THE ALCHEMY OF COLLAGE: ARTISTS IRINA & SILVIU SZEKELY
Art is not art if it doesn’t generate misrepresentation, confusion, anger or sarcasm
by Ellie Howard
It’s rare to find two artists that possess a connection as strong as artists Irina and Silviu Szekely, rarer still that those two separate minds can share the same artistic vision. Irina & Silviu Szekely have crafted an entire reality of their own, a world that integrates the whimsicalities of the sublime while paying homage to the grotesque. With sleight of hand, the artists create fantastical collages where magic has slipped through the crack of dawn and bewitched the day, casting a surreal haze of distortions and exaggerations over reality.
Speaking to the Romanian duo you quickly come to understand their disregard for the ‘everyday’. Staying true to the nonsensical nature of the Dadists, they resurrect the principles of surrealism in their neo-dada artwork. Portraits depict inanimate objects lending themselves to their human counterparts, surgically attached in surreal juxtapositions. And gothic manipulations of 19th-century portraits, whereby facial features are grossly distorted, explore the visual representations of magic realism outside of literature.
Intrigued by the enigmatic pair, we caught up with them to discuss the thought process behind their work.
KOD: How would you describe your artistic relationship?
I & S: There is a very strong bond between us, a closeness that could improperly be called friendship... partners, brothers, sisters, lovers, artists: these labels are far from capable to define and contextualise us... we prefer to jump from one identity to the other with a fine disregard for predetermined trajectories of any sort.
KOD: Your work revels in the darker, grotesque side of life. What are your influences?
I & S: We are naive enough to still be fascinated by things not yet known, roaming free on the dark side of the moon. What inspires us is the movement of unknown images, which blur the objects we think we know. Or, as Bataille put it, "It is clear that the world is purely parodic, in other words that each thing seen is the parody of another, or is the same thing in a deceptive form".
KOD: In that case, do you have any beliefs that you live by that filter into your work?
I & S: In accordance with our DADA upbringing, we strongly believe that:
Horses are often intimidated by fire
Spiders are extremely useful in reducing the quantity of flies
Steam is employed to great advantage for culinary purposes
The stings of bees are often more virulent than those of wasps
KOD: In the spirit of Dada – does your work aim to disorient your viewers or just show a new perspective?
I & S: We do not attach any predetermined aims or meanings to our works. The work happens to emerge and develop into its own existence. On the other hand, a new perspective can sometimes be disorienting, it may cause distress, repulsion or attraction, depending on the viewer’s own perspective based on an intimate ontological localisation in a certain point in time and space. We believe that art is not art if it doesn’t generate certain forms of misrepresentation, confusion, anger or sarcasm.
KOD: Some of your recent collages look like they are viewed through warped glass. Do you view the world this way?
I & S: Each individual existence is a distortion in itself, an alteration of the original shape of the building blocks of life. From this point of view, we are fundamentally behaving like a moving image, like an ever-evolving visible spectrum and ultimately we are a mere optical illusion experienced by another moving image. Seen from above and from within, we are the absolute otherness: a prefabricated and disjointed vision, a remotely operated mechanism.
KOD: Do you see a distortion or does the interpretation occur through your work?
I & S: We see distortions everywhere. Seeing the world like this is both funny and challenging. Take, for example, our Manipulation of Pollaiuolo's Portrait of a Young Woman: what can be more aesthetically challenging and intellectually rewarding than to compress a image into a unified and distorted interpretation, creating a whole new tradition of pictorial representations?
KOD: How do you know when a collage is done?
I & S: We just know when to stop, when to say “enough with this”. A work is never thoroughly finished, at least not by our own hands. What we mean by this is that we always have to face a grey area of incompleteness, a disquieting feeling that something like an empty space is opening in front of us, beyond us, emanating an energy that we cannot actually control and that is making us aware of the fact that a new object has been brought into existence, a new reality is out there in the world.
KOD: Lastly, What is DADA to you?
DA-DA is the volatile simulacrum of NO-NO.
Dada is the eternal double negation of everything there is and ever will be.
Dada is the ultra-fine detachable membrane incessantly inducing atomic rearrangements and alphabetic anagrams.
Dada has no future. All Dada followers are accidental clones marked with cryptic symbols.
See more of Irina & Silvu Szekely's collage here