Ethereal Phenomena - Interview with Agnes Kontra

„The light of the soul moves into colors, the colors take shape, the shapes move, the movements give off sound. The poem sounds aloud and a painting is placed upon the wall.”
(Endre Mányoki, author, critic, Assistant Professor at the Hungarian Academy of Fine Art – at the opening of Ági’s exhibition titled Dewpoint)

Any artists in your family?
No. I was the first to choose this profession, but there is a family legend which claims that I had an ancestor who made church frescos. It was self evident and natural that I was going to become an artist. I did not even know in my childhood that there is a profession like this one, that one could choose to be one, but as early as the end of elementary school I felt it necessary for me to paint and draw. For me to become a painter, I first had to let go of everything else that was attractive to me, as I was seriously interested in gymnastics and music as well. I also would have liked to work with people, which actually came to pass. As an advisor, typically I ask the questions and they do not ask about me, like in this interview.

What was the subject matter of your first painting that you remember?
Colorful ladders. For a long time I was interested in the visual expression of space and medium. These ladders, rope-ladders hung from the sky, they were dancing ethereally and were waiting for a person to grab a hold of them and climb up. This was a very old vision inside of me, I saw it clearly outlined inside as an internal image. I painted it at the age of 20-21.

The Afternoon of Open Workshops, what did it offer, to you and to visitors?
A spectator cannot give more than his/her willingness to devote time to my paintings. This way, he/she allows the painting to do something to him/her, even makes an effort to let it closer. Additionally, a great number of good experiences tie me to this event, as I was asked very many good questions. Every person has an individual perspective; with their help, we can detect new facets of our own work.

How much do you work, do you paint, and when?
There are times when I can paint 4-5 hours continuously, but sometimes it comes in staggered stretches. One has to devote her entir day. My weekly schedule is cyclical in a relatively rhythmically form, so that I can fulfil all my obligations.

What inspires you? What are you working on right now?
I travel a great deal, this is what inspires me most. I branch off from the actually seen, real country towards something else, something that can provide the spectator with the experience of recognition, while it gives me a „visual problem.” In general it is the relationship between the atmosphere, light, air, the horizon and all within that provides the point of origin. I am working on plants right now. I can observe miracles through them, caused by the light filtering through the air and the petals. I am experimenting with a painting of this space. I need something that lets me arrive into a physical reality and allows me to give form to the internal images I carry within. For the spectators, the painting can be a starting point to the place where the original picture is derived from.

In addition, people, locations and symbols I had encountered over the course of my travels aid the shaping of my subject matter. Of course, when I am there, I am not thinking about how I am going to paint the dewy, humid valleys of Cornwall or the sunset-orange mountains of Antalya; I am also bathing in the experience of seeing, I let it shape me. I even have a painting which was born of the shadows of the trees that were in front of my former studio.

What are the right conditions for your creative work?
I tune in on painting by growing quiet. This is the method that lets me open large enough for me to create the paintings. There are times when one just tries and there are moments when everything is solved on even the paintings that had already been started. This is a very great blessing. I paint in silence, turned inward, a place that is very difficult for me to return from. The topics of my paintings are created in my internal vision. It is for this non-ephemeral internal image that I can compare the painting that is being born.

As far as the conditions are concerned, I typically need silence, but there are times when I listen to music. Generally this is a repetitive tune then, but it can be classical, even jazz. But when someone is starting a new project, that can only be done in silence. I have to see the image clearly and that requires silence.

What word characterizes your paintings best?
Ethereal. Even though it is usually others who characterize my paintings. My duty is to communicate my message to spectators effectively.