Zsolt Asztalos

Potrait - Zsolt Asztalos (Hungary)

*1974 (Hungary)
studies at Hungarian University of Fine Arts 
lives and works in Budapest

He lives and works in Budapest. He graduated as a painter from the Hungarian University of Fine Arts in 1999. In 2013, he represented Hungary at the 55th International Art Exhibition in Venice, with the video installation, Fired but Unexploded. The focus of his artistic research is our relationship to the past. He examines the interpretation of the past from the perspective of how history is constructed, from the angel of the social sciences, and from the position of individual and cognitive psychology. He intends to open a separate investigation into the question of how the art historical canon is written. His works have been shown in many European countries and are included in several international collections.

Recording Memories – Battlefields (2020)

Unlike a photograph, human memory is not a static image. It is always a whole that changes dynamically and that we keep rewriting in accordance with our state at a given moment. Visual memories are never true-to-life, because they are in a constant state of change. Often, they are more about us than the event itself. The state of an individual, or even of society, at a given moment can be deduced from memory, of which visual memory is but a projection. I demonstrate this dynamic, arbitrary and subjective way of editing in my art. The same way as we organize the fragments of our memories in our minds, I keep moving geometric elements in my works to create ever new constructions. The geometric elements that are photographed in a neutral white space are memory fragments enclosed in boxes, which are re-edited from time to time. It is all like a playground. The compositions that the geometric forms add up to are actually monuments—monuments of remembering.

In my Battlefields series, I use photographs of countryside where battles were fought in the First and Second World Wars. I raise subjective memorials to these historic events, and they can be rearranged at will with a single gesture. This is also how we write our history from time to time. 

The construction of memory or a new form of a semi-private monument – the personal level that Zsolt brings to his project shows the layering and manipulation of history through subjective experience. A battlefield forgotten by people and landscape – a memory viewed from different perspectives and re-recorded, embedded in a false construction of history. The materialization of the complex process of perceiving one’s own history in Zsolt’s work is as straightforward and dry as it is symbolic and light.

Remembrance (video installation, 2016)

The subjects of the videos silently run the reels of different people’s lives, from birth to the present day. They remain silent in front of the camera, recollecting their own stories without relating what is going on inside. While the viewer is left without a clue, life stories unfold in a cinematic richness of detail and eventfulness. This duality, the passivity in front of the camera and the action unfolding inside the person, creates a unique tension.

It is not the only one – the static, yet moving portraits of the figures of our time work with a different type of historical narrative than the paintings of the old masters. The choice of setting where Zsolt places his 2016 work updates it for the theme of Moments of the SEFO 2024 Triennial. The moment of settling on one’s own memories with unsuspected layers and digressions extends moments selected, categorized and organized – canonized over the centuries by the traditional means of art.