But a few weeks back, while over in Buda, I ran into British artist David Stuart Sutherland. Unusually, both of us had time to spare, time for a quick coffee and a catch-up. It'd been years. Many years. Back when a mutual friend was living in Hungary, we'd socialised a bit. I'd a faint notion that he painted and took photographs and was in to some sort of whacky music, but I didn't know the half of it.

In the years since we last met, Sutherland has come into his own. Focusing exclusively on his art, his interplay with mixed-media painting, analogue photography and sound belies an innate curiosity about stuff. Yes, stuff. Plain, ordinary, everyday stuff.

Standing one day with the guts of a Hoover bag in his hands, he upended the contents. There among the dust were pieces of his son's Lego, splotches of colour that greyed out the already grey dust. Where I'd have seen a mess, he saw a pigment. The result was a 25 cm x 25 cm piece called "Ash Vacuum": vacuum cleaner dust and paper on canvas, a piece I'm secretly coveting.

Sutherland doesn't limit himself by paint when he makes paintings. His thing is to mix found materials. A 1966 ledger he found on the street in Budapest, the forerunner of the modern-day Excel spreadsheet, resulted in a series of three pieces entitled "Harbor", and heralded his venture into "found" art.

But his work is not just about physical media that can be fashioned into something for people to look at. Sutherland is also into sound as art. In 2014, he founded the audio-visual group monofog with Tamás Ilauszky. Thepair of them dug out some lo-fi, junk instruments and started playing. Their work looks at acoustic bodies as art objects as well as sound makers.

And here, too, there's the thread of found art and a homage to our disposable world. Imagine a fiddle bow tickling the spokes of a bicycle wheel and you're one step closer to picturing what they do. If you need to hear it to believe it, have a listen to their track "Dodo dodo" on Sutherland's website https://www.davidstuartsutherland.com/sound-works. It's heady stuff.

With photography part of everything we do these days, some say that the art itself is dead. Mind you, didn't they say that about painting, too? With the millions of photos posted hourly on social media (an average of 95 million photos were uploaded each day on Instagram alone in 2018), everyone with a smartphone fancies themselves a photographer.

Digital has done wonders for the democratisation of photography but how much of the art itself has been diluted by editing tools and filters? I wonder. Sutherland is old school, though. He's analogue all the way. His black-and-white photos of the city are shot on a MicroPress 5x4 Xenar 1:4 camera with a 7/134 Schenider Kreuznach lens. He develops the sheet prints in his home studio and then makes the contact prints.

His series Budapest F32 is in Mai Manó House, the Hungarian House of Photography, over on Nagymező utca (signed, dated archival prints are available for sale: my picks are Vajda and Liszt).There's an old-world feel to these contemporary images that grabs hold of you. It's like being transported back to a place where people had both the time and the inclination to stop and look and listen. There's something about Sutherland's work that resonates; it's almost as if he's been around before.

The curator at Rugógyár Galéria thought so, too. Earlier this year, Sutherland was chosen as part of the gallery's Innen és Túl az érzékelés határain (From here and beyond the limits of perception). Hewas in good company. Featuring abstract paintings from 1947 to 2018, the exhibition showcased the works of three artists:Tamás Lossonczy (1904–2009), Árpád Szabados (1944–2017) and David Stuart Sutherland (1966–) himself.

It sought to find the parallels between the three artists, to find a shared visual language, and in doing so to show how even though we come from different places and live in different times, our views of life can be similar. To share the same wall space with Lossonczy, who learned the tools of modern art from Picasso in Paris in the 1930s, had an almost poetic feel to it.

Back in 2005, Sutherland and his wife Judit took their infant daughter to Műcsarnok, a contemporary art museum in Budapest. There, they fell in love with one of Lossonczy's paintings. They positioned their pram in front of the painting and snapped a surreptitious photo. Little did Sutherland know that some 13 years later, his own paintings would be hanging beside those of Lossonczy in a new gallery on Szarka u. 7.

Sutherland's work is being exhibited as part of the December Group Show at Rugógyár Galéria, alongside paintings and sculptures by Daniel Horváth, Szilárd Cseke, Tamás Lossonczy, Árpád Szabados, Balázs Veres,Henrik Martin and Ágnes Hardi. It runs from 11 December.

As Christmas approaches, shopping lists grow longer. Decisions on what to buy for those special people can wreck your head. Consider giving the gift of art this year. I'm making it easy for you; I've given you my three Sutherland picks.

Nollaig shona daoibh go léir | Boldog karácsonyt mindenkinek | Happy Christmas to you all.


Mary Murphy is a freelance writer and public speaker who can’t sing a note. Read more at www.unpackingmybottomdrawer.com | www.dyingtogetin.com | www.anyexcusetotravel.com


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