The organic and rampant world of Orsolya Lia Vető

Orsolya Lia Vető, painter, graduated from the Hungarian University of Fine Arts in Budapest in 2014, where her teachers were János Kósa and Réka Nemere. She trained for a semester at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Nuremberg, Germany, on an Erasmus scholarship. After graduating as a painter, she continued her studies, completing a master’s degree in art history at Pázmány Péter Catholic University, then applying to the Doctoral School of Art of the University of Pécs, and she made no secret of her reasons: it was because she was allured by the abstract direction and colour orientation of the masters there. Pécs did not disappoint, she experienced collegial relations and openness.

“I just closed the period of my life in Pécs and moved back completely to Budapest. The studios of the doctoral students in Pécs are quite large, spacious spaces originally built for art, with huge windows and a splendid view of the lake. I painted there for 4 years, during which time I spent most of the week in there.” – Orsolya Lia Vető let us in on her current changing life situation, when we visited her in her studio in the Jurányi House in Budapest. She has not yet severed all ties with Pécs, as she is waiting for her recently submitted dissertation to be accepted. The title of the essay “The Memory of Movement. Reflections on the Interpretation of Contemporary Gesture Based Painting”, where in fact, inspired by her own experience of her own artistic practice, which is based on a physical engagement with the material, but deeply philosophical, and consisting of experiments with techniques and materials, she maps this field of contemporary painting.

“I am intrigued by both the elemental desire of leaving a mark and its contemporary perspectives. I really enjoy using different tools – brushes, scrapers, my bare hands, sponges, rags – to create dynamic image surfaces. At the same time, I don’t think it is only the excitement of a formalist interpretation that makes my work interesting. I also chose the title Memory of Movement because no artist can strip away the historicity that is evident in their painterly gestures. The brushstrokes of a contemporary painter are inadvertently linked by analogy to the many chapters of the past of painting. The focus of my own artistic activity is on the creature-like character and organic associations of instinctive and manipulated gestures.”

Orsolya Lia Vető’s paintings are superimposed, in today’s term layered, but she never starts her new work from finished plans. She believes deeply in giving space to the spontaneity that starts immediately when she begins working with the colours she has chosen on a canvas placed on the floor or on a table, but by all means on a horizontal surface. The idea of the composition is already determined, but she leaves room for ambiance, or the organic formation of the image. Orsolya says her creative attitude is rooted somewhere deep in her childhood: “When I was a kid, I spent a lot of time outside in the garden. I collected snail shells, flower petals, sticks, I mud-puddled, grated coloured chalks, then kneaded their dust with water and the baking powder I’d swiped from the kitchen, then put them out in the sun and watched them rise. I’ve done a lot of dabbling with various materials. I am sure that experiencing uncontrolled free play as a child is determinant with all artists. I don’t know if that’s the reason I ended up becoming a painter, but once I started going to art classes and learned that it was a real profession, there was no turning back.”

As an artist, she often receives feedback that when people see her paintings, they can feel their tactility, sensuality, materiality, which makes her happy because today we encounter images mostly as digital information, indirectly. “I experiment a lot with digital image editing software, and at one time I was particularly interested in how to do gesture painting with my fingertips in miniature, without splattering paint. I don’t get stained, my digital brush stays clean, I can optimise the properties of the stains just like an engineer, adjust the exact colour code, the shape of the brush, the opacity of the stain. I was able to create stunning things, perfect shapes and colours, but it didn’t give the same experience as doing it manually. But this has led to the infiltration of analogue versions of digital effects into the motifs of my paintings.”

The exhibition entitled Liquid Slices of Time – the material of which was selected by the curator Kinga Hamvai from the works of female artists of the MNB Arts and Culture collection – borrowed its title from Orsolya Lia Vető’s series of the same title. Vető says that she condenses her own emotional experiences into her paintings, and she doesn’t mind that it can sometimes be inferred that they are the works of a woman, but she always has the whole of existence in mind, and doesn’t want to narrow her interests by labels or categories. She started the series titled Liquid Slices of Time in 2021, and the experience of the relativity of time was her starting point. In the paintings of post-digital visuality, in a proliferation of elements evoking crawlers and fossils, there is a desire to escape from the human perspective and a surface formation order that suggests a pre-civilisation era. Art, in Vető’s interpretation, provides an escape route from the culture of immediacy, from the feeling of being constantly in a hurry, and the abstract medium of shifting timelines allows room for contemplation. At the same time, she hopes that viewers will be able to identify with the rhythm of the images as well.