Péter Gallov

  • Hungary (b. 1984 in Budapest)
  • Currently in Budapest, Hungary.


My drawings are founded on systemization, in which I seek to explore the relationship
between nature and order with a disciplined work ethic; this, I determine through repetitive drawing practices, numbers, cycles and rhythms. I aspire to achieve clarity, minimalism and symbolism, while at the same time also giving importance to maintaining the genuineness of the image.


  • Emese Révész

    THE DISCREET CHARM OF THE SCORPION - The drawings of Péter Gallov


    Nowadays we tend to think about hand-drawing as a form of free self-expression, spontaneous image sketching, the beauty and authenticity of which comes precisely form this spontaneous presence and incompleteness.  Nothing could stand further from Péter Gallov than graphic spontaneity, images based on random and ephemeral phenomena. For him drawing is a means of self-control, the path towards a visual order established as a result of an internally driven discipline. The artist, who finished his studies at the Graphics Department of the Hungarian University of Fine Arts in 2014, owns a visual world that is both astonishingly closed and consistent. Behind all of his lines is thorough planning and precise, flawless execution. It was most probably the appreciation of this visual consistency that drove The Foundation for the Hungarian Graphic Art to give Péter Gallov the “Graphic Art of the Year” award.[1]


    Before anyone made the mistake of thinking that the small frame and the graphic precision reflect compositional limits to image creation, it is worthwhile to take a look at Gallov’s ca. five-meter-long landscape panorama from 2011. Gallov transposed the actual landscape experience (from Lovasberény) to a charcoal drawing with densely drawn series of black and white lines – an image that radiates the monumental character and abstract order of the agricultural landscape. The geometric construction of landlines carries with it the very stability, which is the re-occurring core thesis of Gallov’s visual compositions. Behind the static discipline of the visual experience, however, throbs the impulsive calligraphy of hand-drawing, the chain of charcoal signs reminiscent of hand-writing. The dynamics of the monotone rhythm, the taming of inconsistency through its confinement into a numerical order, the events taking place behind the visual rigour remained the guiding principles of the artist’s later works.


    Two years later, he turned to drawing seeds, which he did with accurate artistic precision onto white papers of about the size of two palms. The subject remained to be the origin of life; however, following the ceremonial monumentality of the soil, now it was presented through the microcosm of seeds. Of course, these are sort of “urbanized seeds” (the sunflower and pumpkin seed) in that they are the kind that come to hand in the everyday life of the urban citizen. A literate audience might associate these with the biblical allegory of the sower by Millet or Van Gogh; however, nothing could be further from Gallov than intentioned literary symbolism. Seemingly, all he did was drawing sunflower seeds on paper organizing them into a militaristic order, whereas, in truth, he addresses the fundamental concepts of perception-based graphic art.  


    As a drawer, he ascetically binds himself to the visual experience; he observes and describes the subject with the stubborn persistence of a biologist.  The aesthetic of an image created in the framework of natural sciences greatly differs from that of artistic creation, in that all of its tools are subjected to serve the creation of an illusion, to imaging the perceived object in planes. This is done from the conviction that the drawn image helps the cognition of things. The resulting image, therefore, is created through the complex process of observation, sensation, interpretation, analysis, systemization and visual abstraction.[2]  The abstract feature of scientific illustrations is best proven by the fact that natural scientific publications are still to this day fond of using hand-drawings instead of photographs because of their ability to better emphasize the essential characteristic of a visual theme. The drawings of Péter Gallov display the observation, description and conceptualization processes of drawing with a grip on the essential, without at the same time submitting them to a scientific purpose. That this is, in essence, about the imitation of a modus of scientific illustration, is revealed by one of Gallov’s etching compositions (Page, 2011), the subject of which is the method of systemization itself: the transparent structure of strictly aligned moths, insects and “dot bugs” is in actuality a pseudo taxonomy, a message without meaning. His drawings of seeds and moths concentrate on the object of perception itself with ascetic rigour regardless of actual space and time. The possibility for absolute (abstract) description is questioned by the artist himself through the seeming uniformity of the aligned objects. There is no one seed, only slightly differing (thus different) seeds and moths. What exists on the level of the conceptual is intangible on the level of the empirical. And at the same time, it is precisely this difference that lies the centre of Gallov’s interest as a graphic artist: the difference hiding behind an apparent identicalness, the “flaw” that disrupts order, the character behind the uniform – uncovering the characteristics, the unique “birthmarks” of the seeds.


    Being a graphic artist, Gallov constantly reflects on the phenomena of uniqueness and multiplication. The piece Page, made with soft-ground technique, imitates an info-communicational device, which also underlines the concept of multiplying the message. Seed Order and its variations, however, were all consistently hand-drawn with graphite. This type of application of the pencil is a resignation dedicated to the service of exact description – a submissive and devoted gesture deriving from the stubborn conviction that the transformation of the perceived object into an image is possible (or at least not inconceivable). Vija Celmins, an American artist of Latvian origin, made exact copies of found pebbles with similar devotion before creating large-size graphic works of limitless spaces (skies, oceans).[3]  The multiplication of things is sometimes pregnant with the monotony of endless repetition, as is the case with the piece 580 waiting. The figure of half a thousand Indian mealmoths (Ploida interpunctella), each drawn individually with pencil, was a sort of meditational tool, which, similarly to a monotonous prayer wheel used in religious practices, helps to step out of (step beyond) the individual borders of space and time. The gummy candy prints of the Irritation X series (made in collaboration with Patrícia Jagicza), confront the viewer with quite the opposite: countless masses; with the ceaseless flow of the mass production of confectionary, poisonous for the human body in the long term.


    In the case of the Seed Order cycle the numerical feature gives the certainty of countability.  The placement of seeds in rows and groups according to mathematic systems is dictated not by random spreads but by the universal laws of algebra. The number four stands in the axis of the the five-piece series of Seed Order: two images of four items, two of twelve items and one of thirty-six items. The problem these works raise is reminiscent of Dóra Maurer’s Quantity Tables from the 70s’, which composed found natural creations (grass, hay) along the concepts of measurability/immeasurability and proportion/structure, sometimes through redrawing, while at other times through using the found items directly.[4] For Gallov, however, beyond algebraic certainty, the number four carries with it an emotional (irrational, mysterious) meaning as well: it is the symbol of stability, certainty. Structural asymmetry and morphological differences are part of Gallov’s system. In the case of Seed Order 76 he compiled seventy-six pumpkin seeds in four blocks with four columns and four rows in each, disrupting the logic of alignment in each block, with each disruption differing from the other. This, however, was not a difference that came randomly when drawing the seeds (fluctuating asymmetry), but it was a reoccurring change generated by a mathematical system. As was the case with individual differences behind uniformity, this time too, it is the combination of order and asymmetry, continuity and disruption that stands in the centre of Gallov’s attention, which thus brings dynamic and rhythm into the predictable order, and that is, after all, vigour itself.


    Observation, numbers, and meaning form a high-level synthesis in the case of Gallov’s series of drawings of scorpion claws as well. In 2014, his diploma titled the Tools of Selection displayed eight drawings of various scorpion claws organized into various mathematical structures.[5] As was the case with the seeds, the scorpion is also not without symbolic meaning: it is a creature we often associate with aggression and the underworld because of its lethal poison. In Egyptian mythology, the goddess Serqet, the protector of the dead, wears a crown in the form of a scorpion, but the animal is also the companion to Isis in the underworld.[6] Nevertheless, we do know some of the positive references as well: in Botticelli’s A Young Man Being Introduced to the Seven Liberal Arts, Logic holds a scorpion in her hand as a representation of wit. It sometimes appears on female portraits as well, such as Raphael’s portrait of Elisabetta Gonzaga or one of the self-portraits of Marina Abramovic. For Gallov the scorpion primarily serves the expression of rigour and distance; its claw is similar to a human hand, a sign-like shape. The graphite portraits of the claws were made during months of Gallov’s frequent visits to the Újpest Butterfly Museum and are based on his close observations of actual autopsies. Gallov organized the different shapes and colours of claws belonging to various species according to a mathematical order based on the number eight, which was underlined by the facts that scorpions have eight legs, many of them eight eyes, and they are also the eighth sign of the Zodiac.


    In his series Hommage á L’Age d’Or, made in 2016, Gallov somewhat distances himself from direct observation in order to transpose the object as symbol of cultural history from a medium it had already appeared in. The ignition point of his newer series of pencil drawings is the opening scene of Luis Bunuel’s film, L’Age d’Or (The Golden Age), made in 1930, which itself is also a footage from, and thus a reference to an earlier documentary about scorpions made in 1912. There are several frames in this scene where the camera shows a tondo-sytle close-up of a scorpion sting, filled with lethal poison, and the rest of the image is concealed. In his drawing, Gallov recreates eight variations of this close-up.


    The film as a transmitting medium returns in Gallov’s latest work as well; however, instead of an art film, the reference in this case is a B movie. The Mexican-American horror movie, The Black Scorpion was made in 1957; its plot is centred around a volcano, operated by colossal giant scorpions.[7] Based on several frames of the movie, Gallov recreated volcanos in the form of miniature pencil drawings. His small-size, black and white drawings made with a crafter’s meticulousness are in stark contrast with the movie’s grandiose volcanos and terrifying atmosphere. The documentary style in the craftiness of these drawings is deceiving, as it conceals the true nature, the bombastic emptiness of the visual source and its cheap melodrama built on the collective fears of the audience.


    Rigor and discipline relieves Gallov’s drawings of all kinds of possible impulsivity, so that in return he can direct all his attention to the anatomy of the graphic imaging of what he perceives. Behind his apparent lack of tools, the absolute reduction of the object, lies the concept itself: discovering the visual concepts of observation, cognition, illusion and imitation.

    [1]  Last year’s awardee was Gábor Koós. For details see Emese Révész: A lenyomat mint napló. Koós Gábor műveiről. (The print as a diary. About the work of Gábor Koós) Új Művészet, 2015/11, November, pp.40-43.

    [2]  Harry Robin: The Scientific Image. From cave to computer. Abrams, New York, 1992; Davis Freedberg: The Eye of the Lynx. Galileo, his friends, and the beginnings of modern natural history. University of Chicago Press, London, 2002.

    [3]  Vija Celmins. Gezeichnete Bilder. Museum Gegenwartskunst, Basel, 2001.


    [4]  Király Judit: Maurer Dóra munkásságának matematikai vonatkozásai. (The mathematical aspects of Dóra Maurer’s work) In: Maurer Dóra, Ludwig Múzeum, Budapest, 2008, 49-50. (45-82.)

    [5]  Gallov Péter: „A válogatás eszközei”. (The Tools of Selection)  Szakdolgozat. Magyar Képzőművészeti Egyetem, 2014.

    [6]  Szimbólumtár. Jelképek és motívumok, témák az egyetemes és a magyar kultúrából. (Table of Symbols. Symbols and motifs, themes from global and Hungarian culture.)  Edited by.: Pál József és Újvári Edit. Balassi Kiadó, Budapest, 1997, 409.

    [7] The Black Scorpion, 1957. Mexican-American horror film. Warner Bros. Dir.: Edward Ludwig