When coming up with a title for Gabor Szilasi’s exhibit at the National Gallery of Canada, curator David Harris had to think long and hard.
After coming up with about 50 possibilities, the associate professor at Ryerson University decided on The Eloquence of the Everyday.
“He’s treated the everyday with an elegance and respect,” Harris said Wednesday. “This is part of his view of the world and his personality. There is no sarcasm and no judgment, just what it’s like to be a human being.”
Starting Friday, a cemetery in rural Quebec, a street fight, a family standing outside their barn and portraits of artists in their homes will allow the public to see through the eyes of the Hungarian-born Montreal photographer.
When he looks at his own work, Szilasi said “personal memories, long forgotten, come back.”
Exhibitions like this, which mean “recognition on the part of his peers” and a sign that his “work is worth continuing,” mean a lot to him, said the 81-year-old.
Szilasi’s photography has held a prominent place at the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography since its early days of collecting prints in the 1960s, said CMCP director Martha Hanna.
“His work is classed in two ways,” said Harris, “as documentary photography and as humanism photography.”
While his documentary photos “show a person, place or time without a great deal off subjectivity,” said Harris, “the humanist photos look at human beings and where their values come from.”
For the exhibition, which includes 124 photographs taken by the artist over the past 50 years, Harris looked at where the significance of the work lay and divided the exhibit into four parts – the introduction, which includes three portraits of the artist himself at different stages of his life (“it’s important for visitors to understand who the photographer is,” he said) – and three geographically-based themes.
These include Hungary, where Szilasi was born and lived until he was 29 years old; Montreal, where he’s lived and worked since 1959; and his work in rural Quebec, which “have become a landmark body of work.”