‘The Life of a Work of Art’: Eszter Radnóczy and Ani Molnár talk about the meeting points of interior design and art

A new series called ’The Life of a Work of Art’ is launched by the interior designer office este’r partners, in which Eszter Radnóczy chief designer invites her guests to a discussion on the meeting points and relationship of interior design and art. The first guest was Annamária Molnár, the founder and director of Ani Molnár Gallery in Budapest. She shared her thoughts on the interior design placement of the works of the significant Hungarian painter, Tamás Konok.

Ani, do you often have to help your clients choose a work of art for a particular space?

Yes, they often ask for advice. Especially those who do not, or not exclusively, collect art, rather they are looking for contemporary works for a particular space as they want to live with the selected works in the long run, so it is important that the artworks harmonizes with the interior of the apartment or complements it in some way. This is not an easy decision. It can happen that the piece of art is not the ideal choice for the specific place or wall surface, which the clients might like in the gallery space when it’s in a different environment, on its own. It is not easy for even experienced professionals to visualize how an artwork would look in another space. It can help in this decision to insert the selected work into an existing interior photo, but it is best to try out several options on the spot after a pre-filter. In my experience, the on-site testing is the most effective, this way anyone can get a sense of the ideal artworks with professional help, without having previous experience, I think it’s important for clients to be able to choose from several great art pieces and also for their personal preferences to be reflected in the final decision.

Eszter, do your clients have definite ideas about integrating artworks or is it more of a common thinking with the client, a long process?

This is a very interesting question. In many cases, our customers are collectors and connoisseurs of art so they are very conscious in the placement of works of art. I’m not saying that their house is built around art, but the nature of the artworks, the collection intertwines with the character of the owner and influences ideas in interior design, but even in architecture. For us, this process is also a challenge: how to shape a space that already has one or two highlights. However, free design is more common when we do not build around objects and artworks, but first invent the aesthetics and functionality of space. Art always has a place in our works, as it is a very important form of expression. We try to look at it not only as a decoration, but also to develop a closer relationship between the client and the suggested pieces of art, of course often with the cooperation of gallerists. The history of creators and works and the formation of attachment to objects are also part of our work: the path to a choice is an experience and we travel with our customers in this.

How would you describe the interior you “worked with” in this joint conversation?

Eszter Radnóczy: Given a downtown apartment with classic features. The ornate, rich, floral patterned stucco, the classic window and door panels, the cassette walls are divided and based on the principle of symmetry. In the interior, however, there is a duality: the background, based on the principle of the classic, symmetrical tradition can be softened with the asymmetrical, geometric equipment and the use of materials.

Ani Molnár: As a gallerist, this elegant, modern interior with its fresh interior design solutions is an ideal place to present contemporary artworks, I would say they are longing for this place. Thanks to the plans of este’r partners, the space is able to preserve the classic values of a middle class home in a completely contemporary design and minimalist solutions. It is particularly interesting about the installation of the works that Eszter breaks the original wood wall covering with a gray insert, which further emphasizes the contemporary character and shows the works in a more exciting context than the usual white background.

Why did you choose the works of Tamás Konok and what aspects did you consider when selecting the specific works?

Ani Molnár: In this minimalist space, I was primarily able to imagine an abstract, mostly geometric work or works. Of course, many options and combinations work here as well. The gallery represents several artists working in this genre, including Tamás Konok, one of the most significant Hungarian geometric abstract painters living today. The peculiarity of his compositions is that his structures are based on a thin line drawing. His painting is characterized by exciting colour combinations, the relationships of material, form and line, and a delicate balance of rhythm, proportion and measure. Konok’s works are very inspiring in this space and encourage in-depth contemplation.

Both symmetry and asymmetry as well as classic and contemporary balance in the visual designs. How do you see these from your own disciplines?

Ani Molnár: Classic and contemporary, symmetry and asymmetry are the most exciting and valuable elements of visual design for me. These also appear in the art of Tamás Konok, partly this is the reason why we chose him. One of the main features of Tamás Konok’s art is the works that display very stable structures in balance with their oblique lines, which were also placed on the wall here in the interior.

Eszter Radnóczy: The angular shapes of the equipment, the reduced and hidden solutions of the kitchen, the kitchen island consisting of an asymmetrical solid block which can be floating are all modern, contemporary interior design solutions. Here it is worth deviating from the strict symmetry. Bringing in asymmetry is also mandatory from a functional point of view, but it is a good solution to space. It also helps to give the space a human-centred character, a sense of lightness and free-mentality. The use of colours and surfaces is also relaxed and modern, just like in the painting. For example the surface displacement of the wall paint, or the acidified, stained copper cladding or the patterned parquet flooring called Biscuit.

Eszter, you said that you feel a positive tension in this space. Why is that and how should we deal with it – should we dissolve or enhance it with a work of art?

The double thinking, the decorative design of the outlines (the room as a box, and the walls of the box plus the ceiling, the floor and the sidewalls of the room) and the use of geometric,  non-fragmented equipment managed in blocks all carry positive tension. The alignment of colours and the logical functions relieve this tension and unite the duality.

How does Tamás Konok’s two works enhance this?

Eszter Radnóczy: The picture entitled ’Forme equidistante’ is very balanced in the focus, it relieves tension. Its colours blend better into the background, the less contrasting lines are also soothing. The white, inverted U-shaped colour bar also frames at the edge, occupying the tipping forms in its middle.

The ’S.T.’ image pair with its large light background is a more eye-catching, almost vibrant pairing. The tension is strengthened by the slight asymmetry between the lines of the paintings, the strong black lines and the cold light blue but dashed edges. The images were deliberately positioned so that the dark lines turn towards each other, connecting them for a softer overall effect.

How does the presence of a work of art help the human-centered character and the humane gesture?

Ani Molnár: Anyone who ever tried it knows how inspiring it is to live with contemporary artworks in everyday life. Dealing with artworks is an opportunity for intellectual development, networking and communication through art. Through works of art, we can better understand the world around us, as contemporary works reflect on the current issues of our time. The works carry messages that are subjectively interpreted by the recipient. The enjoyment of art, the energy and inspiration that can be received through the works are constantly present. Living with artworks and the daily contact with them open up additional dimensions. The works encourage dialogue with our environment – within the family and with the outside world, as well as with those who visit our homes – and last but not least, they have a stimulating and developing effect on children.

The work of Tamás Konok has a strong presence at the highlight of the space in both versions. Why can we feel this way?

Ani Molnár: The first selected painting, ’Forme equidistante’, is a special work from 1977, where the artist deals with the expanded space, the proportions and the tension created by the lines. The work was prominently displayed on the gray wall surface and also creates a definite connection with other elements of the interior: with the special lamps hanging above the dining table, the kitchen island, the minimalist kitchen on the opposite side but even with the curtains and white window frames. The effect is also enhanced by the colours of the work, which mixes cold grays and blacks with warmer shades and white, just like the interior. In the second version, with the paired paintings titled ’S.T.’ from 1989, we can look into a later era of the artist. Here, we can also see a wide possibility of playing with space, previously unused forms and asymmetrical, geometric elements appear in the works. The colour contrasts here are more dynamic than in the previous work, so the effect of the artworks is also different in space.

Eszter Radnóczy: In the end result, the use of materials and colours play a big role. The walls are smooth, painted, no wallpaper, strong patterned curtains, definite veined wood surfaces. This is why it is worth displaying Tamás Konok’s painting, because his minimalist, linear, asymmetrical thinking is valid at this point. An important aspect for me was the size of the image, as it’s clear to me that something has to happen on the large surface. If we put a lot of smaller images on the wall, we would have less focus on the artwork. For me it was important to choose from images that dominate the gray-blue wall and also fit into the idea of interior design in its theme. The background is basically a passepartout of the images. I like the restrained colour contrasts, the mischievous but conscious lines in the art of Tamás Konok. The two versions only modify the interior in a nuanced way. Their character is the same, their colours are perfect for both, that is why it is very difficult to choose between the two options. I would entrust this to the sentimentality of the apartment user.


Tamás Konok, painter:

Tamás Konok is a Kossuth Prize-winning painter. He was born in 1930 in Budapest and was a student of Aurél Bernáth. He graduated from the Hungarian University of Fine Arts. He moved to Paris in 1959, then was active in Zurich as well, has been living and working in Budapest since the 1990s. In 1964 he had a solo exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, in 1983 had a group exhibition with the famous artists of the period, Josef Albers, Francois Morellet and Francis Picabia in Zurich. He has exhibited several times at the world’s most prestigious international art fair, Art Basel. He also had solo exhibitions in several important institutions in Hungary, including the Museum of Fine Arts in 1980 and the Ludwig Museum in 1995.

A series of honors attest to the recognition of his oeuvre: he is the Knight of the National Order of the French Republic (1997), a holder of the Kossuth Prize (1998) and the Cross of the Order of Merit of the Hungarian Republic (2004), he won the Prima Primissima Prize (2014) and the Artist of the Nation Award (2015).  In 2020 he will have a retrospective exhibition at the Ludwig Museum Budapest. His works can be found in several Hungarian and foreign public and private collections. In Hungary he is represented by Ani Molnár Gallery where the public can also see his works on a solo exhibition this year in December.

Works by Tamás Konok mentioned in the conversation – courtesy of Ani Molnár Gallery:

1977_19 – Forme equidistante – 130 x 160 cm – Acrylic, canvas

1989_13 – S.T. – 120 x 120 cm – Acrylic, canvas

1989_16 – S.T. – 120 x 120 cm – Acrylic, canvas

For more information on the artworks, please visit: http://molnaranigaleria.hu/muveszek/konok-tamas/

The opening image was made by Attila Glázer.