International Colony of Artists
In August of 2006, I was invited by the city of Debrecen, Hungary, to its first International Colony of Artists. In addition to those artists from the host city and its country’s cosmopolitan center, Budapest, representatives from seven other nations made up the community of twenty painters, print makers, photographers, installation and performance artists: ten from Hungary, and a combined ten from France, Netherlands, Israel, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, and the United States. The Colony was established to bolster the city’s artistic and cultural presence in the country, in tandem with the dedication of the new Kölcsey Convention Center and MODEM, the city’s new museum of modern art.
Using the facilities of a local Sporting Center for housing and most studio endeavors, the colony marked a shift in attitude of its local population toward the promise of dialogue in contemporary art. The project itself was organized around the circular concepts of Garden, City and Structure, relevant not only to the development of this historic city and society, but to nature and the near environment.
The colony experience was both public and private; we, as twenty, lived and worked together mainly at the Center, but were also audience to a “Summer University” lecture series at the Kölcsey Convention Complex focusing on such subjects as Action Art in Yugoslavia between 1969 and 1999, Two Centuries of Graphic Arts in Debrecen, and The Deconstruction of the Heroic Ego (The Body of the Artist as Metaphor in Hungarian Art from the mid-1980s to the Present) among others. We took curator-guided tours of the local museums and were dinner guests of the mayor, Gábor Turi, and vice mayor on several occasions celebrating the advent of the city’s colony and its artists.
Studio efforts produced numerous shop-window installations and performances, designed to draw the public into our project, all of which culminated at the finish in one enormous and inclusive museum exhibition. The 50-plus exhibited works were then acquired for their permanent collection. Below is a transcript of my statement for the wall text and catalog that accompanied my works in the show:
A city is distinguishable not only by its population and economy, but in a way by its relationship to Nature. We are always, it seems, in some dynamic between an aspiration for a more concrete and comprehensible existence, and a compulsion to separate from it. The “garden” as refuge, therefore – “into the wild,” as it might be said – is as elusive as it is desirable.
These works are of a familiar medium – collage – and take their imagery and materials directly from their surroundings. The pages are all hand-painted, starting from simple drawing sheets, rice papers and glue. Much of the pigment is mineral in origin, recovered from stones and earth within steps of the studio door. It is the most elementary of art construction, every surface touched by hand, that tries to draw a line to our surroundings, not only by illustration, but in a physical way.
The range and quality of our experiences have often curious and magnificent geometries associated with them. Not altogether unnatural in form, these are the residue “containers” of human interaction. Evident floral forms, layered with lyrics about romance and longing, speak to renewal and restoration, a hopeful return to our primal senses. Curving elements, expanding and fragmentary, suggest how, by necessity and over time, communities evolve into greater constellations. And, lastly, a playful appropriation of a basic game table elevates structure into an iconic presentation. The subtle irony is the painted green color, a remote sign and echo of our feet (and hands) once planted firmly on the grass-covered earth. – Andrew Young
In his Opening Address for the First International Artists’ Colony of Debrecen exhibition – held at the Belvárosi Közösségi Ház museum – art historian János Sturcz had this to say about my work:
The link between the hidden structures of nature and art is what Andrew Young, a graduate of biology and art history, is interested in. In his collages following the analytical approach to natural sciences, the refined aquarelle paintings and x-ray-like images of plants, parts of medieval texts and backgrounds reminiscent of geometric abstract paintings are fused into a lyrical unit. He also uses motifs referring to Debrecen, making drawings of regional plants and using materials found locally.
Artists and organizers from the project continue to stay in contact, exchange ideas and plan for future interactions, whether at an international residency, or in specific creative collaboration. A special thanks goes to Erika Baglyas and Szabolcs Süli-Zakar for their magnificent artistic direction in the First International Artist’s Colony of Debrecen.