presented in two locations, the Vintage Gallery and Kisterem Gallery. Erdély was continually engaged with the original and the copy, or in a wider sense: the problematics of pictorial representation, beginning from the early seventies, and many of his works produced in the spirit of a “new concept of art” are related to these “traditional” questions. The photos shown in the Vintage Gallery are the logical and, in part, technical antecedents to the indigo (carbon paper) drawings on view in the Kisterem, about which he said the following in 1983: “The whole indigo thing originates from the fact that I wanted to examine the representation aspect of art... ad absurdum. The representative character of art. I thought that this is a phenomenon of magical conception, that artistic depiction is the remains of magic in our contemporary world. And if this is the remains of magic, then this should be carried out ad absurdum.”[1] Two years earlier, in another interview, in which he referred to representation itself as a tautology, he spoke about transcending the traditional, tautological relationship of the original (depicted) to the copy (depiction) as something desirable (“the task of the artist is precisely to  break out of this, like a fish leaping out of water”), taking Joseph Kosuth’s work entitled, One and Three Chairs (1965), as his point of departure: “I approached [conceptual art] in such a way, that the subject of art is engagement with art, i.e., as Kosuth represented this. Since it is rare to see the depicted and the depiction simultaneously, this had its own effect of disturbing consciousness.”[2] And he outlined the processing of this method of disturbing consciousness in his own work as follows: “If something happens to be identical to what is next to it, it has a magical effect. When this [registered in me], I did the following: the point is that there should be no difference between the original and the copy. …At the same time, they should appear simultaneously in an identical context. That is, where possible, on a single sheet of paper, on a single surface.”[3]

He realised this project with his photo-graphic work, entitled Eredeti és másolat egy közegben [Original and Copy in the Same Medium] (1974),[4] followed by a technical innovation, with his indigo drawings (from 1977). The theoretical foundation can be considered first and foremost Ismétléselméleti tézisek [Theses on the Theory of Repetition] and Azonosításelméleti vizsgálatok [Studies in the Theory of Identification] , which were first published in mid-1972 in the edition of Szétfolyóirat [Rambling Periodical] edited by Árpád Ajtony.[5] Erdély most probably worked on the illustrations of the latter theoretical texts beginning in the summer of 1971. These are photographic works in which the photos of two identical or similar things appear one above the other, and joining these two, at the bottom is another print (copy) of the picture made of the first one. In connection with the first two images, he used the expression “duplicate”, and in his Theses on the Theory of Repetition, he mentions several types of duplicates, which he then implemented in photographic works. Collating all of the documents, we are aware of eight types, but there are illustrations for only seven of them, which are: the human duplicate (twins), the psychic / psychological duplicate (déja vu), as well as the typographical, the industrial, the random, the astronomical, and the special duplicate, of which the latter is a spiritist phantom image (in the case of individual types, a number of variations were also made within these). László Beke published the series, together with his theses, at the end of his essay, entitled Ismétlődés és ismétlés a képzőművészetben [Recurrence and Repetition in the Visual Arts], in the volume publishing the material (in 1980) of the conference organised in 1973 in the Institute of Literary Sciences of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (MTA), entitled Ismétlődés, párhuzamosság, ritmus [Repetition, Parallelism, and Rhythm].[6] The subject of this essay, in part, also covered the artistic problematic of the copy and the depiction, from the beginnings until conceptual art. In 1974, Erdély made his photo-graphic work, entitled Original and Copy in the Same Medium (a scribble made in pencil and its photograph on the same sheet of photo paper), about which he declared: “This was produced at first with a lot of suffering through the method of photography for the First Wrocław Triennial,[7] but I found this difficult, and then I realised that with a roll of indigo (carbon) paper, this could be produced with ease.”[8] Not long before the triennial, however, an earlier version of the work[9] was presented in the exhibition entitled Kép/Vers [Image/Verse], organised by Dóra Maurer at the Young Artists’ Club (FMK), and the two works are now on view side by side for the first time at the Vintage Gallery. Likewise on view here is Tekercs (Reprodukálhatatlan kiállítási tárgy) [Roll (Non-reproducible Exhibition Object)], made in 1980, at the same time as the indigo drawings, which Erdély described thus in the catalogue of the 2nd Esztergom Photo Biennial: “We see a roll of light-sensitive paper, rolled up symmetrically at both ends. The winding of the right-hand end of the roll is real, and takes place in the given space, while the left-hand end is depicted, and is only a photo appearing on the flat surface. Between the two ends of the roll, an indefinable boundary has converted the real into the depicted. The reproduction would conceal the difference between the qualities”.[10]

In 1977, Erdély “discovered” indigo paper as a solution to the problem of depiction that occupied him in connection with the issue of the original and the copy. He rolled together the indigo (carbon) and the drawing paper it was placed on in a cylinder, and in this way, the copy(ies)of the form drawn on the top layer of the cylinder appeared on the same surface of the sheet of paper after smoothing it out, slightly fainter. The application of telex paper, i.e., the “roll of paper with one side coated with copying material”,[11] meant the final solution circa 1979-80, with which he then produced long graphic works, in which the original and the multiple copied forms and lines, linked together and completing each other, lined up one along the other (Texturált vonal – Vonalkánon [Textured Line – LinearCanon], 1981[12]). These indigo drawings, at the same time, stole back the role – extremely important in traditional fine art – of remembrance, if not in the process of creation, then at least symbolically in its structure: in the imbroglio of layers copying onto each other and growing increasingly fainter, Erdély recognised the model of the functioning of memory.[13]

Erdély made indigo drawings between 1977 and 1981. At the same time, beginning with his 1976 four-part montage, entitled Az ember nem tökéletes [Man is Not Perfect], in the collection of the Hungarian National Gallery, he employed indigo, i.e., copying paper, as a sensitive and sensory material, possessing symbolic meaning, in his material-collages, collage-paintings and installations. A number of these works appeared in the exhibitions of InDiGo group, which he led, and this fact, in and of itself, indicates the conceptual correlations between indigo, copying, and the INterDIsciplinary GOndolkodás (Thinking) course.[14] In the case of the indigo drawings, the use of indigo paper was primarily conceptual, and his experimentation with the already familiar technique resulted in numerous variations, which illustrated newer and newer semantic relations of the conceptual basic point of departure. Among the variations, belongs, e.g., Szétmásolt rajz [Copied-Apart Drawing] (1978),[15] on view in the Kisterem Gallery, whose central motif was “copied to pieces” by Erdély (a black oblique cross on a red “ball”, all enclosed in an outline): the cross at upper left, the ball at lower right, the outline upper right. The copy of this latter hatched shading is visible at lower left. Erdély won Second Prize at the Wrocław International Triennial of Drawing in 1978 with his Copied-Apart Drawing, where, according to László Beke, “from the viewpoint of the subject of drawing, he created perhaps the most relevant pieces in the exhibition. With the aid of indigo paper, he worked out a procedure that functions precisely on the borderline between the unique and the multiplied. The gesture of freehand drawing creates a mechanical series of copies, in which the one-off motif perpetually passes through the copies of itself – or precisely with omissions regularly repeats itself.”[16] He produced his last copied-apart drawing in the year of his death, in 1986, for the invitation of his retrospective exhibition arranged at the Óbuda Gallery. His Fércművek [Threadworks] (circa 1979) signify another variation of the indigo drawings, in which we see a band formed from vertical hatchure repeating once or twice, where the frottage of one or two threads, and its copy (imprint) runs throughout.

The indigo works are simultaneously conceptual works and visual discoveries, or in the words of Paul Klee, the signs of visual thinking. Their point of departure was an ancient theoretical and theological (“And God created man in His own image”)[17] fundamental assumption in connection with visual depiction, to which Erdély, as far as my current knowledge tells me, responded in a unique fashion. The placement of the original and the copy in the same medium, on the same surface, obviously points beyond a medium-centric or self-referential conceptualism, or concretism taken in the broadest sense, and Erdély stated his own opinion on this more than once.[18] The metaphoric comprehension of “surface” or “medium” rendered it possible for him to realise a new turn in the theory of depiction, and in the figurative sense, the theory of creation, in the problematic field of the original and the copy that “generally …are found on separate surfaces”.[19] In this context, it is important to note that he conceived of the process of drawing also as an event – as an “act of creation”, or as a “picture story”, or “graphic novel”.[20] This is manifest not only in the interplay of lines, but also in the gesture itself of drawing a line, in the contact – the touch – of graphite and paper. In 1980, he said, in connection with his graphic work entitled Kontextus I [Context I] (the caption “Pista” [Stevie] on a sheet of paper),[21] and his photographed action, Szent vonal [Sacred Line][22]: “I was arguing with [Gábor] Bódy in a pub about just what an obscene material this film is. …I tried to explain just how much more valuable the concrete meeting of graphite with paper was. Just what a spiritual moment it is when one places the graphite pencil on the clean, white sheet, or does anything at all. For instance, if I write: ‘Pista’ ... Afterwards, I thought about how I could render this more ethereal. And then I came upon the ‘sacred line’ issue: I place lead on a pencil, I tie a string to its end, and I draw the line like this. And really, this is an absolute moment of leaving a trace, such a noble compromise of an intervention and the independent behaviour of the material, that perhaps somewhere in the divine realm there might be such a thing. To slightly leave the material to itself, so that it does what it wants, yet to guide it. Sometimes I have the feeling that with such a method, it is not possible to draw an ugly line.”[23]

In this sense, the indigo drawings are “ethereally beautiful”. Abstract works of lines, bundles of lines, twisted lines, inflected lines, hatchures, and other “line-creations”, about the abstracted correlations between the original and the copy, whose conceptual beauty and beauty of the concept[24] – are one and the same.



Translated by Adele Eisenstein





© Photos and texts: heirs of Miklós Erdély, Miklós Erdély Foundation, the photographers, the author

[1] Peternák, Miklós: Beszélgetés Erdély Miklóssal, 1983 tavaszán [In conversation with Miklós Erdély, spring 1983]. Árgus, Vol. II, no. 5, 1991, pp. 81–82.

[2] Új misztika felé. Sebők Zoltán beszélgetése Erdély Miklóssal [Towards a New Mysticism: Zoltán Sebők in conversation with Miklós Erdély]. Híd [Bridge], 1982/3, pp. 368–369.

[3] Peternák, Op.cit.

[4] See also: Peternák, Miklós: Die Heroische Zeit der großen Illusion. In: Blickmaschinen oder wie Bilder entstehen. Die Zeitgenössische Kunst schaut auf die Sammlung Werner Nekes. Hrsg. von Nike Bätzner, Werner Nekes und Eva Schmidt. DuMont, Cologne, 2008, pp. 220–221. Miklós Erdély: Identifizierungstheoretische Untersuchungen and Wiederholungstheoretische Thesen, pp. 222 and 224. On the exhibition see:

[5] On pp. 49–50. See: bibliography of Expresszió Önmanipuláló Szétfolyóirat [Self-Manipulating Rambling Periodical of Expression]. Compiled by: Csilla Bényi. Ars Hungarica, 2008/1–2, p. 378.

[6] Beke, László: Ismétlődés és ismétlés a képzőművészetben [Recurrence and Repetition in the Visual Arts]. In: Ismétlődés a művészetben. Tanulmányok [Repetition in Art. Essays]. Eds.: Iván Horváth & András Veres. Opus. Irodalomelméleti tanulmányok 5 [Literary Theory Essays], Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, 1980, pp. 168–176.

[7] 4. Triennale Rysunku. Muzeum Architektury, Wrocław, Lengyelország, Maj-czerwiec 1974.

[8] Peternák, Op.cit.

[9] Private collection; exhibited in the recent past: Szimbiózis II. [Symbiosis II], Mai Manó Galéria [Mai Manó House of Photography], Budapest, 2005.

[10] In: II. Esztergomi Fotóbiennálé. Exhibition catalogue. Vármúzeum [Castle Museum], Esztergom, 16 June 1980.

[11] Miklós Erdély’s writing on a missing indigo drawing from 1980, in: Prospekt 80/1. 6 Hongaarse Kunstenaars. Exhibition catalogue, Museum van Hegendaagse Kunst, Ghent, 29 March – 27 April 1980.

[12] Last exhibited: Pont, vonal mozgásban / Point, Line in Movement. Exhibition of a Nyílt Struktúrák Művészeti Egyesület / Open Structures Art Society. Curators: Dóra Maurer, Judit Nemes, István Haász. Vasarely Museum, Budapest, 14 October 2010 – 6 January 2011.

[13] Erdély, Miklós: Model pamieciowy [Memory-Model]. In: Performance. Wybor tekstow Grzegorz Dziamski, Henryk Gajewski, Jan St. Wojciechowski. Mlodziezowa Agencja Wydawniczwa, Warsaw, 1984, pp. 143–144.

[14] On the subject, see: Kreativitási gyakorlatok, FAFEJ és INDIGO. Erdély Miklós pedagógiai tevékenysége 19751986 [Creativity Exercises: FAFEJ and INDIGO. Miklós Erdély’s Pedagogical Activity 1975-1986]. Compiled by: Sándor Hornyik & Annamária Szőke. Gondolat Kiadó–MTA MTKI–EMA–2B Foundation, Budapest, 2008.

[15] Miedzynarodowe Triennale Rysunku (The International Drawing Triennal), Muzeum Architektury, Wrocław, czerwiec-lipiec-sierpien 1978.

[16] Beke, László: A „rajz” fogalma Wrocławban [“The Concept of ‘Drawing’ in Wrocław”]. In: Művészet Évkönyv ‘78 [Art Almanac ‘78]. Corvina Kiadó, Budapest, 1979, p. 276.

[17] His 1974 work entitled Teremtés-történet (Egymást rajzoló ceruzák) [Creation-History (Pencils Drawing Each Other)], (Estate of Miklós Erdély ), not shown in the current exhibitions, formulates the question of the original and the copy as the dialectic of the creator – the created, also touching upon the theological foundations of Western pictorial theory. “A non-existent pencil, while drawing another pencil, also draws itself. All paths are the contours of a pencil.” (Typed Memorandum, Erdély Estate) “The Creator comes into being through creation... The Creator becomes exactly the same as the created (Swedenborg [1688–1772]: ‘The Universe is Human-Formed’). And God created man in His own image” (captions on the work). See also: Szőke, Annamária: “Titok a jövő jelenléte”. Tudomány a művészet határain belül Erdély Miklós művészetében [The Present of the Future is a Secret. Science within the Borders of the Art of Miklós Erdély]. Online version: Ponticulus Hungaricus, Vol. XI., No. 3., March 2007. ; German: „Die Gegenwart der Zukunft: ein Rätsel”. Wissenschaft innerhalb der Kunst im Werk von Miklós Erdély. Acta Historiae Artium, Tomus 39, Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, 1997. 197–221. Online version ; Shorter version in: Peter Weibel (Hrsg.): Jenseits von Kunst. Passagen Verlag, Wien, 1997. 609–613.

[18] See the conversations referred to in notes 1, 2 and 24.

[19] Prospekt 80/1, Op.cit.

[20] In connection with this, see the work mentioned in note 16, which was exhibited in the Young Artists’ Club (FMK), Budapest in 1975, at the show entitled Képregény [Comic Strip].

[21] Estate of Miklós Erdély. First exhibited: Rajz / Drawing. Municipal Gallery, Pécs, 9-31 March 1980.

[22] Photos: György Erdély and Dóra Maurer. Estate of Miklós Erdély. First exhibited: Vonal / Line /Linie / Ligne, Municipal Gallery, Pécs, 26 April – 17 May 1981. Last exhibited: Erdély Miklós és az Indigo. Fotókiállítás [Miklós Erdély and Indigo: Photo Exhibition]. In collaboration with the Miklós Erdély Foundation. Kisterem, Budapest, 15 May – 13 June 2008 ; Miklós Erdély und die Indigo Gruppe. Fotoarbeiten aus den 70er und 80er Jahren. In Zusammenarbeit mit Kisterem Budapest und der EMA-Erdély Miklós Stiftung. Georg Kargl Box, Vienna, 1 July – 23 August 2008 ; and at the exhibition referred to in note 12.

[23] Új misztika felé [Towards a New Mysticism], Op.cit., pp. 373–374.

[24] On the subject, see: Erdély, Miklós – László Beke: “Egyenrangú interjú” [Interview of Equal Peers]. In: Hasbeszélő a gondolában [Ventriloquist in the Gondola]. Tartóshullám [Permanent Wave] Anthology. Eds.: Beke, László, Dániel Csanády, Annamária Szőke. Bölcsész [Philosophers’] Index, Budapest, 1987, p. 181; and Gábor Andrási: “A gondolat formái” [Forms of Thinking]. Nappali Ház, 1993/2, pp. 70–71; 74–75.

Annamária Szőke

Miklós Erdély: Original and Copy + Indigo Drawings

Introduction to a double exhibition

Vintage Gallery, 22 March – 22 April 2011; Kisterem, 22 March – 15 April 2011

The exhibitions have been arranged with the co-operation of the Miklós Erdély Foundation (EMA)


Joseph Kosuth One and Three Chairs , 1965, MOMA

Miklós Erdély: Original and Copy in the Same Medium, 1974, Estate of Miklós Erdély

(Photo: László Lugosi Lugo)

Miklós Erdély: Illustrations to the Theses on the Theory of Repetition and Studies in the Theory of Identification, 1972–1973

Miklós Erdély: Original and Copy in the Same Medium, earlier version, 1974

Miklós Erdély: Roll (Non-reproducible Exhibition Object), 1980

Miklós Erdély: Indigo Drawings, Copied-Apart Drawings, Threadworks

Miklós Erdély: Sacred Line; Context I

Miklós Erdély: Man is Not Perfect, 1976

List of exhibited works