Hungarian painter Nóra Soós’ latest series of vibrant-coloured pictures entitled Absturz (Falling) record the frozen moments of a fall; a plummeting with no end in sight, invoking a state of constant uncertainty and fear. In the current situation with a pandemic spreading in the world, they hit a serious undertone. However, sometimes it is also worth turning her pictures upside down, turning the fall into a glorious ascent. The exhibition is in the Kunsthalle, open until 10th January.
A distinguishing feature of Nóra Soós’ oeuvre from the past twenty years is that she uses series of images to explore various different themes. Her early picture series drew on objects from her immediate environment (I-nterior), then she gradually broadened the scope of her attention to include the world around her. She found inspiration in art history, literature, philosophy, economics, biology and the technical sciences for her latest series of pictures entitled Absturz (Falling).
Nóra Soós (right) with the curator of the exhibition, Dóra Dekovics (left). (photo: Zsófia Nyirkos/Kunsthalle)
Soós’ Absturz can now be viewed as part of the Kunsthalle’s Simultaneously – Studio Visits exhibition, in which an artist populates a room of the museum with their works, interpreted by a curator of the museum („one artist – one hall – one curator”).
This type of exhibition is based on the studio/exhibition space analogy formed by the Kunsthalle’s ensemble of rooms reminiscent of sun-lit ateliers. However, together these one-room shows, each featuring a different genre and artistic approach, let visitors see a small cross-section every year, opening up the chance for dialogue. The exhibition can be visited until the 10th of January.
photo: Miklós Sulyok
The curator of the exhibition, Dóra Dekovics, wrote about Soós’s latest works that “as their main motif, they record the frozen moments of a fall; a plummeting with no end in sight, invoking a state of constant uncertainty and fear. The artist started painting this series before the outbreak of the pandemic, as if foreseeing the unprecedented state of helplessness that we are now living through.”
Nóra Soós graduated in 2004 with a degree in painting and visual arts teaching from the Hungarian University of Fine Arts, where her tutors were Sándor Molnár, Károly Klimó and Dóra Maurer. During her time at university, she experimented with various different genres (object, assemblage, environment), and finally settled on primary panel painting. Her pictures were displayed in several galleries and museums, including the Faur Zsófi Gallery and the Kunsthalle. Her works can be found in numerous public and private collections (Commerzbank Contemporary Collection, Antal-Lusztig Collection, Bank Austria Kunstforum, STRABAG Collection, Szombathely Gallery). She currently lives and works in Budapest.
Despite the serious undertone, however, Nóra Soós’ pictures are dominated by vivacious, vibrant colours. This pop-art flavour has been a hallmark of Soós’ art since the start of her career. “Incorporeal figures and translucent objects are laid onto the amorphous (sometimes circular), often blurred-together colour patches and gesture marks. The elements of the compositions are layered transparently onto one another, painted at differing scales and, in many cases, from unusual perspectives.”
photo: Zsófia Nyirkos/Kunsthalle
Recurring motifs, symbols and self-references can also be discovered on Nóra Soós’ canvases. As Dekovics said, in her new paintings, the half-drained hourglass could refer to the passing of time and death; while the butterflies can be interpreted as symbols of immortality, reincarnation. These meanings are united in the massive death head moth that dominates the vast, circular canvas of Zeitgeist, castings its sinister black shadow over the vividly colourful world underneath it.
Nóra Soós: Zeitgeist (photo: Miklós Sulyok)
On the pictures in the Absturz series exhibited in Kunsthalle Budapest, we can observe the use of new techniques that are not typical of her previous works, such as the use of charcoal. She also invokes such iconic scenes from film and popular culture such as the bicycle taking to the air in Spielberg’s E.T. or the gigantic flying robot figures from the music video by US hip-hop trio the Beastie Boys.
One of the prominent self-portraits from Soós’ latest series is Post Festum – A Letter to Maria Lassnig. The painting invokes Lassnig’s emblematic 1979 work Woman Power, with a massive female figure towering over the skyscrapers of New York and trampling over everything that embodies male dominance in the (art) world.
Nóra Soós: Post Festum – A Letter to Maria Lassnig. (photo: Miklós Sulyok/Kunsthalle)
In her latest works, Nóra Soós also flags up current problems that concern many people these days, such as climate anxiety, global warming, and social problems, such as the desperate situation of the homeless (Check Out). In addition, the pandemic-stricken world also comes into the foreground in the paintings entitled Panic and LIE, with figures wearing the now customary virus protection gear.
According to the curator, “the pictures prompt questions, compelling us to think; and thus we engage in a sensitive dialogue with her creations. She points to the fact that any given problem needs to be examined from several perspectives in order to obtain a comprehensive picture of it; so sometimes it is also worth turning her pictures upside down, turning the fall into a glorious ascent.”