“First soak up the light and then let it shine forth”
Many will know her as Ágnes Szépfalvi. She used to paint female figures in traditional female roles based on film stills, pictures from magazines or montages, isolating the depicted content from the original context, placing them in new, personal situations. As a woman she painted the way men see women, often vulnerable and in a role of a victim. Then, ten years ago she gave up this imagery altogether. Her new work came with a change of name, and since 2010 her pseudonym has been Agnes von Uray. She has carried on with the roleplay, only her figures are more complete, with decidedly harmonious personalities. Playful women, beaming girls and girlfriends in glamorous colours look at the viewer form the canvas, each of them “goddess within all of us”. The exhibition contrasts paintings and charcoal drawings, and also features de Uray’s favourite watercolours and small-size paintings of Lake Balaton. “Painting, the sensual power of colours and drawing hold special importance to me. That’s chiefly because I have a gift in that department, and I believe it is a calling. I respect the given theme and have responsibility towards it. I believe a woman sees everything differently. The prominence of empathy, intuition make her different compared to a man’s viewpoint, which is rational, often ‘brainier’ and even rigid. The fact that in the 20th century many professions became available to women meant that the feminine viewpoint could also be recorded,” Uray says. The exhibition includes a new storyboard, where the individual drawings appear alongside the text in blocks, rather than illustrating the descriptions. This genre has become something of a trademark of hers.
For many years she has been engaged in creating time-based artworks. In addition to the animated gifs, bringing to life the artist’s hand drawings on the screen, the exhibition also presents Poco Allegretto (2016), a projected animation to the music of Bartók. Accomplished in charcoal, it portrays a little girl singing and juggling by Lake Balaton. The stop motion film carries the viewer to a meditative, playful world, the harmony of childhood.
She defines her new pictures as “bad paintings”. “Bad paintings? There’s no such thing as a bad painting. There are sweaty paintings, paintings that lack credibility with false energy; possibly even lifeless paintings, but even an inaccurate painting is called bad, even where it is truer than an accurate drawing. Art education in this country remains to this day very traditional. It is questionable whether this works for everyone, even though I myself am proud of my drawing skills. I was made to draw a lot since the age of thirteen, which means I can’t really do an inaccurate drawing. And yet sometimes it would be great if I could. Only to begin something different. Let myself make mistakes and discover it is okay [...] I’ve discovered two things recently. One is the freedom of experimenting; and the other the joy of existence on canvas [...] You don’t need to look out for outright drama to experience sanctity. An enjoyable “bad” painting will suffice. This piggy-like figure in this drawing for instance is my cat. You can see, whatever kind of a creature she is, she’s enjoying herself. I would always like to have been cheeky, but I didn’t dare permit myself to draw golden Balaton sunsets, cats, flowers or lottery tickets, whatever. I now yearn for very powerful colours, vivid reds, vivid greens, vivid blues, like the kind you see in early Renaissance paintings. I wish to paint the triumph of existence. I yearn for freedom: light and shining.”
The majority of the works are “freshly made”, straight from the studio, and yet they do leave the viewer with the feeling that nothing is from the present and that they are like travel in time.
Edina Csóka, curator of the exhibition