Zoom studio visits might sound like a grim situation, but in reality, it's pretty fun. Especially when you're talking to London based Sladie Andras Nagy-Sandor while he shows his art he's been working on. Smaller drawing, huge paintings and works in between were passed to review - all very fascinating. His visual language is expressive and free-flowing and ranging in degrees of abstraction with a sense of directness. In this studio visit, we discussed the many projects he’s been working on, how the lockdown resulted in making him realise what he was missing in his practice, and what is art is about. Apologies for the Zoom screenshots quality of the images, during this pandemic, they’ll have to make do.
Since we cannot do an irl studio visit, can you describe your workspace?
I am based in VO Curations, Marelybone, London. My studio is in an office building, which is something I am used to, because my previous studio was in an unused office building in Newcastle city centre. It has two windows overlooking Marylebone station and some trees. We have a table, lots of light hitting the floor full of paint and pastel and a studio plant (an ivy). I share my space with my good friend and an awesome painter, Grace Mattingly. We have been studio buddies at the Slade before lockdown and decided to find a studio together when we were beginning to see an easing in some of the lockdown measures. We have had an intense couple of months in here, we both worked a lot and made a lot of progress. We quickly became attached to the space and come in any chance we got.
Do you have any rituals or routines before you start working?
I usually start by eating (Tesco meal deals mostly). It’s a good way to arrive and get accustomed to my surroundings. It also helps me let go of the pressure I sometimes feel when going into the studio. I work as an artist assistant, retail assistant and occasionally as a freelance curator, I wear a lot of hats and that can make my artistic process feel overburdened, so I always start with something that relaxes me. I eat, water the plant, listen to an interview or some music and gradually start looking at what I have worked on the previous days.
Can you please describe your art in 15 words or less?
I think about vulnerability through painting and interacting with materials.
Did your mode of production differ before and during the pandemic?
Yes, in lots of ways. I was studying towards my MFA in Painting at the Slade before the pandemic, I was constantly questioning what I was doing, I had tutorials almost every week and I was working on multiple curatorial projects simultaneously. When lockdown began I was stuck in a room with no living space or studio and most of my curatorial projects along with an upcoming residency were cancelled, postponed or moved online. Suddenly I became really detached from everything that was really important to me before the pandemic hit and I focused on creating a routine and put no pressure on making art. I worked on small things, ink works in sketchbooks mostly. It was an organic process that led me to rethink the rules that I have been following consciously and subconsciously in my practice. I was lucky enough to have been furloughed, so when we started renting the studio, I threw myself into the work and it was really liberating to get rid of old habits and just experiment with new materials and new ways of thinking. I am really grateful that I was in a position where this was possible and have learned a lot through it. Hopefully I can continue doing so.
Your latest works employ a pastel color palette. Is there any reason why you started to resort to these color choices? Does it signify anything?
One of the things that the ink drawings helped me realize is that my process was lacking immediacy, and I returned to drawing, which was like seeing an old friend. Since then, I have invested in some awesome oil pastels, soft pastels, inks and oil sticks as well as paper to always have these at the ready. At the Slade I had a lot of issues with deciding which ideas to focus on, which thread to follow and having these materials at hand helps me let goof this constipated way of thinking, it allows me to do it all as well as bring elements into my works that are new, but come naturally. I do also see these as amazing tools that combine different methods of mark making, I have a lot of control, lines and figures are starting to reappear in my work, but they also smudge and can be quite messy, which I see as an absolutely relevant part of the works. The colour palette and the use of these materials brought out a theme that focuses on the meeting point of the exterior and the interior and how they interact visually and symbolically. This directness I have achieved is allowing me to become more honest and vulnerable, this way the colour pallete, the surfaces, textures in conjunction with the imagery and the periodic abstraction signify a personal journey that latches on to elements of my reality as well as literature, film and urban life.
Do you ever feel like people expect your work to be culturally or even, politically engaged?
I felt that more in my BA and have started letting go of it on my MFA.It is difficult, because I internalized a method of thinking that created a hierarchical system in which I put a lot of pressure on myself to only focus on works that were complex, with multiple layers of meanings and connections. I was not necessarily interested in creating culturally or politically relevant works, but I did think that each piece had to do it all. I’m not sure I could define which impulses made me think that way, because there are so many experiences that fed into it directly and indirectly via upbringing, context ,media, advice, etc. I see being honest and touching people through making as political so I’m slowly working out my own approach.
You and Zsuzsanna Zsuró has been working together on project hu. Can you tell us more about the project?Especially the latest ‘ghost relics’ residency?
Project hu is our way of mapping out the Hungarian artist diaspora around Europe, slowly building an archive of collaborations, real and digital. I started by organizing a touring exhibition in 2018 and Zsu (Zsuzsanna) joined me in 2019 and together we reimagined the initiative. “Ghost Relics” was the final exhibition of the project hu X HOXTON 253 residency. We selected aLondon-based artist, Joonhong Min and a Hungary-based artist, Nora Teplanthrough an open call and invited them to make work in HOXTON 253 Gallery’sproject space, while also receiving mentoring, visits and professional development opportunities. Nora had to participate online unfortunately due to the pandemic, so we decided to include London-based artist Karoly (Tobi) Tendlas well and they collaborated in the development of the exhibition. They areamazingly talented artists and we hope to produce a publication and the artist talk video soon that reflects this. So keep your eyes peeled and follow@project_hu on Instagram for updates and to see our future collaborations.
What’s your favourite thing to do in London? And why?
Going to the studio and cycling. It feels as though in such a busy city,I should also be constantly busy as well. So, going to the studio and allowing myself to let go and be with myself and my projections is something that is really important to me. Cycling is also exciting and can be really frustrating depending on the weather and the drivers, but the non-verbal communication that happens between by body and that of the cars and other cyclists is very dynamic. Also gallery visits with my girlfriend are really nourishing.
Do you think that there is a sense of community between London art schools? Is it the goal of ‘multiverse’,the collaboration project between Slade and RCA students?
I think there can be, definitely. Although our collaboration with RCA students was postponed indefinitely, this summer it was really reassuring to see how students in London art schools coped with having no physical degree shows by finding partners and alternative venues. When we started organizing the Multiverse, the response was great, I think art students are aware of the bubbles their Universities create around them and look for ways to burst out of it.
What are you currently working on? Any projects we should know of and that you can reveal?
It has been a busy year so far, I co-organized a Slade painting show with the wonderful Anna Choutova in January, co-organized and participated in ‘Material Figures’ with Grace Mattingly and Lindsey Jean Mclean, while coordinating the residency we discussed above. The rest of this year seems less packed, which gives Zsu and me the space we need to plan the next phase of project hu and I will also be participating in an online prize show in November, unfortunately I can’t share any details about it just yet. This year has ultimately been about developing my practice for me and I’m really excited about what I have been making, so hopefully I will get a chance to show them soon.