Matúš Lányi — Peter Denies Jesus

The main topics Matúš Lányi develops in his artworks, consisting mainly of paintings and videos, are Christianity, religion and faith...


Matúš Lányi 

Article inventory no.: O-2143

Author: Matúš Lányi

Work title: Peter Denies Jesus

Year of origin: 2006
Technique: acrylic painting
Material: canvas
Dimensions: 130 x 210 cm
Marked: in the back middle part: Matúš Lányi “Peter zapiera Ježiša” (130×210); akryl na plátne  

The main topics Matúš Lányi develops in his artworks, consisting mainly of paintings and videos, are Christianity, religion and faith. He is probably the only established Slovak author of the young generation who focuses on these topics as a part of his artistic program. He can develop Christian topics that are the starting point of European art with a certain detachment and with the help of understandable and contemporary visual language. He shifts the timeless ideas into new contexts and thus reflects on problems of the contemporary world. It could seem that his works incorporate irony and sarcasm as a criticism of religion or Catholic Church, Lányi, however, as a religious person, does not want to shock in terms of a cheap effect, on the contrary, he brings a different perspective and offers spectators a space to meditate. [1]

The work Peter Denies Jesus is a part of three cycles of paintings titled Windows (2006-2008) where Lányi worked with key passages from the Gospels with the help of contemporary digital age symbols – the well-known “windows” from the operation system Windows of the Microsoft Company. “The book by Richard Dawkins that says that we are only a river of data was the point of departure for me. Dawkins claims that our existence does not have a goal that is measurable, there is not transcendence, we are only carriers of information, and we connect together, multiply, but do not go anywhere. I read the text with the awareness of a man who believes, the Windows cycle is only a response…”. [2]

The main impulse for the artist was thus the neo-Darwinian theory that “…compares the evolution of a man to the flowing river of genes – microentities transmitting freely information and generating new original microentities. The digital computer system is also based on the connection of basic units – bites and generates the new ones. The space to multiply them is infinite. The Windows system has, however, its hierarchy and order, starting with an important bite ending with a cursor, acting as a transcendental element, governing and directing the flow of bites – similarly to people. Our social system has also a hierarchy. Its basic unit is a man and stands equally on the principle of an unknown external manipulator – transcendence.” [3]

Lányi, in these paintings, went for contemporary, extremely simplified, technological and in its essence immaterial and virtual computer communication existing only in the form of zeroes and ones in order to approximate rather distant messages from biblical texts to a contemporary man because they still carry universal thoughts and contain several possibilities of interpretation.

The artwork Peter Denies Jesus deals with the triple denial of Jesus by his apostle Peter the night before Jesus’ crucifixion. It presents the “Windows” window with a notification on error and button “OK”. Several other paintings from the Windows series provide viewers with several possibilities, they can click on one of several possible options like in reality (e.g. in the painting Jesus Before Pilate there are buttons “Yes”, “No”, “Cancel”), this particular painting, however, has no alternative. Peter’s action is interpreted as an error that he later repented similarly as if we correct a mistake and the notification stops to be displayed. In contrast to reality we still have the option to restart the whole system in the virtual world…

Formally, the painting is interesting because of its precise, flat acrylic painting that at the first glance rather reminds us of a digital print. A traditional hanging painting is juxtaposed with the world of digital image. The dimensions of the painting where an originally small window on the screen of a computer screen becomes a large scale canvas accentuate this contrast. Lányi thus chooses the language understandable to a contemporary man living more and more in the secularized society. He does it in order to open the question of function and meaning of religion and its message for today.

MATÚŠ LÁNYI was born in 1981 in Spišské Podhradie, Slovakia. In 2000 – 2007 he studied at the Department of Art Media and Intermedia at the Faculty of Arts of the Technical University in Košice in the Studio of Graphic and Experimental Work (lead by professor Rudolf Sikora and Zbyněk Prokop). He participated in a number of exhibitions in Slovakia, Czech Republic, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Italy and France. He currently lives in Bratislava and works as the head of the Centre for Museum Communication at the Slovak National Museum.                                                                                                  


Omar Mirza
Photo: Slávomír Žákovič     

[1] see an interview with Matúš Lányi in the SME daily newspaper: (downloaded on June 3, 2013)
[2] Ibid.
[3] see the text by Matúš Lányi on his series „Windows“ published on the portal Artdispečing, (downloaded on June 3, 2013)

This acquisition has been supported using public funds provided by the Ministry of Culture of the Slovak Republic.