Gergő Kovács is a twenty-one-year-old illustrator and artist based in Budapest. As a member of the new generation of young artists who observe the Internet’s effects on aesthetics, culture and society, Kovács creates multimedia works that include both physical objects such as large swathes of printed canvas, and digital art including video loops, 3D illustration and “photobashed” collage art. This approach reflects the themes of Kovács’ work as well, aiming directly at the correlation of our real lives and the ones we lead online.
This new wave of very current post-Internet / Internet aware art with a pronounced Internet kid aesthetic is rarely seen in Croatian galleries, while growing rapidly in popularity abroad — Kovács’ work has already been shown in Beijing, Frankfurt, Los Angeles, New York and London. Along with a presentation of already produced art, Gergő presents a brand new piece entitled Lava Flows Through Vocaloid Paradise at Dan D festival. The exhibition is supported by Iskon Internet, the sponsor of the festival.
DD: As a young artist, you’ve already exhibited your work all around the world — so we’re quite excited to introduce your art to a Croatian audience. To speed things up, how would you introduce yourself and your art to us?
Haha, I don’t really know. I create things, usually very virtual. Mostly about feelings, and turning tears into 3D maps.
DD: Some of the phrases you use to describe your work are “fragments of thought”, “depressing sensations”, “stimulus overloads” and “memory recollections”. When exploring these feelings, how universal do you try to be, if at all? Or to put it another way — how much of it is your own idea of what any young person feels today?
It’s definitely hard to deal with the kind of topics I work with (virtuality, Internet theory, and such) accessible. Partly because we don’t know yet how to call art that takes place after the Internet’s already become part of our daily lives, partly that we are very inexperienced in understanding our interactions with these new technologies, partly because of the nature of the terminology used by the academia and art theory. This usually makes most people feel excluded, and that’s not directly helpful in making art reach out to wider audiences. It shouldn’t be like this, since the effects of technology on our lives are very real, the overload of impulses, the demand for constant stimulation affect almost everyone.
As a contemporary artist, I have a privileged role, and as such I think if I would try to be the voice of a large group of people, that might not be reflective of them, so I very rarely try to communicate messages with my visual work. My age definitely helps, what I create resonates with generations the members of which experience modern technology as a birthright. They might have a more intimate understanding on the pros and cons of living with technology.
DD: You interpret the ways of modern communication, especially social media, with a noticeable ominous overtone: sometimes chaotic and aggressive, at other times melancholic and undulating. Is this the way you perceive our relationship with technology or more of an aesthetic choice?
In countries where entertainment technology is the most advanced, electronic devices act almost as external organs, those become integral parts of how people function. The effects of this spread out to all areas of the world. Accordingly, it should be very important to be aware that (media) technology like social media is not only enhancing, but also acts as an incredibly strong force that changes our economies, culture, social interactions, everything. It is amazing, and makes lots of things easier, but it also represents threat and danger. We have to talk about its consequences: for example, we can really say that in 2016 the existence of privacy is definitely an illusion.
DD: Your techniques mesh digital video with physical objects in interesting ways. For example, repeating video loops are often accompanied by large swathes of printed canvas. What excites and intrigues you about this intangible borderline between digital and physical?
Maybe I mix the two out of necessity, trying to survive on the borders of design and gallery-based art. Or learning to create via the Internet taught me to think freely between mediums — instead of specific roles and professions, like graphic designer or painter. There is often a certain anxiety associated with producing digital-only work. Feeling… less, because it’s not physical? It’s not easy to cut connections with traditions. I think it’s very interesting to think about how digital-based art could become its a separate thing, as meaningful as physical objects, and that’s definitely something I look forward to the most.
DD: One of the techniques you use is photobashing, a digital spin on photo collage. How is contemporary Internet-inspired art connected to classic pop-art, where similar techniques made use of the then prevalent and rapidly evolving media of television and print magazines?
Photobashing is the method of using already existing images and stock materials to create something new via repainting, retouching, editing. While it partly has roots in collaging, and maybe more in traditional painting, it’s not practice based in aesthetic-oriented (“fine”) fields such as pop-art. Instead, it’s a widespread technique among designers and concept artists working in the CGI industry — where the focus is creating hyperrealistic sketches as quickly as possible, based on the ideas of directors, scriptwriters, game developers. Pop-art used mainstream cultural elements as motifs, what were instantly recognizable by and relatable to the audience. I think Internet-inspired art has a lot in common with it in this regard. Media references everywhere. And there is also the common problem of copyright.
BK: Have you ever thought of applying your illustration and animation ideas and skills into a longer, dramatic narrative? In other words, can we expect at least an short animation from you and what could inspire you to work in that form?
I originally dreamed of becoming an animator, but I’ve become very disillusioned with the industry, and realised that my visual imagination, essential for drawing movement and such, was not really the best. However, I’ve kind of started finding my way back recently with 3D animation — I’ve just created a music video for Canadian musician Jade Statues, and participated in several video events in the last year with my piece Aquamorph. I could very easily imagine myself in an art director role on another project like those.
BK: Are you familiar with a broader Eastern European illustration and animation scene? According to you, what are its distinctive virtues when compared to the Western world?
To be honest, I’m not very knowledgeable in this. My interests and approach to these fields is very different from those who actively participate in these scenes. I feel a bit uneasy about making a comparison between “west” and “east”, but usually what I perceive that while contemporary Eastern European illustration and animation shares lots of visual features with Western works, it tends to be more retrospective, nostalgic, both conceptually and aesthetically. Influential vibes of post-socialism, colour palettes that remind me of the cities I’m familiar with — Budapest, Belgrade, and so on.
Photos: Gergő’s Behance account