Interview: Ágnes Nagy
Luca Curci talks with Ágnes Nagy during CONTEMPORARY VENICE 2021 at Palazzo Albrizzi-Capello.
I was born on 30th June in 1973, in Budapest. My road to sculpting was quite irregular, in spite of the fact that I have been studying for this career since my childhood. Until I was 13, I attended the Medgyessy Ferenc sculpting workshop led by the sculptor Gábor Szabó in Pestújhely. In 1990, I acquired a profession in ceramic moulding in the Art Primary School on Illatos Street. With early enrollment approved by the director, I continued my studies in the Secondary School of Visual Arts also known as the Secondary School of Fine-and Applied Arts of Budapest, “Kisképző”. In 1994, I graduated from the secondary school, and earned a certificate in leather craftsmanship. Meanwhile, every Saturday afternoon, I went to the art camp on Százados Street to sketch in Gábor Szabó’s studio which meant a real intellectual workshop to me. Here I could absorb the atmosphere of classic studio and art. Sometimes we also went to visit my teacher’s father, Iván Szabó sculptor and the studios of other artists who were living there. Even then, this world has already had a strong influence on me. I come from an intellectual family. In addition to his work as an engineer and managing his company, my father has become a registered collector during these years. I designed and made sculptures, statuettes and plaques for orders. However, my life took a different turn. On 30th July 2005, our second child was born. At first, painting was an obvious choice in the months that I spent with my child at home, but later, when I was commissioned for an exhibition I found sculpting again and the unique style that still characterizes me. The framework of my life is made of my work, sculpting, and it is able to hold me on the ground as much as it is able to take me away from reality both in years with difficulties and trials and the happy and successful periods of time. I didn’t choose animals, they were the ones who found me and refuse to let me go for now. My sculptures are realistic but also transformed as they carry symbolic meaning. I have a strong pursuit of independence, and my work is also characterized by freedom. I strive for uniqueness with a form of expression that is only my signature. At this point, I can take advantage of the disadvantage resulting from that I haven’t finished my academic studies, because nobody’s style has left its mark on me. No one makes such sculptures in Hungary except for me. The method of execution is also unique: my Mediterranean potteries, that I loved making in my childhood, gave me the experience and routine for the technique I also apply today. Actually, it was the source of my idea according to which a sculpture can also be made like this, and it requires nothing, the fireclay can hold itself due to a good static concept.
Luca Curci – Which subject are you working on?
Ágnes Nagy – My new sculpture will be featured in the famous Hungarian art collection called “Returned Hungarian Icons” in February. Bringing a famous memorabilia of Hungarian relevance (such as the referee whistle of the famous England vs. Hungary football match played in November 1953) into dialogue with a contemporary work of art is the concept of the collection. I place my steel shark sculpture in the process of creation into context with the bat used by Zsuzsanna Fantusz, a table tennis player of Hungarian origin who emigrated to Australia following the 1956 Hungarian Revolution and enjoyed success there too (six-time Hungarian champion, eighteen-time Australian champion). I connected my sculpture “Terra Antiqua” to original 18th-19th century etchings, such as with the art of Giovanni, which is a reference to the vulnerability of our fragile, beautiful world. I would now like to add another work of art to this.
LC – How did you get to your current artistic practice?
AN – I did not consider sculpture my vocation for a long time even though this is what I was interested in, attracted to from an early age. It was the year of renaissance in Hungary in 2008, I was invited to an exhibition organized for ceramists and my sculpture “Renaissance”, created based on Dürer’s famous woodcut portraying (an imaginary) rhinoceros, basically burst out of me. This was the point of breakthrough. This was the sharp line of divide in my career from which point on I viewed myself as a sculptor. I reached a form of expression invented by me as a ceramist. My style is relatively unique, it is not an accepted sculpture technique that I work with. I had to gather my experiences on my own, in exchange for which I have the opportunity to enjoy great independence. Cast metal sculptures were also made of almost all of my works of art, which results in an entirely different quality. This is what is now on exhibit at the exhibition.
LC – How do you choose your subjects? Is it reasoned or an instinctive process?
AN – Sometimes it really is just instinctive and the positive mind-set so typical of Italian people and me too is what inspires me. A wonderful dinner in Verona inspired my lobster sculpture, but typically more complex ideas underlie a given work of art, since I often work on a sculpture for several months, it is essential that they need to mediate a sort of eternal timelessness. The sculpture “Venezia II” on exhibit at the exhibition is, on the one hand, a reference to beloved Venice and the San Marco sculpture, whilst, on the other hand, it is a kind of social criticism reflecting on political events unfolding in Hungary, so I too am a little part of the scream. My unicorn sculpture is a surface covered by old etchings. As the name of the sculpture suggests, “Terra Antiqua” (i.e. ancient land) is an almost unknown place littered with mazes, lands waiting to be discovered, secrets and mysteries and, of course, the history of the landscapes portrayed. It is a mysterious and imaginary world, just like the unicorn.
LC – Do you use your art to express something in particular? Is it like your medium of expression?
AN – I enjoy being able to ‘create’ my own image. I did not think, and it wasn’t conscious on my part, that self-expression through animals is still an increasingly prominent part of my work, but somehow they still enrapture me. These are not animals (as the title of my most recent exhibition suggests), but cities, continents, imagined places that have disappeared, cultures and stories portrayed in the image of animals. I cannot put it any better than Dr Gábor Bellák, the curator of my exhibition in Budapest in September: “Animal sculptures, to put it simply, but if you take a closer look you realize that you never come across such animals. Neither such a centaur, nor such a unicorn, horse, lion nor rhinoceros. These sculptures depart from the anatomy of animals, but the final product will not be an image of an animal of anatomical clarity and precision, but a sculpture that is at the same time capable of conveying the recognizable features of the animal and the spiritual, cultural, historical or psychological experiences associated with the given animal, not lacking in humour either”.
LC – How do you feel when you see your work completed?
AN – This is a very good moment. I don’t let my work go until I feel that “I want it”, it represents me. Decorativity is also important to me. It’s a rugged journey to get to this point, firing ceramic sculpture of this dimension, that does not have any interior braces, is hollow and the fact that it needs to support itself, its own weight, is extremely exciting. Firing again after glazing, some more excitement. Then everything starts from scratch in the foundry. It’s a real miracle by the time the sculpture gets its form. By this point I too am an external observer, I am able to look at my work from an external vantage point.
LC – Do you agree with our vision of art and what do you think about the theme of the festival?
AN – My sculptures connect naturally to the exhibition’s main theme, my free-spirited, rebel, socially critical and environmentally aware nature is expressed through my work. My works of art are credos through which my identity assuming responsibility for its fate, insisting on the liberty of self-expression is manifested.
LC – Can you explain something about the artworks you have in our exhibition?
AN – The lobster is one of the most expensive crustaceans. It is the emblem of abundance, luxury, culinary delights, but it is also a symbol: hear the words of the times, rid yourself of your old shell and put one a new one. Crabs shredding their shells and growing new ones not only symbolizes resurrection, but the renewal of customs, lifestyle. My sculpture “Europe II” is not simply a bull, but cultures and stories portrayed in the form of an animal. All that we love, that is ours, where we desire to be and the world of which that is riddled with secrets we are able to relive and imagine over and over again.
LC – Did you enjoy cooperating with us?
AN – I immensely enjoyed the work from the very first moment. Despite the difficulties that we all had to face, the coordination and communication was smooth. In spite of this, I missed the opening, transporting sculptures of this dimension is difficult and we were unable to organize their transportation. Finally, thanks to our work and the work of the transport team in Venice, the sculptures managed to arrive at the palace in spite of the knee-deep tide, I too was pushed in on a cart.. I had the opportunity to talk about my participation in the exhibition over the past few days in the media in Hungary, the print media, on television, on the radio and on internet sites. There is a great deal of interest in the re-opening of museums and exhibition halls in Italy and in that culture will once again be a part of our life after the pandemic. They are watching this with great anticipation here.
LC – What are your suggestions about our services? Is there something more we can provide to artists?
AN – This is my first appearance here. I just got to know ITSLIQUID Group. I find it a high quality artistic platform and the opportunity for an exhibition of immense prestige, to present my work. The communication platforms, channels equally reflect this professional approach. My experiences are highly positive. I would be happy to take part with my new works of art in even more projects of this type.
LC – What is your idea about ITSLIQUID GROUP?
AN – I hope I have already answered this question above..