János Vámos' search for homes

-Hi! My name is János Vámos. I am currently living in Prague and studying painting at the Academy of Fine Arts. In my works I create abstracted inner spaces and deal with the inner conflict of emptiness and oversaturation. This quest for balance can be interpreted as a search for home(s)-

TUA: How do you start a painting? Where do you get your ideas/thoughts/ inspirations? Do you have some sort of ritual?

János: Lately I’ve been getting to work in the second half of the day. I prefer painting when I know it’s the last thing I have to do that day, and I find it easier to tune into it when there are no time limitations. I continuously work with my ideas, I make sketches, I write notes, or I create compositions in my head, basically anywhere, anytime. After arriving at my studio I always take a look at my older works - a fresh eye can catch something that’s gone unnoticed so far. I aim to find out in which direction I should continue, and sometimes the answer is starting a new piece. It’s not always clear whether the painting is done…

TUA: Is it important for you to have your own studio? How would you describe your studio and do you see your studio as an artwork itself?

János: Yes of course it is important. I have worked with this theme in various forms. I am intrigued by the aesthetics of mess or disarray, both in terms of form and context. That’s why I consider the studio an inspiring space. Recently there have been many changes, I had to move my studio several times. Although this itself isn’t a problem for me, I usually need time to acclimatise to the new one. I see my studio as a home, where I can open up, where I’m free to do anything. As a result there is untidiness. I love that every stain has its story.

I’ve returned for a few days to the house where I spent my childhood and teenage years. Since we moved out the house has been empty, and I’ve been using my old bedroom as a studio since I went back to my country of birth at the beginning of the pandemic. It has a very interesting atmosphere to it. I left a significant number of my works there and the room has remained untouched since. When I entered I could feel it in the air, that something had been happening there a long time ago, the weight of the ideas that were born there, the relics of a process that hasn’t necessarily been finished yet. I am thinking about reviving the house in my art by considering the house as a work of art itself.

TUA: When I look at your works I see a lot of doors and windows and rooms, are they made up or are they familiar to you? János: The spaces I depict have been or are important places for me. The abstracted spaces hold a combination of the projections of my own inner world and external factors that have guided me. I investigate the “feeling of home” within them, hoping they can tell me that I am where I have to be. I am fascinated by partitions and boundaries as symbols. For example, you can look out of the window and see the outside world, but you can’t be a part of it. It presents a view, but also separates you from it.

TUA: What do you think it means to be an artist nowadays? Do you think it should be meaningful to be an artist? Do we need to make a change?

János: It’s a journey full of adventures that is different for everyone in this field. There isn’t a pre-built system or method that would fit everyone, there isn’t an institution or company that would grant you absolute stability or would allow linear progression or a predictable career ladder. It requires a lot of sacrifice, but if you are ready to do this and to persevere, when you feel you are doing what you have to do, it starts to make sense and this is why it’s worth it. I’m not sure if it should be meaningful to be an artist, but as I have devoted my life to it I’d obviously want for it to be significant . One should acknowledge, however, that this kind of dedication is not necessarily spectacular. The work you put in is not that conspicuous, nor can one’s success be measured objectively, and doing it your entire life doesn’t guarantee you’ll be good at it.

TUA: Do you feel connected to your own artworks, or is there always a certain distance or separation?

János: To some paintings I feel more connected, to others less connected, it changes. Sometimes this connection is made progressively, sometimes it’s immediate.

TUA: Do you use special techniques when u paint/create?

János: I usually use mixed media, but recently I’ve been using brushes more often rather than using spray paints. I also like oil sticks and oil pastel.

TUA: How do your surroundings/friends/family connect with your art? Is feedback important for you?

János: My family and people close to me support me, and it means a lot. When I was younger my parents were afraid of the art world’s instabilities because I am the first one in my family who chose this path, but they have since accepted it as they’ve seen that it’s a life that is completely possible. Feedback is important for me, but at the same time it isn’t. You have to know how to handle it. You shouldn’t give the same weight to every comment, but you can learn a lot from good critique. I like to speak about my paintings with others because an external observer can always read them differently. Often these conversations allow me to see my works from a different viewpoint.

TUA: What drives you to create? Do you force yourself to create?

János: As I’ve grown older the question of why I am doing it has become less relevant for me. I am creating because it is what’s natural for me. Recently I’ve been trying to approach it in a more professional way; I don’t only go to the studio when I’m bursting with ideas and really feel like painting. I believe it’s good to have a system or a habit, such as getting used to tuning into work when I am at the studio, as this way the space and the activity are connected to each other in my brain. Of course rest is important too. Not every week is the same however; sometimes I work more, like 5-6 days a week, and sometimes only 3-4.

TUA: Do you like chaos ?

János: For me there is something homely, but also exciting in chaos. If I find a calmness or a safe point in it that can be very inspiring, but if there is a lot of chaos without respite I don’t really like that, it can be depressing.

TUA: Have you collaborated with other people already? How were your experiences?

János: In order to achieve enough attention you need to work with multiple people. I love collaborating with other artists or curators, solo or in the frame of group exhibitions. I think it’s very good to have different approaches and to explore the complexities of a topic from different viewpoints, but I also find it important to have a common focus so that the end result isn’t too divergent.

TUA: What is it like to have your own exhibition?

János: I consider my own exhibitions as checkpoints. It’s completely different to see your works installed on the wall - they interact with each other in an utterly different way, they communicate with each other, they inhabit the space. It’s a tremendously important moment from an emotional point as it’s about presenting an era, showing a new part of me to the public. It feels good to see an artist attending my exhibitions who I haven’t yet met, honoring me with his/her presence.

TUA: Do you like to talk about your art? Do you think we should always explain our art to people, or can it also destroy the art work?

János: I love talking about art, both mine and art in general. I love professional conversations about visual solutions or other questions. I am always interested in the stories behind the paintings. For me, being aware of the background, the artist’s intentions and motivations can add a lot to the work itself. In my opinion explaining the original story would not deprive another interpretation from its legitimacy.

TUA: Who are you, or how would you describe yourself? What kind of cartoon character would you be?

János: Who am I? I am someone who left his home to find new homes in the world. I’m not really into cartoons but if I had to say a fictional character with which I could identify I would choose The Little Prince or Tonio Kröger from Thomas Mann’s novel of the same title.

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