“I have dreamt of colourful inks lately” | Nine Steps – A Show by Péter Lajtai | A Look Back – Retrospective of Éva Keleti, Photographer
Ágnes Bihari: “I have dreamt of colourful inks lately”
Since 2009 Tamás Kovács Budha has worked in groups, more precisely in Gruppo Shrimp (Tökmag), a tandem that he founded with András Tábori. Since András cannot attend our conversation, Tamás has asked me not to make a snapshot of him at the set of the show that they had set up together.
What we do is the most exciting thing in the world especially if you are a visual artist. You have no job, no boss, nothing to control or regulate you. You can also miss things by a long shot living like that, whether it comes to deadlines or, for that matter, philosophy. But if you have someone to discuss your ideas with, someone in sync with you completely, you can put your ideas to the test. We had both studied intermedia and painting, we had even worked for the same gallery for 3 years (it no longer exists), but now we both think one doesn’t have to do what one’s qualified to do. What we have done instead, we have walked and photographed streets together, and slowly, we have begun to think up joint projects.
What does Gruppo Shrimp do?
It started out as a publishing venture. We have published limited editions of underground art books that we try to market all through Europe.
All through Europe? Isn’t that a little too ambitious?
There are scores of underground bookshops in European cities selling artist’s books and fan magazines in limited editions. Anyone can pop in and leave something for sale. One of our limited editions was called “Concrete and I” and it presented conceptual graffiti by 22 artists from 8 countries. The venues were mainly out-of-town barracks, desolate buildings. The 500 copies we had made are on sale in app. 16 countries. What we do, when we travel on our projects or participate in residency programmes, we make a point of stopping by these underground bookshops.
The booklet you have produced for your present exhibition is also meant to be sold in underground bookshops rather than just accompany the show (Holdudvar Gallery) as a catalogue?
It does include the principal idea of the show but most of it is a colouring book with the b/w images of all the bottles that we had collected for the show. You see, we had been discovering housing estates for years. We have recently had a show in Berlin of jumpers that have housing estate graffiti on them. We had made snapshots of the graffiti, and my girlfriend who is in fashion design drew up certain patterns that her mother was later to knit into jumpers. What arose was urban camouflage of sorts. Someone wearing a jumper like that could pose in front of a wall full of graffiti and reveal rather than conceal what’s behind him/her.
To come back to you present show, the soft drink bottles containing colourants – has this also come about from your discoveries made in housing estates?
Exactly. As we wandered around in housing estates we noticed the many kinds of soft drink bottles heaped by the dozen into small shops operating in converted garages. Those drinks have fantasy names like Dino Dini, Apple Waterrrr, Funny Bunny, etc. More importantly, they come in amazing colours: ultraviolet green, harsh blue, shades of pink, etc. And slowly, since we are artists after all, we have come to paint our own pictures with colours matching those artificial colourants.
We can see soft watercolours at the show vaguely picturing some plastic bottles. Have you actually painted those with the drinks themselves?
Of course we have painted them with the soft drinks themselves! We have also made snapshots of the work stages. From September we shall post everything on our new website named tokmag.org. At the show we present brandless bottles…
Not to make a plug for any one manufacturer of that hideous stuff, I suppose…
We do not judge the quality of those drinks. Of course there are loads of preservatives in them (something we refer to in the name of the show) but we have focussed on how those drinks can function as colours for paintings.
Which means Gruppo Shrimp hasn’t turned green in the process?
Exactly. I hardly ever drink any of those brands but I do not curse them either. Sometimes you can drink them, whether because you don’t want to say no to a friendly offer, or because you have too little money (a two-litre bottle costs a mere 35p). What we do, we simply tell people that a schoolchild can make up for the paints he/she forgot to take to school with a glass of Kiwi drink, combined with Orange or Cherry. And maybe later he/she thinks to him/herself: My God, the amount of paint I drink every day!
Nine Steps – A Show by Péter Lajtai
25 August – 23 September
Gallery Klauzál 13
Starting from among the underground artists of 70s Hungary, Lajtai has now reached a modern medium, art based on digital photography. His monumental works containing many layers of small units tackle issues like how one can find the essential by means of repetitions and small variations? His works searching Jewish themes also explore the borderline between the sacred and the profane, and how universal meanings can unfold from particular images.
A Look Back – Retrospective of Éva Keleti, Photographer
25 August – 25 September
There are many layers of Éva Keleti’s rich oeuvre from classic news photography through images of virtuoso dancers to the countless faces of great actors and actresses. Turning 80, Keleti’s yield does not only offer a view on her life’s work but also on the many steps, both forward and backwards, Hungary has been making since the 1950s.