István Nyári approaches his art with the eye of a film director. To experience his large, vividly coloured paintings is to be confronted by carefully staged, hyperrealist compositions crowded with kaleidoscopic detail. Although István’s canvases are a bravura display of technical skill, he prefers to discuss the narratives behind the work, believing that meaningful art should transcend its physical qualities.
Born in Hungary in 1952, István spent time in 80s New York as well as Brussels and now lives between Budapest and London. A prolific and high-profile figure on the Hungarian art scene, István’s oeuvre could be interpreted as a Pop Surrealist commentary on late-capitalist consumerism and its omnipresent media. Between the playfully bizarre juxtapositions and droll commentary, his postmodern caprices fizz with the tropes and artefacts of globalisation: sexualised and militarised children’s dolls, surgical ‘enhancements’, and seedy neon-lit tableaux.
Among István’s favoured art forms is portraiture — of close friends, family, and himself. In contrast to his treatment of other themes, these offer a gentler, more affectionate, and intimate atmosphere, demonstrated by the 2010 painting, My Son Benjamin — The Lord of the Rings, which was exhibited at London’s National Portrait Gallery. Still, many of his portraits feature unexpected or grotesque twists — a sly balancing act between meticulously-crafted reality and fantasy.
István contends that truly valuable art is distinguished by its ability to bring life to imaginary subjects. In his interrogation of popular culture — by inserting realistic characters into fictitious scenarios — István offers a visionary landscape cluttered with the meaningless objects and ideals of a world in fast-forward.