Hungarian fine artist Dora Votin translates grace, loss and beauty into abstract paintings

A conversation with the Budapest-born painter about her art, approach and experience

Wed 11 Apr, 2018
Featured Image:

‘On the Road to Damascus’, Dora Votin. Oil, wood. (2005)

Please could you introduce yourself- who are you and what do you do?

I’m a Hungarian artist, a painter, born and raised in Budapest. Me, my husband and our three children moved to Budaörs in 1999, on the southern outskirts of Budapest. My workshop is there, too.

I had worked as a background painter for a cartoon animation company for years, and I was really happy to be there. After our three children were born, I became a freelancer. I studied drawing, painting, typography – and later, liberal arts/religious studies and philosophy.

You work in several different styles. Can you tell us a bit about these?

How I work, what I paint, what kind of texture I use depends on what I want to express. The way I put down the strokes – especially if I use thick paint – can add extra message to the picture. On the New Song series, I gave strength to the brush strokes, but the Threshold series are the opposite in terms of technique; I only used a few gesture-like brush strokes, and few colours.

My plank-pictures series is a recent favourite, and it uses at least three different styles. One is faint, sensitive drawings adding almost nothing to the wood; one is vivid and colourful; and one icon-like series uses metallic golds and silvers.

The most important thing is that these planks are from building sites: they are old, wasted pieces of wood which are knotted, cracked and stained. They’re wounded, like us.

I don’t cover the injured part of it; rather, I put gold next to the most painful part, to emphasize it. So finally the wounded part of the wood becomes the most beautiful part of the whole. For me, that is how we are changed when we are in God’s hand.

 

Dora Votin Mozes 2014 Sputnik Faith Art
Mozes, Dora Votin (2014)
Our readership is mainly from the English speaking world, and many of us would not know much about Hungarian artists. Who are your favourite Hungarian artists and why?

Judit Reigl and Simon Hantai would be the most known and famous ones. Reigl’s paintings are really close to my heart. Her works are powerful and reflect freedom and playfulness. There are just too many good painters and artists in Hungary. I mention only few of them.

Some contemporary artist I really appreciate: Eva Krajcsovics, Eszter Deli, Bea Zoltai, Gabor Erdelyi, Janos Aknay, Laszlo Gyemant, Laszlo Feher, Gabor Karatson, Lili Orszagh, Lajos Vajda, Endre Balint, Bela Kondor, Jeno Barcsay. – That is a long long line, already!

“I didn’t expect grace showing up from destruction [in my work]. That was a surprise.”

How does following Jesus make you a better artist and what challenges have you found being a Christian making art?

What makes the better art and artist is me, the real person, growing spiritually while following Christ, learning about God, life, myself and art.

For years I was afraid of calling myself a Christian artist. I felt it suggested my art is more a Christian thing than an art thing, and I didn’t want to reach people from that point. I didn’t want to be an old-fashioned kitsch painter, as I thought of it.

Please tell us about your ‘Removed Pictures’ project. Why did you make this and how did you come up with the idea?

‘Removed Pictures’ was created for the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, last year. Thinking about reformation I had a sense of loss as an artist, because of the re-formation of the way of looking at art.

There are seven paintings, each showing a dramatic meeting in the life of Christ. I covered each painting with white wall paint, to experience that loss. The pain of loss was part of the honest relationship with the artworks and the only way of expressing the power of destruction.

What I had not planned was that I found a joy in it, greater than the loss. I realised I got new paintings, different from the originals, built upon them; they could only function because of that original, destroyed base. For me that has spoken about grace and renewal. That was a surprise. I didn’t expect grace showing up from destruction.

What projects are you working on at the moment and what do you hope to achieve in 2018?

Right now I am preparing for the next show. The title will be Scale Change, since I am painting in three sizes – small, medium and big – to discover how I can change the scale of a piece and still preserve its quality.

 

To see more of Dora’s work, visit her website. (For our English speaking audience, click on the ‘English’ button in the top right hand corner).

 

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