Eszter Bornemisza is a textile artist who lives in Budapest, Hungary and works with recycled materials, recycled paper and fabrics that she modifies with the addition of prints, dyes and paintings.
She began her career in the field of fiber art in the mid-nineties and now creates elaborate tapestries and transparent installations that represent intricate mazes and layered maps of innerplaces, a metaphor for the journey made by the artist in search of her own artistic identity.
The works of Eszter Bornemisza have been exhibited in numerous international collective and personal exhibitions and have received prestigious awards.
Below is the link to the artist’s website:
Can you tell us your story as a textile artist, how you started and why you chose the textile medium?
I studied mathematics and became a researcher in the field of sociology and later I achieved a PhD in mathematical statistics. But all the time sewing has been one of my favorite free time activities. I learned to use the sewing machine in my early teen age years in a self-taught way through altering my grandmother’s old clothes to fit me. Later I sewed almost everything from leather shoes to overcoats and even suits for my family and wove jackets. As I had many small left-over fabrics, I stitched them together- someone said, they looked like quilts.
In 1996 I had the chance to visit a Quilt Expo in Lyon, France. I saw art quilts for the first time and thought they were like modern paintings made in the medium of textiles. I had always been keen on contemporary art, but I never thought of trying to paint. Here my two independent interests suddenly joined up together: textile and modern art. It became clear to me in a flash, that this is what I had to do! I was bold enough to decide that in the next Expo a piece of mine would hang on the wall. And so I did it. But before that in 1997 I entered a piece for the First European Quilt Championships in the Netherlands, and won best of show award. That gave me a real kick off. I also got a very strong support from my family, especially my husband so after a few years of hesitation I dropped math and turned to a full-time studio maker
“Net-Work II”, 80×120 cm, 2011, copyright Eszter Bornemisza
“Forbidden City”, 113×165 cm, 2012, copyright Eszter Bornemisza
In the path you took to become a textile artist, was there an event or a person who proved to be important for your professional growth?
There was a Hungarian painter called Lili Orszag whose work had a great impact on my work mainly at the beginnings. She died a few years before I started my textile career but her suggestive but still enigmatic paintings did impress me. I share her love of abstract fragmented scripts, and I often use such fragments to grasp the experience of balancing on the edge of conjecture and comprehension.
“City And Moon”, 150×50, 2015, copyright Eszter Bornemisza
How important is it to experiment with techniques and materials in your work and what kind of research and design do you do when you start a new artwork?
Experimenting and research are my basic approaches when I start with a new work. Finding new materials and techniques, combining them with methods I used before, are everyday practices. As for the theme I’m planning to work on I search among my own photos or search images in books or on the internet.
You often use recycled textiles and newspaper in your work of art. What is the reason for this choice and the role of these materials?
I up-cycle textiles because I have a great choice of them, having inherited many pieces from my family and donated by friends. I like to know the story of each piece, even if it doesn’t play in the theme of the actual work. I also feel more conscious about environmental issues when I recycle material. The choice of newspaper as the other basic material plays a central role in my recent work as it provides further visual experiences by their ephemeral character. It is fragile; the content is obsolete sometimes at the hour of appearance, while still bearing fragments of important details from the near history. It also represents the overwhelming avalanche of fake and relevant news we have to sift day by day.
“Zikkurat”, 20x20x20 cm, 2011, copyright Eszter Bornemisza
Is there a group, among your works, or a particular work that represents you more and to which you feel particularly attached? On the contrary, among the many artworks you have created over the years, is there one in which you no longer recognize and that you feel distant from your current artistic style?
I like some of my pieces where I feel that form and expression happened to create a good synergy, like Lung of the City, Requiem, March, You Are Here, or Waste-Borough. Of course there are some among my older pieces that I don’t feel much related to anymore, they are resting in the storage, and waiting for being recycled: to be cut up for a new work and rearranged with new bits, repainted or reshaped.
Eszter, what is the relationship between abstract and figurative expression in your work?
As an urban citizen the theme of my work is revolving around ideas that reflect our relations to urban life. With the multi-layered surfaces of real and imaginary maps I’m striving to grasp moments of finding our place both physically and mentally. Both with the figurative and abstract works I’m striving to portray the subjective city: we all possess and create our own intimate city with our own patterns of movements – patterns spinning out from where we live and work. I try to call attention to this individual layering of memory and experience as it is situated within the larger urban context.
Your works are rich in layers of materials and fabrics that leave room for openings and transparencies. This way the work projects suggestive shadows on the walls. What is the role of transparencies and shadows in your artworks?
The fragile transparency underlines the ephemeric character of what I do and the shadows behind the work add another temporary layer of complexity.
“ Zoom”, 300x90x80, 2016, copyright Eszter Bornemisza
“ Zoom” detail, 300x90x80, 2016, copyright Eszter Bornemisza
“Connections”, 180×50 cm, 2014, copyright Eszter Bornemisza
Maps, urban labyrinths and the endless intertwining of streets are your stylistic signature, the theme around which your work revolves. Can you tell us what they represent for you and to what meanings they refer?
The theme of my work is revolving around ideas that reflect our relations to urban life. With the multi-layered surfaces of real and imaginary maps I am striving to grasp moments of finding our place both physically and mentally. As experimentation and research has been my primary tool for developing ideas, labyrinths like maps with many dead-end streets have been a visual metaphor for a journey to find my own identity in the art field.
“Next Page”, 200×90 cm, 2014, copyright Eszter Bornemisza
Next Page-detail”, 200×90 cm, 2014, copyright Eszter Bornemisza
Can you tell us about your work Waste Borough?
For generations we have been desperately hoarding goods. Prized items of clothing are dumped on newer generations who already have closets overflowing. Stuck in a rut of mindless consumption we keep creating trash. The piece reminds us of our responsibility in protecting our environment by stopping this cycle.
“Waste Borough”, 280x150x15 cm, 2019, copyright Eszter Bornemisza
“Waste Borough”detail, 280x150x15 cm, 2019, copyright Eszter Bornemisza
City Skins is a very suggestive and evocative work, whose shape also recalls that of a dress/kimono. Does the choice of this form have a particular meaning?
Clothes that we wear are often considered our outer skins, and the place where we live the even outer one. The city protects, and enwraps us with warmth, but sometimes just hurts and smudges with roughness. I draw inspiration from the graphical appearance of urban maps – when they are piece maps of my hometown, Budapest. I consider a city’s street network like its skeleton— a foundation for features that bring people together or fling communities apart, an imprint of times, how the society uses or abuses its place of living.
“City Skins”, 250x110x40 cm, 2015, copyright Eszter Bornemisza
“City Skins” detail, 250x110x40 cm, 2015, copyright Eszter Bornemisza
Can you tell us something about the contents of your book “Urban Textures”?
The book serves as an illustration of my work from the recent 8 years. Grouped around themes there are images of wall hangings, installations and objects with some comments of my own or cited from articles. It is 180 pages full of detail images of more than 70 works.
What are you working on right now? Do you want to tell us about your current textile projects?
From time to time I like to work on paper objects like QuoVadis? Right now, I’m working on a new one based on the cut-up cast I had on my broken arm last year. I covered these shells with self-made paper pulp and now I’m playing with arranging and assembling them.
“Quo Vadis?”, copyright Eszter Bornemisza
“Quo Vadis?”detail, copyright Eszter Bornemisza