August 2016, I was commissioned by Monocle24 to write and record a scripted piece about iconic but overlooked Norwegian designer Fredrik Keyser as part of Section D’s new series, On Design. Keyser served as a way into investigating why recognition of midcentury Norwegian design lags behind that of its Nordic neighbours.
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The textile artist and Perrier-Jouët Arts Salon Prize winner talks to Katie Treggiden about the wide open horizons and tiny details of her childhood that have influenced her work – and about her first solo show.
How did growing up in Hungary affect your work?
I grew up in the countryside, so I could always see the horizon. In that landscape, you see lots of whites, greys and brownish colours, especially in the winter when there isn’t much colour. I tend to work in black and white and the tones in between. Being the first to walk across virgin snow is a really strong childhood memory for me. I think that drove me to work with the undiscovered, and sparked my interest in the duality between scale and detail.
What did you make as a child?
I drew a lot and focused on tiny details. I think that’s why weaving appealed to me. Working on a small scale is something that comes from within – working on a large scale, as I do now, is more of a challenge, but I enjoy it. It’s good to carry what is within you, but also to move away from it.
And what brought you to London?
I did my art and design foundation at Tower Hamlets College. The course covered the whole spectrum of art and design, and exposed me to exhibitions like the Turner Prize, which really deepened my understanding of conceptual art. I was drawn to surfaces, textiles and structures, and eventually joined some textiles workshops. Weaving immediately captured my attention. It’s the creation of a whole material from a single thread – I found that really interesting.
Whose work inspired you during that time?
I was inspired by artists like Mark Rothko. He didn’t use form in his paintings because he wanted you to focus on the colour. By not using colour, I’m doing the opposite and putting the focus on the structure of the weave. The geometric shapes of Art Deco architecture in New York, Vienna and Budapest also inspired me. And something as simple as the iridescence of a dragonfly wing – my work is often transparent until the light hits it and makes it shimmer.
Whose work do you admire now?
I still take inspiration from architecture when I’m developing new structures – I really admired Zaha Hadid for constantly innovating and pushing boundaries.
Tell us about the “x-ray” weaving technique you’ve developed.
After Tower Hamlets, I studied at Central Saint Martins and became interested in the structure of weaving. Most people understand that a woven fabric has a vertical warp and a horizontal weft, but it’s not something you see. I started to wonder what an x-ray of a fabric would look like. I wanted to re-create that idea on the loom, so I developed a weaving technique through which I can expose the vertical lines or the ‘bones.’ I use a nylon monofilament to bring out all the vertical threads. With this technique I can also manipulate these threads into groups or separate them – and that’s what you see in my work, because you can see the whole warp: you can single out one thread and follow it right to the top.
Where does your courage to do things differently come from?
Doing things differently is what interests me, so I don’t really have a choice! Making something that I haven’t seen before is my driving force, and that’s something that Central Saint Martins really encouraged, so that was an important part of my education.
Who are the other artists or designers of your generation doing things differently?
I studied with Nadia-Anne Ricketts from BeatWoven and she always pushed the boundaries. We are both driven by similar things, and now we’re both based at Cockpit Arts and exhibited together at Design Days Dubai, so we are following the same path. People are always fascinated by the concepts and stories behind her work.
What are you working on at the moment?
I won the Perrier-Jouët Arts Salon Prize this year and they are presenting my first solo show at the CAA, so I’m just finishing some new pieces for that on the loom now – while working with curator Julia Royce to select existing pieces from my portfolio.
‘Weaving with Light, Solo Exhibition’ curated by Julia Royse and presented by Perrier-Jouët Arts Salon is at Contemporary Applied Arts London 24 June – 30 July.