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In Conversation 


Photo Credit: Brynley Odu Davies 

Could you tell us a bit about yourself and your background?

I am Andras, an artist living and practicing in London. I grew up in Hungary in a village outside of Budapest, called Nagykovacsi. My mother was raised in the US, and our household was bilingual, which had a significant impact on me.
After studying Aesthetic Theory and Philosophy at the Eotvos Lorant University in Budapest while simultaneously painting in my bedroom, I moved to Newcastle upon Tyne to do a BA in Fine Art. There, I experimented with all sorts of disciplines and was especially interested in narrative, folklore, and the expanded field of painting. Following my BA, I moved to London to do an MFA in painting at the Slade School of Fine Art, where my interest in folklore deepened and latched onto my new fields of research - masculinity, sci-fi and body armours.

What does a day in your studio look like?


I see the studio space as an opportunity for full immersion in my own world. My walls are full of sketches, which creates a narrative space that I can enter into freely. I don’t do much research in the studio, I don’t have reference books there, I try to keep visual influences on the doorstep and organize the space around the painting process. 

I have also compiled an electronic music-based playlist that grounds me in my body, gets me moving. It helps me trust my process, think through my body and follow my intuitions, and is the first thing I put on once I have changed into my studio clothes.


I usually work on multiple paintings simultaneously, so I keep painting until I run out of fuel, which is when I move onto smaller drawings that will either end up on the wall as source images or be taken home, where I keep the inks that I use to colour them. 


I work in bursts, so there are some weeks when all I do is prepare surfaces and work on ideas. This process is followed by weeks of productivity. The key is knowing where I am in this process and embracing it. 

We Won't Hesitate, 2022
oil and oil bar on canvas
55 x 55 cm

Don't Let Go, 2022
oil and oil bar on canvas
31 x 35.5 cm

You’ve recently finished your MFA at the Slade School of Fine Art, London. How did you find the experience? How do you see your practice having developed during the MA?

I started my MFA in 2019, right before the pandemic, and I interrupted my studies for a year. It was like doing a residency between first and second year. I learned so much from the staff and my peers at the Slade. The conversations we had about painting and the feedback I received there was life-changing. 


My experiences at the Slade and in the time of my interruption helped me unpick and change the rules that formed the foundation of my practice. I loosened up, allowed influences to flow into my practice from my childhood and teens that I had dismissed before for fear of them being judged. These were Hungarian folk tales, illustrators and animators who brought these stories to life, Japanese anime, and Western comic books; and ultimately: my own emotions.


It was during my studies and my year of interruption that I finally managed to become truly vulnerable in my studio processes and tie my subject matter into it organically. I realized that my disparate interests were actually connected by an underlying questioning of what masculinity is and how it is affecting me and my relationships. This is where the concept of body armour stems from in my work.

Step Inside (Breathe Through It), 2022

fluid acrylic on canvas,

200 x140 cm

One of your most recent exhibitions was the group show Who Holds the Sword at Hypha Studios, a fitting title as one of the most focal emblems in your work is that of the armour. Can you elaborate on this symbol and its importance in your work?

I was so happy I was asked to be a part of that show, the theme really resonated with me. It also gave me the opportunity to experiment with mural painting, something that I have been playing around with since my MFA degree show last year and which has become increasingly important to me.


The concept of body armour emerged in my work at a time when I was dealing with a lot personally, financially, and professionally. I was cycling in the city all the time going between university, customer service jobs, and self-initiated curatorial projects. It was only in these moments between my various roles that I could deal with difficult emotions, so it felt like I existed in the dialectic of the roads and the dynamics between metal bodies and bodies of flesh.


Putting on my helmet, finding a coat that protects me from the weather and from falls became very important to me, and that is when I started thinking about armour as something that mediates my relationship with the world around me. The idea that I need external protection made me see my emotional support systems as exoskeletons and it made me question notions of masculinity, heroism and martyrdom, that armours are widely associated with. 


I am also fascinated with their design, their patterns, and their sculptural aspects. I am intrigued by the way their function dictates their looks as well as the manner in which the narrative inherent within the designs can change our interpretation of the wearer as human.


The way I see body armours is connected to the idea of embodied sense-making: the manner in which we naturally extend our awareness into objects, such as clothing and vehicles like cars, ships and planes, and experience our surroundings differently through these. This expanded field of awareness is at the heart of how I use the armour in my works. 


My interpretations of armour are constantly changing, it is not a fixed visual element, it isn’t necessarily decipherable as armour. It is rather a device for me to deconstruct the human body, the relationship of the interior to the exterior worlds. It is a contextual web. Simply put, it represents the existence and the sensorial field of a body or bodies in my paintings.

Unite!, 2022
Ink, acrylic, oil and oil bar on primed paper

 121 x 151 cm

Help a Friend Out, 2023

acrylic ink and pen on paper
6 x 10 cm

You’ve previously talked about your practice as a way for you to investigate and dissect tropes of masculinity. What is it that particularly interests you in those qualities and attributes traditionally associated with being a man? How does art help you to take apart and work through these social expectations?

The ideology of masculinity is paradoxical; on some basic level it might serve some sort of evolutionary purpose, but it breeds misconceptions. Definitions and expectations are not flexible enough to account for the ambivalence of the human experience, however they are still romanticized in mainstream media and still affects our daily lives and interactions. Judgement is always based on belief in some objective structure. 


My works include multiheaded beings, androgynous characters and sexual references that float between identities. A lot of my paintings reference folk tales and characters from these stories such as the young prince, young shepherd, multiheaded beasts, dragons, kings and princesses. I include these archetypes in my pieces in an attempt to deconstruct the topos of the heroic man, the hero’s journey. 


I see my paintings as fluid, ambiguous and hybrid objects. Everything that appears in them are also vested with the same qualities. No players are innocent in my work, traditional male and female attributes coexist undefined, held together by abstract elements, gestures, colours. They all come from the same place: a place of vulnerability.


The levels of vulnerability is mediated in my paintings through colour, texture, shapes that can be entered into, and forms that repel, as well figurative codes. I try to ask myself the question of what am I protecting and how. In the studio, I challenge myself to examine my own behaviour and all my relationships, because that is the most sincere way I can question such a massive ideology that affects us all.

Can you share with us some examples of artists, movements or any other reference points that serve as your inspiration for your work?

My interest in armours led me to a fertile territory of influences, that extends beyond historical references. I look at uniforms, both military and sports often, both real and fictional. I was really inspired by Jacqueline West’s and Bob Morgan’s “mod-evial” armour designs in Denis Villeneuve’s interpretation of Dune (2022) and how the armour and the sound of metal dictated the narrative of Robert Bresson’s Lancelot du Lac (1974) for example. 


My research also led me to the world of fashion, and to Thierry Mugler, whose iconic Harley Davidson corset is an inspiration I return to a lot. Fashion’s relationship to gender, desire and objectification is so problematic, that it doesn’t only serve as a visual reference, but also provides an ambivalent conceptual backdrop for my work. 


Japanese animes and mangas had a similar role in my research. One of my all-time favorites is Berserk by the late Kentaro Miura. I am also a big fan of comic books such as Marshall Law by Kevin O’Neill and Pat Mills which dissect the hero tropes in great detail and through fantastic artwork.


I realized the importance of Hungarian Folklore, folk patterns and stories in my practice after reading a collection of essays titled Eros in Folklore. The late Hungarian artist, illustrator and animator Marcell Jankovics is one of my key influences as much as I disagree with some of his statements.


I also love Diane Simpson’s sculptures although I have not had the chance to see them in person yet. I also find myself returning to Magali Reus’ installations and I was blown away by her recent show at The Approach Gallery. Victor Man has been a constant inspiration for me and Magdalena Abakanowicz’s show at the Tate is surely going to be working away in me for a while.

Don't Lose Your Head (Armour of Light), 2023
mixed media on wood, canvas and the wall
250 x 250 cm

Besides your artistic practice, you are also the co-founder of project hu, an independent collaborative project showcasing young Hungarian talent through curated exhibitions and artist residencies. Can you tell us more about this initiative?

I founded the initiative in 2017 as a touring group exhibition of Hungarian artists who have studied and practiced in the UK. I was interested in how uprooting and speaking in another language might affect our visual language. I wanted the show to tour in order to see how our practices are perceived in different locations. It was an amazing experience.


I was joined by curator, researcher and art historian Zsu Zsuro afterwards and we organized online exhibitions and a two-person residency in in collaboration with HOXTON 253 gallery during the pandemic. 


Although we are currently on hiatus due to time constraints, we continue to collaborate. Before pausing our activities we were joined by artist and researcher Karoly Tendl who co-curated my first solo exhibition in Fest; Tisztit Gallery in Budapest with Zsu. Karoly also wrote a fantastic text for the show which we are currently expanding on through the creation of an artist comic book.

What’s next?

The end of last year has been quite busy with the degree show at the Slade, my debut solo show with the fantastic Hew Hood Gallery (then The Room) and winning runner up prize in the NOW Introducing 2022 at STUDIO WEST Gallery. As part of the generous runner up prize, I am receiving mentoring from the amazing team at STUDIO WEST for a year, which has been immensely helpful in the past 5 months. I also participated in the aforementioned Who holds the Sword? and the London Art Fair with Artistellar Gallery in January 2023, which was my first art fair. 


Since then, I have been enjoying some time in the studio, developing new works on canvas and some small ones on paper. I am pushing the limits of my practice and experimenting with new bodies of work that I am hoping to share soon. 


Karoly and I are working hard on our comic book and hope to share some pages in June at a Zine fair, details TBC. Also in June I will be participating in a group exhibition with some wonderful artists at the Hew Hood Gallery. I will also be returning to the Hew Hood Gallery for a solo show at the end of the year, which I am very excited for.


We Balance You Out, 2023
oil and oil bar on canvas
180x210 cm

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