The world of artist Zsófia Keresztes is in constant flux between two realities; the physical and the virtual. In her work fragile materials motivates reflections of human and digital vulnerability in a way that is both colorful, thoughtful and extremely alluring.
Zsófia Keresztes is born in 1985 in Budapest, Hungary and from the beginning of her life she knew that she wanted to be an artist. Already while studying painting at the Hungarian University of Fine Arts, she began a journey into the third dimension “partially because of the outlook, but also because of the versatile materials I can use.” The materials used in her sculptures Zsófia finds in her everyday life and sometimes on the streets of Budapest, and often the tactility of the materials influences the concept of the final works; “For example, the vulnerability of paper, or the elasticity of silicone can even change the message of my artwork.”
By utilizing and distorting used packaging of Macbooks, iPads and flat screen televisions she investigates the connection between virtuality and actuality and how both human life and digital information is fragile and perishable.
When we came across her work we felt a connection and knew that we had to get in contact. Luckily Zsófia was up for telling us about her mesmerizing sculptures and to guide us through her world of multiple realities.
Hi Zsófia, thank you for doing this interview. Will you start out with telling us what inspired you to chose an artistic path?
I never doubted that I wanted to be an artist, my life was inevitably drawn in this direction. My high school choice was instinctively an art school, from where it was straight route to the University of Fine Arts. This feeling of destiny is also present in the creative process of my works. I often notice that the working process takes its own existence and forms itself, many times various materials are unintentionally drawn in a work, but in the end it's perfectly incorporated.
When we first saw your work we fell in love with your “User Experience”-series. What is this body of work about?
User Experience is the collective name for my works of the past two years. It is a series that is yet unfinished and can be broken down into smaller series. In these I usually examine the effect of digital devices on human lives. More precisely the connection between virtual and actual existence. I present these two different worlds respectively, not as opposites, but rather as intertwined forms. In the finished works this duplicity is presented in a very complex way. For example, in my work titled Raw Mountain, the Yosemite mountain pictured on the iMac packaging is a perfected photograph that is contrasting with the poor quality replica that emerges from the surface of the box, yet they still form a kind of symbiosis.
Like parasites that scrounge on eachother. This type of symbiotism is similar to an aspect of ancient eskimo culture, when the only way they could live through the winter months was by eating the lice scrounging on their bodies in order to mantain their vitamin C intake.
Can you tell us about your working process?
I often go to home supply shops to search for materials, and these trips are usually very inspiring for me. As I have mentioned before, the characteristic of a material or an unexpected find can lead me to new ideas. I am a big fan of flea markets and house clearances (these are monthly occasions in Budapest's districts, when everybody can throw their unwanted junk out on the streets), I always go searching for usable materials and inspiration. In a certain way we can get an insight into people's lives through the garbage and junk pile, see how they lived and what objects they were surrounded by.
Another reason why I like to use paper waste is because often a default can be the source of inspiration since it points at further possibilities. I don't see defaults as something to be corrected, instead I try to integrate it into my work. Every object is an origin of endless possibilities and every objects virtually contains the work of art itself. Many times I use materials which I am unfamiliar with, I experiment with it, so every object is formed differently. There is no preconceived method. Often I use left-overs. While I am working on something, the left-over materials may lead to another work, thereby the works proliferate naturally. The artworks Remains of Relief or the Tearful Farewell are examples for this. They were made of leftover materials, and act like a broken mirror: they reinterpret an earlier work. These are created with much more ease, since due to the relief I feel when finishing a much anticipated work, I can focus my energies better on another. Usually I feel that these are my best works.
What are your biggest source of inspiration/influence at the moment?
For my current works the inspiration came from the relics of catacomb saints of the Roman Empire, which were imported to Germany, Austria and Switzerland in the 17th-18th century in order to replace the relics that were destroyed during the time of Reformation. These were soon elaborately decorated by the hands of nuns. In our century this kind of death culture is starting to dissappear, though it was the part of everyday life once. Perhaps the faith in digitalisation which is so typical of our century is the equivalent of faith in miracle projected into saint relics in a gone-by era. The past few months I have spent searching for analogues between these two phenomena and have tried to find the memento moris of our time.
What are you working on right now?
My last solo exhibition HOLYLAND just closed a few days ago at Labor Gallery in Budapest. The idea behind this series came from the passwordless wifi network called Holyland which has generously been shared by an unknown person for the past 8 years. Another thread of the concept is the story of Saint Elizabeth, who was bringing bread to the poor, and this bread miraculously turned into roses on her way so she could safely reach the deprived and hungry.
The two stories are centred upon a blooming router, which is a repetitive motif of the exhibition. Actually the exhibition is focused on the "fictive" relics of our age, with the objects that are fetisized today the same way as once the various saint relics were.
What are your hopes and plans for the future?
One of my gratest hopes is to see my various artworks as a complete whole, to be able to renew myself every time, to maintain a recognisable handmark and to avoid being boring. I don’t want to be the kind of artist who finds her way (a certain theme or material) very early and then cannot desert the given theme for decades leaving self-repetition as the only option.
I would like to travel more abroad with residency programs, to find new challenges and to have more opportunities to submerge in various projects. I would enjoy making place-specific art in exciting galleries.
Unfortunately there are limited possibilities in the creative field in Hungary. The art scene is very small, and we don't really have a well working market. There are very few non-profit exhibition spaces, and there are almost no artist-run spaces. Therefore a lot of hungarian artists very early on reach a point in their career when there is no further way to go. My biggest hope is to break through this wall.
Do you have any piece of advice for fellow creatives?
There is no formula, everybody has different aims and different methods on how to reach it. Yet consistency and continuity are definitely relevant. If you decided that this is what you want to do, you have to do it incessantly, and then you will become braver and braver.
I think that it is also very important to keep you eyes peeled, be open-minded, and to be aware of the world around you. The last one is the ability to say no. For me it is still very difficult, but you have to consider what is worth putting energy into and what is not, since it's very easy to fall apart between deadlines.
Otherwise I don’t think that I have reached a state where I can give advice. I haven't been on this path long enough. Once I have 20 years of a productive period behind me, then I might have enough experience to be able to give helpful advice to others.
Rikke Luna (f. 1988) og Matias Albæk-Falk (f. 1988) er stiftere af idoart.dk, og driver derudover formidlingsbureauet I DO ART Agency samt forlaget I DO ART Books.