George Baloghy was born in Budapest in 1950 and emigrated as a child refugee to New Zealand. While studying for his Bachelor of Fine Arts at Elam in Auckland, Baloghy began wandering the streets of central Auckland taking pictures of building facades with a borrowed camera.
Baloghy’s interest in the city and suburbia has continued throughout his career, and his depictions of city landscapes, often painted with a quirky and ironic eye, could now be considered synonymous with Auckland’s visual identity. The works often include pastiches and art historical references to artists such as Canaletto, a painter who also “chronicled” his city. Baloghy’s paintings feature a quiet humour and focus on all details of the landscape, from the spectacular to the mundane. As the artist himself says, “I find visual beauty in things like asphalt or cars.”
Baloghy’s realism is unique in that it is not photographic likeness, but as he himself describes it, an “enhanced realism”. The distant details are sharper than they appear in real life, and the overall effect is slightly disconcerting. This is achieved by the subtle editing of elements within the composition, so that distant hills might be brought closer, or the middle distance completely erased. Nevertheless the scenes essentially remain faithful to real life and are usually instantly recognisable. Baloghy's scrupulous attention to detail challenges the viewer to engage with and explore the paintings, rather than merely glancing at mimetic reproductions of the landscape.
The compositions are based on those used by seventeenth and eighteenth century landscape painters such as Canaletto and Claude Lorraine, thus Baloghy easily fits into that Western tradition. With classic Claudian devices, such as a road drawing in the spectator, the dramatisation of the foreground and aerial perspective, one could almost mistake these pictures for centuries old paintings were it not for their modern buildings and cars.
Baloghy has lived and worked in Auckland since he was a student, and he now spends half his time at Hahei. His paintings are an affectionate journey through the landscape he inhabits, becoming an autobiography of his travels and the way he sees the world around him. Many include references to his own presence within the landscape, often represented by the inclusion of his own red Subaru wagon.
In a sense Baloghy’s paintings are historic records, in that the scenes are highly specific in time and location. Landscapes are constantly changing, and even after very short periods of time these images become a record of an era that exists no more.