Artist explores the concept of power and control within society
For 37-year-old Hungarian artist Zsolt Bodoni, the concept behind his latest exhibition hits close to home. The haunting paintings in ‘King Give Us Soldiers’ have a photo-like quality and explore how education can be used as a power tool to manipulate society. ‘My interest is part of a personal process of understanding these things. The fact that I was born in Transylvania – now Romania – as a Hungarian minority, and the heritage of the communist childhood I inherited, draws me towards analysing these concepts,’ explains Bodoni.
He is also influenced by art, history and literature. ‘I find a lot of similarities between my work and a book by Ádám Bodor called The Sinistra Zone,’ he explains. ‘The story takes place in the Carpathian mountains, which are under militant control. Weird, dehumanising, wild and brutal things are happening to the people, but the strangest thing is that everybody is very resigned, as if the things happening to them are the most logical and natural things in the world. It is about humiliation, defencelessness, hope, ice, fog, forests, bears, men and women. The whole book is so vibrant you can almost smell these things. I see many common things in Bodor’s created world and mine.’
Using acrylics, oil and tools as diverse as brushes, palette knives, spackling tools, sponges and paper towels, he brings these ideas to life on canvas. Here, he sheds light on some of his must-see works, which are on show at Green Art Gallery until Sunday March 3.
'The idea here comes from a Hungarian children’s game called ‘King, Give Us Soldiers’. These games are a kind of first act of war. I have my personal motives in the way I deal with an idea in a work, but I don’t want the viewer to understand exactly what I mean. I want to leave questions open, to drag the viewer into this world I create and let them find their own answers. For example, the image of the landscape is an open question here. I didn’t define whether the kids are in a building and whether it’s a window, or the landscape is a painting, a poster, a projection or something else.'
‘I found this movement very specific. If we look at one of the characters, the work is about vulnerability. But when it becomes a crowd, this vulnerability disappears. I place the characters in a fictional inner space. There are two types of landscapes in the background: a classical landscape, which is very minimal, and a map. It is about the same thing and, simultaneously, different things. Geography, beauty or territory?’
‘This piece is taken from a real photo of a young girl running and laughing, which was taken around the second world war. She seems very happy in the moment, but if you look at the artwork as being a document of that history, it stops being funny any more. This is a piece I find very hard to talk about. I find it controversial, grotesque, surreal yet all too real.’
‘In this piece there’s a stripe of landscape covered by the boat, and a horse. This is the most static work in the show. You could call it a still life – a still life using tools of power as its subjects.’
The lowdown Exhibition: ‘King, Give Us Soldiers’, until March 3 at Green Art Gallery, Alserkal Avenue (04 346 9305). Artist: Zsolt Bodoni. Price of works: Dhs37,000 to Dhs129,000.