With a surface of glossy mosaic tiles, the sculptures at Zsófia Keresztes’s current show at Gianni Manhattan in Vienna have an uncanny ‘fleshiness’ to them. Statuesque and grotesque, sci-fi and kinky, they look as if they are just about to wriggle away.
The body is an essential element in Keresztes’s practice, where she draws parallels between its organic form and the constantly evolving nature of the internet. Keresztes is interested in bringing together the physical and the digital, the real and the fictional, the actual world and our endless surreal journeys online.
This interest has been explored in other solo and group exhibitions. Back in 2016, Keresztes had a solo show at Labor in Budapest that established this interest in the field between the virtual and the real. In these works, it was clear that Keresztes had a particular skill in experimenting with materials: cardboard, hammocks, paper, expanding foam, textiles, styrofoam, plasticine and many other elements came together in impressive sculptures. Now she is working with glass mosaic tiles, which to her recall the pixelated elements of a screen. “However”, she tells me over our mediated skype meeting, “I want to investigate further. Materials are very important to me. I am currently working with ropes and how they were used for torturing”; a statement that highlights once again the prominence of the body and its distortion in her work.
In the 2018 exhibition Facing Enemies, Melting Opposites at Karlin Studios in Prague, Keresztes arranged her sculptures like a squad of warriors, setting up an adversarial relationship between the viewer and the works, though they could also be interpreted as allies. A large sculptural piece, Totem of Hidden Accounts, stands as a monument to current internet dynamics: copper poles support a canopy over a form resembling a mouth, or a portal. It is a shrine to our everyday battles with multiple accounts and forgotten passwords that characterise networked life. The symmetry in this and other works is important, being directly linked to our virtual ‘doubles’, avatars and alter egos.
Zsófia Keresztes lives and works in her home town of Budapest and boldly engages with the local artistic scene, but also with the neighbouring capitals of Vienna and Prague. Her current exhibition in Prague, Entomos (Greek for ‘insect’), references today’s Anthropocene age, in which the loss of insects is an indicator of far wider environmental stress. Keresztes and her contemporary Czech artist Anna Hulačová have chosen to explore this topic by relating it to the work of leading Czech Surrealist painter František Janoušek and his illustrations for the book The Life of the Bee (1935) by Belgian Symbolist writer Maurice Maeterlinck. Keresztes’s sculptures create a dialogue with both of these historical art movements: the surrealism of her compositions and the symbolic power of her forms.
It’s been a very busy year for Keresztes, who seems to be showing work in nearly every city in Europe – Vienna, Prague, Krakow, Budapest, Reims, Riga, Berlin and Antwerp – and an impressive presentation at LISTE Art Fair in Basel. She has been in London too: more adventurous art-goers may have seen her work in the group exhibition Jutro at Castor Projects in Deptford over the summer. Hopefully she will be back soon with a more substantial presentation, so that we can properly encounter her work that is both intimate and empathic, poignant and deep.