YKRA FACES: ZSÓFI BARABÁS
This month we sat down to talk with contemporary artist Zsófi Barabás. With her work displayed in numerous galleries, museums, and private collections from NYC to Tokyo, we visited her studio in Downtown Budapest.
Hi Zsófi, please introduce yourself
I've been working as an artist for the past 20 years, and I define myself as a painter. Besides painting—which is what I spend the most of my time on— I'm also the co-author of the book series Everyone can draw (Mindenki tud rajzolni), with my friend Zsuzsa Moizer. This is an activity book we made for children, to help increase their confidence through drawing.
Tell us about your latest exhibition
This November, my new catalogue was published and new paintings were exhibited at Deák Erika Gallery. It was a one-day pop-up exhibition, and in January, I’ll be exhibiting in a group show at a Paris-based gallery.
What does an average day of yours look like?
I have a set routine: I come to my studio every day, it’s where I draw and paint and also prepare for the exhibitions. The only days I skip sometimes are on the weekends. I like to go swimming in the mornings, but usually I just come here first. I unpack, drink a coffee and start my day working on one of my paintings. I simultaneously work on several pictures, so there’s always five or six drying in my studio at once.
I sometimes just sit in my chair thinking about different colours and what will make a composition work, and I spend my time mixing colours and experimenting. Other days, I have to deal with administrative tasks as well. Sometimes, I welcome visitors in the studio or I go out for meetings. The best days are when I can spend my whole day in front of a canvas.
How would you describe your work process?
That’s a great question. Personally, inspiration is always part of the process, which comes in many forms. I like to travel abroad to gain different types of impulses and inspiration—for example, after spending four months in Japan I felt inspired to make box art and installations. Nowadays, if I’m not travelling somewhere, music, concerts, friends and relationships are keeping me inspired. I also always have the urge to make small drawings, it’s like a visual diary. I usually have around 15-20 sketches on hand, and some of these will become paintings in different scales. I imagine the size, the colours, sketch the base, and paint the background colour, depending on the mood I want to express. From this point on, my painting process is a constant layering of paint, and in some cases, there are parts of the painting that take months to dry. Once a painting is ready, a photographer will come to take pictures of it. Later I’ll take it to an exhibition, where it’s either sold or it comes back to me to the studio.
How do you spend your evenings, when you’re not painting?
That’s my time for socialising. It’s when I meet with friends, attend art exhibition openings, book signings and author talks, or when I go to the theatre. As I spend the day working alone in my studio, it’s nice to be around people and meet up with friends in the evenings.
Do you find it hard to part with your pictures?
You’d be surprised, but not really. Once I've finished a painting, I’ve told my story, and I feel like I’ve made it visible. I often have my own feelings and story to tell with my art, but I think it's best if the viewer has their own story so they can connect with the painting in their own way.
I’ve become good friends with many of the collectors who own my art, so I know my pieces are in good hands, well looked after, and if I need to, I can ask to borrow them for an exhibition.
A new catalogue of my works from the past three years has just been published, and it features my sketches, sculptures, drawings and paintings.
What are your plans for the future?
Simply: To carry on. In my view, each painting of mine is an independent piece of work, but I’d also like to refer to Ilona Keserü or Imre Bak on how they’ve built an oeuvre—which they’re still working on. In the future, I’d like to be able to look back on my art and see that my work has developed, that I’ve been through an evolution, and this is a process I’d like to work on. Of course, my aim is also for my artwork to be in the right places, in museums, in collections, to have acclaimed exhibitions, and for my work to have an international presence.
Finally, what’s in your Sailorpack?
Muji pens: I always have my Muji pens with me, I use them for simple sketches in my sketchbook and on small pieces of cardboard paper I keep with me. It’s important to have paper and pens with me all the time.
Pencil case: I got this pencil case from my Japanese friend Hiro, and this is the case that comes with me when I go abroad.
Swimming gear: I go swimming regularly, so I also keep my swimming stuff with me in my backpack. Certain parts of my painting process can be very monotonous, and swimming helps me relax, and I’m also preparing for the Balaton Crossing, a yearly summertime swimming event on the Balaton, Hungary's largest lake, so that’s an incentive. We try to go together with my brother Lőrinc, we’ve been doing it for years. It’s a 5,2km swim, and it's a very great feeling to make it.
Earphones: I don’t go anywhere without them. I generally listen to electronic music.
Photos by Botond Wertán