Botond Keresztesi: The Garden of the Magician

10 May - 17 June 2023
Double Q Gallery is pleased to present a solo exhibition of new paintings by Hungarian artist Botond Keresztesi (b. 1987, Târgu Mureș, Romania), his first with the gallery. For the title of his debut Hong Kong exhibition, Keresztesi drew on a historical reference – an artwork of the same name (The Garden of the Magician) painted by one of Hungary’s most significant artists, Lajos Gulácsy, between 1906 and 1907.
Botond Keresztesi is one of the most distinctive painters of the post-digital era in Eastern Europe, and as a member of Generation Y, pioneered an innovative and ambitious way of thinking about painting. Like his contemporaries, he has been exposed since childhood to the determinative visual world of video games and electronic devices. His artistic explorations are informed by this defining experience and are directed towards the blurred nature of the boundaries between the digital and analogue worlds as well as the continuous dialogue between these two distinct spheres of reality.
Keresztesi studied painting at the Hungarian University of Fine Arts between 2007 and 2012 and works chiefly in the medium of painting. As the starting point for his paintings, he uses photographs of everyday objects and applied arts. These photographs are often manipulated using picture-editing software or sometimes combined with his own photography. The planar and spatial dimensions, both truth and fiction, are combined to create a collage-like painted surface. For his latest series, the inspiration is Art Nouveau object culture. This style of art, which flourished between 1890 and 1910, emerged as a reaction against the academic approach, eclecticism, and historicism typical of 19th-century architecture and decoration. It was often inspired by forms found in nature, such as the sinuous curves of plants and flowers, while another of its most important characteristics was its representation of dynamism and movement, frequently expressed by means of asymmetry or whiplash lines. One of the main ambitions of the representatives of Art Nouveau was to do away with the traditional distinction between the applied arts and fine arts (especially painting and sculpture).
Keresztesi’s latest series, with its references to the forms and archetypes of Art Nouveau object culture, is characterised chiefly by the dialogue between pairs of contrasting, almost counteractive, opposites. He has borrowed from the everyday items of Art Nouveau object culture including jewellery, brooches, furniture, clocks and building ornamentation. The distinctive forms that he finds and lifts from their original context, however, are first cut out as silhouettes using picture-editing software, after which the surfaces of the resulting shapes are filled with fluid, almost psychedelically swirling pictorial vortices. The viewer is initially bewildered by the contrast between the static nature of the silhouette-like shapes that define the compositions and the animated movement that fills the interior of these shapes. Keresztesi intensifies this visual confusion even further by contrasting the hard, acrylic base of the landscape-like backgrounds with the softness of the floating, cloud-like wisps, painted by air brush.
The layering of images, the distortion of the digital and analogue shapes, and the blurring, obscuring and multiplication of details, are a comment on the kind of image dumping currently under discussion in the theoretical discourse on post-digital painting that operates with visual interferences. Using superimposed layers of visual archetypes and references to the history of painting and art, Keresztesi creates a cyborg aesthetics, most readily identifiable with the genre of science fiction, which lends his painterly universe immediate recognisability and in which the analogue and the digital, the cybernetic and the organic, are essentially united. Keresztesi’s cyborg aesthetics drew on an additional historical reference – the ‘eosin’ ceramic glaze invented by a famous Hungarian porcelain factory named Zsolnay. The use of iridescent eosin glazes which shimmer between gold and rose chafer green is closely associated with Art Nouveau in Hungary.
- Mónika Zsikla