Ilona Szalay’s oil and resin on wood paintings trace a path through a world of conflict and power play, a place of rigid hierarchy and fierce competition. Using concise visual language the work explores notions of vulnerability and beauty, dominance and submission, violence and control.
Now Szalay’s new paintings are shown for the first time at Arusha Gallery in Edinburgh in “Queen of Swords” opening Friday 7th May 2016.
An installation work accompanies the paintings, and Szalay’s private writings on this tempestuous time will form a written backdrop to the works on show. The drawings and words are a narrative of her life from 2012, recording her private emotions as she moved to Italy with her family and the ensuing breakdown of her marriage, a visual diary of sorts.
Incredibly raw, honest, they tell a story of toxic co-existence, yearning for closeness, dreams blurring the boundaries between real and internal events both having an impact on each other, maintaining sanity in the face of a stalker, being a mother, and an individual amongst it all. The installation features recording readings by Ilona’s older daughter.
The paintings in the show include “Float” in which the artist refers to the relationship with self and the challenge we face of ever knowing the full awareness of ourselves.
In “The Devil” the artist addresses issues of obsession, sexuality, hopelessness with a profound sense of yearning. She also alludes to the cultural ideal of the romantic “other half”. A staunch feminist, she uses her work to celebrate femininity, love and sex, but also refute the idea that as individuals it takes a partner to complete us.
“The Empress" very much alludes to joy and sensuality, showing us a floating, disrobing Venus, accompanied by a joyous and applauding male figure.
“Witch Witch” is one of Szalay’s strongest works. The artist’s recurring motif of a house stands above a female figure who seems to represent all manner of woman, and harks to the old interpretations of witch/nurse/midwife.
Szalay seeks to investigate the tension between protection and control in her work, resulting in an ambivalence in the images, a questioning of motive/morality, and an examination into our impulses to both create and destroy. The pictures are permeated with a lonely sense of yearning and a poignant straining towards something infinite. There is an intensely visceral quality to her recent paintings, a sense of abundance and illumination, and darkness bathed in beauty.
Szalay will be also represented at Art16 by Arusha Gallery, and a London show of the new works follows this summer.
Private View Friday 6th May, please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org