LONDON LIFE IN CONCRETE
36 Soho Square, 1938
LASZLO PERI is an artist in the best sense of the word. He is not only a skilled interpreter of life as he sees it but a creator of an entirely new medium-a sculptor in concrete.
Peri portrays the man in the street in a medium which that man knows and understands. Road workers, builders, char women and the street crowds of London are his models, and the simplicity of form which characterises his work is completely in accord with the spirit of his subjects.
As an artist he is proud of having evolved a form of art which has as great an appeal for the masses as for the intellectual elite, and as a craftsman he rejoices in the discovery of a medium having the spontaneity of clay modelling combined with the permanence of carving in stone.
It was fifteen years ago that Peri began experimenting with sculpture while working as an architect in Berlin, but it was not until ten years later that he found in concrete the perfect medium for his own particular style of work. In 1933 he came to London determined to concentrate solely on cement sculpture and the present exhibition shows the various stages through which his work has passed from simple bas-reliefs to portraits and vertical groups. Portraits in cement may sound fantastic but Peri has carried out several interesting experiments in this medium both in relief and “ in the round.” His “Chess” is a good example of his latest portrait panel work. He relies for success on the portrayal of the attitudes and occupations of his sitters rather than any mere likeness of features and considers that a panel showing Bob Jones digging his potato patch is more like the original than a painting of Bob Jones sitting stiffly in a studio.
From abstract artist to architect, from architect to sculptor, Peri's development from his student days in Budapest twenty years ago is an interesting study, for although he has changed his medium of expression several times, working in tempera, pencil, clay, stone, bronze and concrete all in turn, he has never lost his original interest in pure pattern. This is especially noticeable in his latest experiment "verticals.'"
In these wall-panels, on which the figures are placed so that the spectator experiences the sensation of looking down on them from above, a return to the artist’s original preoccupation with abstract form is clearly suggested.
Peri is a true product of the twentieth century. He has chosen concrete, the material of present-day architecture, to portray the people of the present day, and the speed and energy with which he works are also typical of the age. Using a mixture of two parts river sand and one part Portland cement, with a small trowel he builds up his figures rapidly and nimbly on their bare wire framework, half-modelling, half-carving to achieve the finer details.
Yet quickly as he works it is possible to sense behind the rapidly shaping form the accumulated knowledge of twenty years of study. Only the discipline of his early stages as an abstract artist could give Peri his present mastery of form and the ability to apply his newly discovered technique to the task of expressing the vital experiences of ordinary men and women.