Dear Visitors,

Once a boy called Attila promised a younger boy called Balázs to get distance as a marble, if he closes his eyes and goes to sleep. To make the promise more believable, he talked to Balázs like his mam. Just to cover the trick even more, he wrapped up the promise in a poem. We all know this poem as we all got the promise (from mams, kindergarten nurses, grannies, and dads) to get distance as a glass marble. The poem promises many more things to Balázs – he will be a giant, a fireman, a soldier, and even a shepherd fighting beasts – just to encourage him to go to sleep and have sweet dreams. But these are just the usual tricks of adults and a seasoned little kid would just smile at them „of course, you keep saying this . OK, I will go to sleep for once.” But in the poem there is only one particular promise: distance in a glass marble ball.

But why should such a little kid need distance? Should such a thing be mentioned at all, before it occurs to him? This may be clear irresponsibility. Isn’t he happy just until he begins thinking about such things? Of course, distance may be an exciting, attractive, and wonderful thing. But it is also frightening, terrible, inhuman, and indifferent. Distance is dangerous. Distance makes the soul desire and this feeling is impossible to appease. It is the desire for endlessness, the desire for infinity. It is a devilish trick, a temptation. It depresses the soul and doesn’t let it go. Distance may make you go crazy. The boy who wrote the poem to Balázs knew that very well. Perhaps better than anyone else. A little later distance maddened him. He got too far away from everybody and everything and he was unable to bear that. Before his suicide he wrote:

My child-body’s quickening buds
with eye-stinging smoke I had dried.
Regret now tears my mind to shreds
when I realise where I arrived.

And this:
My youth, that greening wilderness,
I thought was eternal and free,
sadly I hear with tearfulness,
the rustling dry twigs in the tree.

I don’t think Attila József ever wanted little Balázs to get to the hell of the soul. This is why he promised him the glass marble. It was a talisman against distance. Attila promised but never gave it to him as he himself didn’t have that either.

Dear visitors, Kinga Ráthonyi made such glass marbles for us. To be more precise, these are objects which have the distance enclosed within. These are talismans to protect us against the wickedness of distance. Against the emptiness of soul. They are to prevent us from continuously distancing ourselves from everything and everybody, from each other and even ourselves. These statuettes don’t want the distance to grow in our souls between opportunities and desires. The combination of Distance and Desire is Unreachability itself. This is what the talismans you can see here want to chase away. So that we shouldn’t know the pain of Unreachability, which is the most intense of all the pains of the soul. It is not by accident that the title of the exhibition is desirée (the story goes that there is a sailboat on the Lake Balaton with this name, desirée is painted on it in lower case. At sunset you can see it on the water, and Kinga once managed to sight it).

There are quite many good artists who are able to alleviate the pain of Unreachability. But at a colossal cost. The way they put Unreachable before us disillusions us at the same time: there you are, everything is here, you see, nothing is unreachable, are you sure these are the gadgets you longed for so desperately? This type of art is brutal and unmagical – and sincere at the same time. And this is the deception as it suggests what is sincere is also disappointing. And what is not disappointing is false. I think this is what Kinga Ráthonyi did not accept. Instead, she performed a double magic. The first magic is that she also placed Unreachable before us (as tiny porcelain objects) and didn’t lie that they are reachable. However, and this is where the second magic comes, these porcelain statuettes manage to prevent unreachable from making us feel the pain, and they make us smile happily.

How can Kinga achieve this? Through miniaturising, modelling endless infinity. She puts it into our hands as toys. We should look at them, touch them. Cosmic distances can be felt inside them. She makes a little boat and puts us on its board. She places a setting sun before us and bridges the 8.3 light-minute or 150-million-kilometre distance by making a sea reaching right to the sun for us. I don’t even know which is more difficult, to miniaturise the sea or the sun. Because the sea is endless in its own way while the distance between the sun and earth is definite. Yet, which is more endless? The round ocean or outer space. These statuettes plant such questions in our minds and also calm us as we aren’t obliged to respond.

How can Kinga make her statuettes able to calm me? How do they take over a part of my problems? How do they trigger my (almost grin-like) smile? Where do these statuettes get their power which I feel radiating from them?

I can only guess: one of them is art, the artistic mettle of Kinga Ráthonyi. Of course, this is natural. These statuettes are wonderfully beautiful. And they have stories, entire novels inside. According to another legend, Kinga was looking at some knick-knack from under a Japanese cupboard and realised they had been painted ugly. And she thought, they should be painted nicely. She might have felt that knick-knacks were actually good but they weren’t treated well. Kitsch was made of them. It is unclear what Kinga thought under the Japanese cupboard in the legendary moment of her becoming an artist, but here you can see knick-knacks which are painted well and treated with love. Perhaps the power of statuettes is hidden in this paint job.

However, there is another force here besides art. These objects – since they are talismans – are not just pieces of art. Please scrutinise them carefully as these objects are at work now. They are double agents: they seem to be standing here but at the same time they live their own diligent talisman -lives. Even now, at this very moment. Try them, chose one and look at it for a few minutes. I have done that. Suddenly you will feel that this object, made of porcelain , is doing its job: treating the souls of space travellers somewhere else, chasing demons away. Or it is bringing a stray psyche back from somewhere. Back here from far away. Because this is the job of an amulet: to turn distance into closeness. But if somebody finds magic too prosaic or unscientific, there is a simpler explanation as well: what we can see here at Kinga Ráthonyi’s exhibition is Mystique itself.

István Kemény