“When I first saw the jungle in Asia I was struck by its size. The impenetrable green forest was all around me with its wildness and beauty,” says Katalin Vasali. In her series Eden, she examines the wonders of the rainforest. Cutting flowers, leaves and trees from her own photos, she pieces them back together into artistic compositions. Vasali adjusts the light and color of the individual parts to create harmonious landscapes that are beyond reality.
In her work, Katalin Vasali wants to explore the symbolic meaning of the Garden of Eden, which has always been shrouded in myth and legend. According to the artist, the aesthetic of the series describes a sought-after but unattainable state of existence for mankind: perfect harmony between humans and nature.
Hungarian artist Katalin Vasali studied at the Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design in Budapest. Her work has appeared in ART MARKET Budapest and auctions at the Blitz Gallery. Vasali received the Gilchrist Fisher Award in 2016.
What’s your artistic process like?
At the beginning of a project I have several ideas, plans you might say, and I experiment. I try different things until I find the best way. Though I figure that no matter how I plan my work, there are always happy accidents, which I love! For example, when I made the series Garden of Eden in the jungle, I knew from my first impressions that I would like to take long exposure photographs of the forest. After the first shots, I already visualized what I would like to see in the end. But we found the exact locations by accident in the middle of the night. There were no lights, so I just saw the environment after I took the first photographs. It was very exciting. We spent three and a half days there, and it was raining like hell for two and a half of them. We got lucky, and I took the rest of photos on our last night.
What inspires you about the jungle?
Last year during our holiday, I had the opportunity to visit a place that is famous among jungle trekking routes. It was my first time in a jungle, and I was struck by the size of the impenetrable green forest surrounding me with its wilderness and beauty. That was the moment when I understood what the word ‘jungle’ really meant. I was so inspired that I knew I would somehow find a way to express this feeling.
What are the typical characteristics of your style?
The relation between urban life and nature has always interested me, and therefore this theme returns in my projects repeatedly in different ways. But when I am interested in a new theme, I try to examine every aspect of the topic and that is what forms the character of the project. For example, my previous series called Erosion - which was awarded with the Gilchrist Fisher Award in London last year - was a fusion between land art and photography. I enjoyed working on the field as much as I liked the process of my latest project, Garden of Eden. Returning to the question of style, I believe that the style of the artistic work always depends on the subject as well, because I react to each subject differently.
What does art mean to you?
Understanding art and creating art both mean a lot to me. Working on a project gives me plenty of positive energy. I usually get carried away while working. When everybody else just wants to finish, no matter how tired I am, I still say: “Just one more and that’s the end.” But it is never the end. Everything is possible when you are creating art and that is a wonderful feeling. I just can’t wait to start my next project.
Are there artists who have influenced you?
Many artists have influenced me. In the beginning, I was very inspired by Diane Arbus and Cindy Sherman, and I made a lot of ironic, socio-critical self-portraits in this period. Later, during my studies in ecological art, my attention was diverted to the understanding of space, and I was inspired by environmental artists, such as Andy Goldsworthy, Agnes Denes, Christo & Jeanne-Claude, and Joel Sternfeld. After finishing the Garden of Eden series, I'm focusing on the larger definition ‘garden,’ and will continue to reflect on this topic in my next project as well.
If you could have dinner with any person from history, alive or dead, who would it be and what would you talk about?
It is a very interesting idea to have dinner with people from history such as Winston Churchill, Coco Chanel, or Albert Einstein. This list would be very long, so I would not have dinner with famous people. Instead, I would have dinner with my grandmother, who I knew and would love to share my experiences with her and to hear her again, just pick up right where we left off.
Where would you like to travel? Maybe even somewhere in Latin America?
I love to travel, and I’m very easily inspired by other cultures. The world seems so much bigger when you are traveling. It is most exciting to change your everyday routine and to pay attention to the environment, which I think I avoid during normal weekdays. This year, we will travel to Vietnam, but next year perhaps we can visit Machu Picchu, and after that see the Amazonian rainforest as well. I imagine it would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience to spend three to four days in the forest.
Please finish the following in a full sentence: “Art is…”
There is a Hungarian proverb used by every dog-lover, including me: “You can live without a dog, but why would you?” So for me, it is similar with art: “You can live without art, but why would you?” Art is part of my life.