Eastern European Art & Bee Glue?

I’m going to Budapest in a little over 2 weeks, so I wanted to scope out the art scene well before I got there. (I need to know what to buy, right?) So apparently  the artist’s “loft” area is in Pest, located in a Socialist-era industrial complex. The Art Factory has an exhibition space as well as a commercial gallery. It’s organized and run by an American, Dianne Brown, who is available for studio tours and provides opportunities to meet the artists. Jackpot! I’m in.

The artists work in all mediums and styles, but the common thread is an Eastern European emotional expressionism. Artists in residence are Zsolt Bodoni, Levente Herman, Dora Juhasz, Marta Kucsora, Mamikon Yengibarian, Ágnes Verebics, Krisztián Horváth, and Luca Korodi.

When I looked up the resident artists, I saw an organic/natural world focus, and in particular, a focus on storm/weather pattern photography. I am a little perplexed as to why most of them are producing works in the same vein (don’t galleries try to show a myriad of styles?), which brings up the point that colonizing groups of artists can sometimes lead to the production of very similar, even routinized work…

The artist that I was most keen on is Mamikon Yengibarian (Mamikon has participated in Venice’s Biennale). Here’s some of his work.

He uses lines and spheres to express human emotion as it is drawn out by a reaction to natural things, including feelings of vulnerability and loneliness, as well as humour and joy. He is known for his “striking” Tumbling Doll sculptures in the Four Seasons Hotel (I’ll definitely have to check these out).

In an interview, Mamikon says that the undercurrent of his works is “The organic world, the human being with his problems and pursuits.” In his work he uses propolis (bee glue), and refers to its use as “an undescribable feeling… and I admire the aroma.”

Side note on the bee glue! Although there’s no documentary evidence, propolis was believed to be used prior to 1400 in Italian paintings (the National Gallery in London noticed an unidentified substance in some of its paintings and hypothesized that it could be propolis). Propolis is a chemically complex, sticky, resinous hive product containing material collected by bees from buds and beeswax. It is used by bees as a sealant and to protect against microorganisms.

So not only is Mamikon visually patterning his works after the natural world but he is also using organic components to create them.

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