“The Danube, this wide, peaceful river, separating the town along an almost exact North-South axis, is especially important to me. The hills of the Buda side have historic patina, Pest is spacious and flat, the curves of the boulevards and the avenues follow the path of the river. The contrast between the two sides of the city creates a balance of which one never grows tired”.
Hajnalka Somogy: Unquestionably, you are one of the best known and renowned living artist from Hungary. When abroad you are always identified as a representative of Hungarian art, want it or not. What are your thoughts on this?”
Dóra Maurer: I have never been regarded as a representative of Hungary and I have never felt myself to be one either. Thank God, an artist does not need to be famous like actors or sportspersons sometimes are, an artist’s work can be quiet, and her personality remains in the background. In exhibitions abroad, my nationality has never been the focus of interest, what sometimes happens is that organisers are happy to be able to display works from a lesser-known region.
HS: Even though you have spent much time abroad (you lived in Vienna at one stage), you have always maintained your connection with Budapest and never emigrated, as many of your generation did. As an artist, what does it feel like to return to this city, how would you describe your relationship with Budapest throughout your life?
DM: I chose not to emigrate but I always wanted to go abroad. As soon as I could, I travelled extensively, I went on artistic expeditions always returning home with new energy and ready to process my experiences within my quiet and familiar environment. It is in Budapest that I feel at home, I feel this city quite intensively. The Danube, this wide, peaceful river, separating the town along an almost exact North–South axis, is especially important to me. The hills of the Buda side have historic patina, Pest is spacious and flat, the curves of the boulevards and the avenues follow the path of the river. The contrast between the two sides of the city creates a balance of which one never grows tired. As a student, I rode my bike every day to explore the outskirts and the suburban forests. I spent half of my life in the Viziváros, opposite to the castle hill, enjoying a full view of the Buda hills from the Parliament building. For the last twenty years, I have lived in Pest, not far from the City Park, enjoying fantastic sunsets and the company of my linden tree on my balcony. These sensations have a strong impact on my work.
HS: Besides working as an artist, you have always been very active within the Hungarian art scene—as a teacher, an archivist, a curator, and as member of the Open Structures Art Society (OSAS). Where is the Hungarian art scene heading now, and what is your contribution at present?
DM: As it was during the Socialist regime, today’s local cultural scene is divided. Yet there are some differences. In the old days, the State, acting under Soviet pressure, imposed socialist realism in art, something which we were quite happy to fight against. Today instead, political leaders do not care about culture; a group of artists loyal to the government has been entrusted with art “centralisation” pushing all genres towards a nationalistic pseudo-art. They do not have the power to censor, so they try to marginalise nonconforming artists, by withdrawing subsidies and blocking access to sponsorships. Twenty-five years have gone by since the regime change, but a widespread cultivated artistic awareness has yet to come to Hungary: only then could a lively art scene fully develop. However, during these years, a generation of European and open-minded artists has grown in our country; I do hope they won’t let themselves be guided. And then there are the few artists of the 1970s avant-garde (me being one of them), who were their teachers. Needless to say, much energy is wasted under this retrograde rule. The Association that I co-founded strives to maintain its intellectual and financial autonomy. My main role today is to strengthen the vanguard of independent artists and to support the younger generation.
HS: What are you working on now?
DM: I still find interesting possibilities in my two recent work-cycles, the Bi-, tri-, and Quadricinia and the IXEK (Xs) series, both dealing with colourful plain and bent shape intersections. I am currently finalising IXEK (Xs) with large-scale wall installations. As often happens, my work is influenced by everyday impressions.
HS: Name five sites in Budapest you would recommend to an art lover from abroad.
DM: It really depends on what is on, so I would recommend checking an art guide. Nevertheless, among the institutions I would suggest the Ludwig Museum, the National Gallery (temporarily housing the Museum of Fine Art which is currently being restored); the Victor Vasarely Museum with its temporary and OSAS – Open Structure Art Society exhibitions, the New Budapest Gallery (“the Whale”) and lastly a selection of progressive private galleries, such as acb, Kisterem, Vintage, Trapéz, Várfok Galéria, NextArt, and Ani Molnár.