András Bartos, Hungarian artist was born in Budapest (1968), now he works and lives in Berlin. He creates characters full of ironic discrepancy and edgy simplicity that makes the viewer stop and stare for a while, as details are headstrong and yet unmistakably original. His experience in set designing is reflected by the multi-layered and multi-functional works. András’ talent and creative sensibility was nurtured from a very early age. Later on he graduated from the Fine Arts at the Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam and has a degree from the Hungarian University of Fine Arts in Budapest, too. In the interview below András sheds some light on ‘miből lesz a cserebogár‘ (a Hungarian saying about personal development from a young age) and how he has become a successful artist.
Hungarian Success Stories (HSS): How did you notice that you have creative talent and how did your career start?
András Bartos (AB): My grandfather on my mother’s side was a product designer and he also worked as a graphic designer for several publishing companies. He owned a large property with a house on the Hármashatárhegy (Three-Border-Mountain) in the Buda hills. My parents decided that it was better for me to spend the first years of my life with my grandfather, instead of going to a state-managed kindergarten. I regularly toured the hills with my grandpa and we went to the forest to take photos and to paint. Everyday he would do his illustrations and basically this was our regular routine. Everyone around me had a pencil in his hand and it was the most natural thing for us. After a while I also started to work with paper and pencil and at the end every shop owner and cashier in the neighborhood knew my drawings. About six month prior to starting school I eventually had to be part of the ‘kindergarten-society‘ to socialize with other children and be prepared for school.
HSS: Who do you think had a significant impact on you during your formative years?
AB: There were certainly a lot of things and a lot of people, that & who had an impact on my artistic development, but I can mention a few names, who definitely left a mark and opened my eyes after I have learnt about their works. I was a teenager when I held a book about classical surrealism in my hands for the first time. After that came Velasques, Francis Bacon, Otto Dix, and Miro. I can also say that the painting ‘Superman találkozása Miska kancsóval‘ by István Ef. Zámbó was also an important moment in my life as well as the works by Péter Hecker. But the list could go on with Mark Ryden, Jeff Soto, Ron English and so on.
HSS: How would you describe your current artistic style?
AB: In its current state and despite of the strong shift toward surrealism, my artistic style remained striking and illustrative with a sarcastic and ironic undertone that is very close to me. I think the direction was given by Robert Williams and the Lowbrow art movement that arose in the 70s and its cultural roots were in ‘underground comix’ and ‘street culture’ pop art. However, I would like to add that a couple of years ago I participated at a large exhibition showcasing mainly pop surrealist works – I think galleries like and expect this type of style from me. On the other hand, I would of course love to experiment with a lot of different artistic directions, however I already know that I will be lacking time to do so.
HSS: Do you have a specific source of inspiration?
AB: Anything can inspire me, but of course it always depends on my state of mind. I do not have any particular technique nor do I go on inspirational trips, ideas simply just emerge in my mind. However one thing is certain: I have to keep myself fit to make those ideas happen.
HSS: When I am looking at your work, I can see some Asian, especially Japanese influence, e.g. something similar to the manga-figures. Am I too far off?
AB: The word ‘manga‘ means comics in Japanese. In Japan graphic illustrations featuring animals with human characteristics date back to the 12th century, and these first graphic illustrations are considered the closest to the current manga characters. I have always had a special bond with and felt close to the aesthetics of traditional comics, the woodcuts by Hokusai and Hiroshige, the armor uniform of the Samurai warriors, the masks and costumes used in the Kabuki theaters, the Japanese alphabet and the exciting world of typical Japanese colors and shapes. Probably this is what you see in my work.
HSS: What do you consider as a significant milestone in your carrier path, respectively what makes you very proud of?
AB: In 2009 I was able to showcase two large paintings in the Museo d´Arte Contemporanea Roma at a group exhibition. The exhibition was organized perfectly and the location was extremely interesting in terms of its architecture. There were a lot of visitors and the entire event was very successful. It was a great success story for me as well as for everyone who participated, we were all very proud.
HSS: Where can art lovers see your work currently?
AB: My original artworks can be seen and purchased at two locations in Berlin (Berlin-Mitte and Prenzlauerberg), in Zurich (Switzerland) in the Galerie Foxx as well as in the Brisky Gallery in Miami (USA). For the time being there is no exhibition planned, however I would love to do one in London, which we are working on. Usually, I do not exhibit very often as I always show new collections at exhibitions and otherwise I could not keep up with the pace.
HSS: Do you live in Berlin ‘full time’ or do you commute between Budapest and Berlin?
AB: I have been living in Berlin since 2001. Now, ich bin ein Berliner. I do not commute between the two cities, but every now and then I visit my mother, siblings and old friends in Budapest.
HSS: Why do you like living in Berlin? What do you find attractive in this city?
AB: There is a lot of space in Berlin and there is light. Berlin has a high standing in the cultural world and it offers a lot of opportunities to present my work professionally. Competition is tough, but it ensures that certain workflow steps are regularly challenged and kept ‘fresh’. At the beginning of the 90s, when I first spent a longer period of time in Berlin, I loved the human centric, tolerant lifestyle and that was extremely helpful in everyday life. Ruinous buildings and industrial spaces have been renovated in a spontaneous way that reflected a new way of life and to me it was a sensation, if I may say so. Up until today these memories are still very alive in me.
At the turn of the millennium when I settled down in Berlin, there was a gallery and a club on almost every street, and creative forces were free in the capital city. Nowadays this is totally over with. In the last decade, international investors have discovered this ‘forgotten city’ and started to destruct its uniqueness by purchasing entire streets and empty places. Every square meter is being used to build luxury homes and therefore rents for homes have tripled since. The subculture is forced to the outer districts and in the inner parts of the city one can find the exact same department stores and retail chains as everywhere else in the world. Low level of creativity and lack of fantasy of the investor groups basically kill the soulfood character of the city that made Berlin so unique. And this process cannot be stopped. This year we left behind the stressful city life and were able to purchase a house in the northern part of Berlin. I live there with my wife and our 11-year-old twins.
HSS: What are your plans for the future?
AB: Well, my plans… In 2007 we opened our first store where customers can purchase my individual comics character designs printed on canvas. These prints are our best-sellers and we also offer these designs printed on T-Shirts, magnets, etc. I am working on extending the world of my characters as well as we will open our second store in Berlin this month. UNITED LONELINESS is the label under which we reproduce a wide range of my individual artworks and we currently work with ten resellers in Europe and New York. Obviously, our goal is to enlarge our reseller network as well as to make my creations and individual artworks more well-known. And of course I plan to do some more paintings…
Furthermore, I have an exciting project that is very important to me: given the fact that the process of animation has become easier, I plan to bring my characters alive with the help of animation technique. I was able to set up a small team and now it is only a question of time to start implementing this project.
This was never really part of my conscious planning, but I have been a stage set art director for about 15 years now. I started this activity in Budapest and for a few years I was Assistant Art Director to Gyula Pauer at several film productions. When I moved to Germany – thanks to numerous lucky encounters – I was able to pursue this activity, too. Recently, I have been commissioned by the Studio Babelsberg film production company, where I act as a sculptor artist. Currently, I am working on the set ‘Monument Men’ by George Clooney and with my team we do the monumental scenery of the film. It is exciting to work on a Hollywood production, however it can get very exhausting, too, and after finishing such a project, I am always happy to return to the solitary peace of my atelier.
Source of images: András Bartos’ courtesy.