Hungarian conceptual artist Adrian Kiss talks about his childhood memories, inspirations from everyday life, and favorite works. He combines diverse elements like archaic with futuristic and synthetics with natural items. With these hybrid conceptions, Adrian creates a truly unique world that reminds us of the primal and the utopistic world at the same time.
COR: Please tell us a little about yourself and your path to the world of art!
Adrian Kiss: I was born in Romania, raised in Hungary, and educated in London. In Romania, my interest in art, or rather “making stuff’’ started early. Here, during kindergarten, I have memories of making structures out of cork and other household materials; another one is where I’m pointing to Donald Duck in the coloring book, pictured as an artist painting the Eiffel tower. I remember telling my mom that I want to be like him.
Soon, my family and I moved to Budapest, Hungary. There my journey of becoming an artist was on pause, mainly because of fine art being mildly absent from the Hungarian educational system. I was trying to compensate for it with extracurricular classes. The ones available to me were still-life classes, only to realize I do not have any interest in depicting the visible.
Fortunately, we soon moved to London, where I completed my high school and university studies. Coming from a traditional educational background where fine art is a taught skill of realistic representation, my first encounter with fine art was in an isolated form.
It is here, in London, that I received enough support from my art teachers and the society to make art practice a lifelong decision.
COR: What inspires you the most? Who has the most influence on you?
Adrian Kiss: Socialising in different countries and cultures made me the person I am now. It serves as the main inspiration for my work.
The Internet also greatly affects my work. I gather lots of visual material online, usually during researching relevant topics. For example, the use of the material is significant in my practice, therefore I often look for the visual illustration of its use.
To be honest, art isn’t my main source of inspiration, and I guess this is why I do not have artists as idols. Otherwise, I am often influenced by architecture, brutalism for instance. Or fashion. Studying fine art at Central Saint Martins made me a frustrated fashion student for some years.
COR: The balance of natural and synthetic materials, archaic v. futuristic elements in your works are prominent. How did the idea of mixing these things come?
Adrian Kiss: It probably rose unconsciously. Back in Romania, I’ve spent most of my vacations at my grandparents, up the mountains surrounded by deep forests. Here I often wandered around the hills, picking berries and mushrooms. My grandfather had a huge stable with all kinds of tools, I remember trying to figure out what the strange-looking objects are for.
On the other hand, I’ve spent my early years in a socialist mining city, decorated with standardized apartment blocks and urban sculptures of heroic monumental propaganda. Lots of rough, unfinished surfaces, unusual shapes, heavy-looking materials.
COR: Which aspect of your art is the most important to you?
Adrian Kiss: The making of it, and more specifically the initial part of this process. The first thing I usually do when I begin a new project is to think, take notes, and evaluate. Most of the projects begin with a vague, blurred idea, a feeling, that I try to draw down and write about. This tends to be a long process. Drawing hundreds of sketches per idea, until I’m confident I’ve managed to make a visual of the initial thought.
COR: Sometimes your works remind us of the post-apocalyptic world of the video games from the early 2000s. Is it just our association or are you really influenced by these virtual realities?
Adrian Kiss: I did play a few games like Diablo II, Hitman, or Heroes of Might and Magic III, but not too extensively for them to have an impact on my work, I think. Yet I can get addicted to a project or a good piece I’m working on the same way as a gamer can to its seat.
COR: One of our favorite older pieces from you is the “Altar” from 2015. From the fresh series, our pick is definitely the “Durva kocsi”. Can you tell us a little more about them?
Adrian Kiss: Both pieces have similarities in their design. Altar’s pattern and Durva kocsi’s composition follow a symmetric design I often use in my work. It goes back to when I realized I wanted to work with fabrics and leather. My mom and I were doing the pattern of a raw edge leather jacket when I became interested in framing it. The back of the jacket had a Y shaped design, which is the origin of the above-mentioned pieces.
COR: And last but not least: If you have to choose one, which is your personal favorite from your works? Can you tell us the story behind it?
My favorite piece is Sylvania. It is the first non-wall based work I’ve ever done and my first really large scale installation. I just happen to love it up to this day. The wooden boards were originally the doors of an old set of (socialist) kitchen cupboards, left on the street. My friend called me saying, I might like what she found for me, so I rushed there, while she guarded the furniture. I took the doors off, not knowing what I’ll be using them for…
Sylvania is a monument for those boards, and their cultural connotation.