Of Hungarian descent, born in Beirut, Szalay went on to study at Oxford University and Byam Shaw, University of the Arts, and is the recipient of many art prizes, including selection as one of the fourteen worldwide artists to invest in, by Rebecca Wilson, head curator at Saatchi Art.
Szalay’s new works retain her frequent feminine subject matter, here seen as archetypes; warriors, gods and children, but rendered with a timeless and eerie, poetic intimacy. Her passion for the touch of the paint is clear, the figures rendered with gorgeous sweeps, drops, delicate touches, the unfinished, flowing style evoking skill and confidence.
The large works on wood panels are a departure for Szalay. Rendered in the pose of Gainsborough portraits, these five full length silhouettes or white ‘ghosts’ stand proudly and facing front. Faces are undetermined. Free and flowing, pooling strokes of white oil define form with real weight and power and the classical poses and magnified scale of these bodies communicate a heroic and majestic strength.
In the smaller works Szalay’s skill as a storyteller is clear. Vignettes of groups and interiors call to mind the narratives of Sickert, with their intimate and mysterious interpersonal dramas. Are they cathartic visual diaries or fairy tales? There are props, indicators, clues to these confidential stories of magic and wonder. The viewer is invited to peer behind the curtain of these miniature performances.
A recipient of the ORA Prize (Italian contemporary art prize) and one of six finalists for the highly valued UK Threadneedle Prize in 2013, Ilona’s work is highly regarded and she has exhibited worldwide including London, Milan and New York and the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition. Ilona’s work has featured in many international publications including Wall Street International magazine, The Independent, The Times and Dazed and Confused magazine.