In 2019 Hungarian artist Kíra Krász (b. 1995, Pécs) moved to the UK to study at the University of Brighton, where she graduated with a BA in Photography. She now lives and works in Hungary, where she continues to feed her curiosity towards images, exploring the physical properties and possibilities of the medium by combining different printing and installation techniques, textures, tones and formations of layering. For Krász, the act of printing photographs does not equal the conclusion or closure of a work, but rather indicates scope for deeper discovery and refinement.
Intrinsic to her experimental image making process is the use of collage, appropriation and abstraction of recycled readymades. With a surrealist and conceptual approach, she prints images on aged paper and torn pages from her old school books — including her atlas, algebra textbooks and notepads — to produce bespoke creations, ranging from portraits to landscapes and still lives.
Her series ‘Squaring each other to fit as the space will be tiny, the days will be long’ was made in collaboration with her partner and fellow artist George Roast during 2020’s first Covid-19 lockdown, and explores ideas of co-dependance, opposition, mutual support and burden. The couple set up an outdoor studio for the photographs in a park nearby in Hove (UK), posing in shapes inspired by the classic video game Tetris designed by Alexey Pajitnov in 1984, that they got into playing at the time.
Krász started comparing the gameplay to how the couple ‘arranged’ themselves in their shared two-bedroom flat and how they constantly had to transform their room according to their daily needs. In the accompanying animation she made, one can see how the couple’s bodies slot together like blocks in Tetris.
In an interview with Krász, we dive into her creative practice and the story behind this playful series.
To begin with, could you tell our readers more about your background in photography? When and how did you first become interested in taking pictures?
I always had a strong longing for imagery. As a child I loved collecting small magazines, leaflets, picture-books from the market, napkins and postcards, and organizing photographs in my grandmother’s drawer. I was enraptured by certain colour-combinations, by some textures. A catalogue from a grocery store was closest to my heart, taking a prime spot on the bookshelf. I think the time I engaged with these pictorial objects flavoured my dreams with a similar aesthetic too. I wanted to create, or at least see, how close I could get to depicting my imagination, my dreams.
I was thirteen when my family bought our first digital camera and all my female friends had just entered the age in which they wanted to be photographed. It was a great practice as I always had enough commissions… About seven years later, I realized that photography was the cure for not being motivated, and for the frustration I felt about my future. So, I enrolled to the University of Brighton in 2016.
I discovered the city of Pécs — where you grew up — has a rich history of Neo avant-garde artists. Your work seems to resonate with many characteristics and conventions of the postmodernist movement, such as the ways in which you integrate multimedia, installation art, and particularly in ‘Squaring each other to fit’, the use of performance and video. Did you associate yourself with this scene while growing up in this part of Hungary?
The truth is that I was not familiar with the artistic history of my hometown until I went to Paris Photo Festival whilst studying at university. I went to a very practical high school in Pécs, and there were no artists in my family, or my immediate surroundings. Even though I had lived there “forever” and had already developed a keen interest in photography, I had not come across the “Pécsi Műhely” works. I was not trained in conceptual art. It is possible that I just was not ready for it yet! I think when my interest in images first sparked, I was looking for colours I liked, beautiful subjects and all the scenes I wanted to photograph.
What I enjoy now is breaking down a thought; expressing an effect; depicting a process through images; giving it a title (a clue). Lots of playful elements together build a picture, and I definitely learned this way of thinking from my hometown art scene. But I also do not close the doors to other tools which can enrich my photographs, I let them in.
Are there any artists in particular that really inspire you or influence your work?
I find it very hard to highlight only a few because in all honesty there are so many, but the people who are cited most in my sketchbook are: Hieronymus Bosh, Paul Klee, the Pre-Raphaelites, Carl Mediz and Emilie Mediz- Pelikan (in painting), John Cage and Susan Sontag (in theory), Pina Bausch and Andrew Bird (in personality), and on the photography front I have grown to Maurer Dóra’s and Moholy-Nagy László’s work.
Recently too, I got very inspired by Mothy Python, sometimes it even makes me unable to sleep!
What made you want to move to the UK to study photography?
Unfortunately (fortunately!) I was not accepted to the Hungarian University, which had a reputable photography course. So after trying multiple times I had to make a decision, which was to apply abroad. Universities in the UK seemed far better equipped than those in Hungary and when I arrived in Brighton, I immediately had a feeling that “this is my new home”. I was surprised by their analogue photography facilities and accepted it as a new challenge to learn to shoot film. I am very grateful I ended up there as they were really supportive of my ideas. The course taught me how to make work independently.
‘Squaring each other to fit’ was made in response to a global pandemic and all the frustrations and restrictions it brought about. Could you elaborate on how Tetris became a metaphor of the situation you found yourself in?
I was introduced to the game at the very start of Lockdown. As we only had a small, mezzanine room to share between the two of us – me and my boyfriend, George – we, like many, just had to adapt to the tight situation. One room served all functions: I exercised in the doorway, we set up a small studio, it was our dining room and a bedroom too. We caught up with the Covid news every day, and tried to make some work in this small space. George was working on his final university project while I was scanning, printing, and selling objects online.
In our breaks, we played Tetris. This influenced my thinking so much that when I went to bed, I saw the Tetriminos falling into place. These visual flashbacks were integrated into my thoughts and inspired me to be effective. The most difficult thing was not knowing the future. What we could do was to compete with each other at Tetris. It is a game that supposedly improves problem solving-skills. I guess it helped us in some ways as we learned to adjust to each other, sometimes contorting our bodies bridging over piles of books, packing and unpacking a suitcase in a low corner, or jumping over printers for a cup of tea.
What was it like to develop and realise this series together with your partner? Did it benefit your relationship or artistic practice in any way?
It was the first time that we lived together in our relationship. It was a difficult start, but we have lived together since. It taught us a lot about each other, about dealing with the “unknown”, having difficulties with earning and with the motivation for making and creating. The benefit was that our adjustment-period was imprisoned into this room, and over and done with when the lockdown ended. George was very supportive of this project, and a good team-player when it came to photographing ourselves, or thinking about how a human shape would fit in a Tetrimino. He was excited to arrange some compositions, which revealed some emotions of how we often felt in this scenario.
In terms of my artistic practice, I learned a lot too. I acknowledged that this was the time for doing my postponed tasks, and all applications. I also learned to work with the materials that I had available. That is what “Squaring…” was born from: the muesli-boxes in our lockdown recycling!
Has this body of work sparked further interest in future creative collaborations?
Yes it has. When we moved to Hungary we made a little collaborative project titled “I stay grounded, by holding you up (2021)”. Relocating our lives brought new aspects of interdependence. For me, it was home, but for George who is British, it was far away, not just because of physical distance but also due to language difficulties. We looked playfully at this difference exploring the interplay between the emotional support and equal burden that we placed on one another. We addressed this by comparing our endowments and the proportions on our bodies, finding different ways in which our bodies would fit to each other, yet put pressure on the other. The photographs were then enlarged on a plethora of old darkroom papers, and puzzled together, revealing that our relationship, like any other, is a self-supported structure requiring effort, strength, and constant adjustment in order to maintain balance.
All your projects are highly informed by their implementation and execution, i.e. the use of unusual paper types and materials, as well as traditional darkroom processes. Could you explain why you opt for these methods?
I always strive to take or make timeless photographs, to avoid them being stamped by time, for example, by forms of trend or fashion. But occasionally I use that aspect as a cause of confusion. A white shirt photographed in a department store, printed on a coffee-stained sheet of paper would certainly not look like their freshest advertisement campaign. I enjoy these tricks of printing, the magic caused by a conceptual (material) decision.
Besides repurposing academic journals and books, what other materials do you like to collect and use for printing your images onto?
I have printed on tapes, maps, foils, greaseproof paper, sheet music and sewing patterns, and would like to perfect the techniques for all of them. Recently, I dove into the world of postcards and old photographs, antique prints of famous paintings, lithographs of all sorts. Soon I hope to also “revise” some of this content through printing.
As we have established, your works are very inventive and varied due to constant experimentation. Is it important for you to construct a certain coherency in terms of the aesthetic realm and style of your oeuvre?
I do not often think strategically about an aesthetic direction. Probably the fact that my materials are aged prescribes a certain atmosphere to the works. I always prefer to choose a sun-kissed yellow sheet of paper, to a plain white one, a ripped edge tatty publication to a pristine and glossy Marie Claire. I am not a good manager of my oeuvre. I research and find many more materials on marketplaces than I am able to use, and this constantly provides me with new ideas. The gallery in my head is infinite, and it is sad I cannot curate it all.
Lastly, are you willing to share anything about what you are currently working on or plan to do next?
My series, “A living Sense of Home” is currently being exhibited at Hangar Photo Art Center in Brussels (as part of Photo Brussels Festival 06), but as I tend to put things together at the last minute, I am still working on some pieces which will complete the project.
I also have lots of work to do in the sculpture park of Nagyharsány, which should be a blossoming discovery of old quarries and mines in the spring. The stone-resources that the artists of this park worked with came from mines in the local area which are now abandoned. The park itself was formed as part of an artistic residency during the Soviet era in Hungary, and now this open-air art space possesses a very interesting history. I intend to make as much work about it as I can. The project is supported by the Hungarian Academy of Arts.
I am also on the lookout for interesting frames, for which I would like to make content which is very much influenced by the style and shape of the frame around it. In that way, the frame would somewhat influence the image created and work as both an extension of, and also a carrier for the image, somewhere between reality and artwork.