New Directions: Ildiko Kovacs

2018 brought a new process and media for abstractionist Ildiko Kovacs, which resulted in a series first shown at RAFT Artspace, Alice Springs, in August.

Words: Louise Martin-Chew

Photography: Stephen Oxenbury

2018 brought a new process and media for abstractionist Ildiko Kovacs, which resulted in a series first shown at RAFT Artspace, Alice Springs, in August. While Kovacs has been known and celebrated for her paintings made with a roller over the last 10 years – notably her 2015 Bulgari Art Award-winning Onda – these new works emerged from obsessive drawing.

They see artist scratching directly into oil paint and are collectively titled Cats Cradle after their wandering, sinuous line – and the oldest recorded game in human history.

“I bought a huge amount of pattern-maker’s paper which is natural in colour,” says Kovacs. “I surrounded myself with materials and worked with whatever came to hand. Drawing is great in that it frees you up. Any preciousness falls away and you don’t overthink it. There is a kind of automatic flow which comes from working quickly in a rather obsessive manner. From using pencils, crayons, ink, and acrylics, drawing and scratching, rubbing out and repainting, I eventually came to cover the paper with oil paint. I was actually on the phone, continuing to draw and then, when I hung up, I realised the first of these works.”

While the new works are a dramatic departure from the colour and organic shapes of the roller paintings, they remain recognisably Kovacs. Their angularity and muted colours, the compulsion in their scratched quality, has been well-received since they were exhibited in Alice Springs and then at the Melbourne Art Fair with Martin Browne Contemporary. They were also seen at Martin Browne’s Sydney space in September at Kovacs’ exhibition New Ground.

For Kovacs, these works return to a method she remembers from her beginnings. “As artists, we tend to do a full circle,” she muses. “At art school, when I was 17, I didn’t really know how to make a painting, but I enjoyed the sensuality of oil paint. Drawing into it was the start of my relationship with paint.”

The method in these new works becomes meditative, as she scores into the oil paint with a soft graphite. For Kovacs, their success lies “in this breakthrough into something that I haven’t uncovered in myself before. I think it is that intense focus that allows you to get lost – and found.”

Kovacs will show with Hugo Michell Gallery, Adelaide, from 21 March to 27 April 2019.

This article was originally published in Art Collector issue 87, JAN – MAR 2019. 

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