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"Secret Mechanism #7"
Brigitta Kocsis, "Secret Mechanisms #7," acrylic on canvas, 2008, 48" X 36".
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"Secret Mechanism #5"
Brigitta Kocsis, "Secret Mechanisms #5," acrylic on canvas, 2008, 84" X 66".
Secret Mechanisms, August 4 to November 2, 2011 Vernon Public Art Gallery, Vernon, B.C.
BY: Portia Priegert
You could call Brigitta Kocsis a figurative painter, but that would shortchange the complexity of her work. True, there are figures, but they are disassembled and combined with mechanical components within a more abstract and painterly field. Drips, loosely reworked forms and swathes of color document her concern with process.
“I’m interested in finding a place between abstraction and representation through layers and images and patterns and colors, and forming accidental abstractions,” says the Hungarian-born artist, whose exhibition, Secret Mechanisms, opened in August at the Vernon Public Art Gallery. “I start with a human figure — that’s what I know — and then I break it down or destroy it, subtracting from that image. Somebody once said to me that I work backwards.”
Kocsis spent time as a multi-media installation artist and is fascinated by technology and how it integrates with the human body and affects our sense of self. “I think it has a huge impact on our concept of the body and a huge impact on humanity, physically and mentally,” she says. She cites the influence of Donna Haraway’s 1985 essay, A Cyborg Manifesto, and says she’s interested in both communications and medical technologies. “Both have an impact on the human body and how we actually communicate and function,” she says. “If you have a pacemaker or if you have anything replaced in your body, it has as much impact on your body as a cell phone or an iPod.”
Kocsis, who works in acrylic, admires the work of Matthew Barney, Albert Oehlen and Daniel Richter. She trained in figurative painting, but felt the need to challenge herself. “I was always interested in cubism and abstraction,” she says. “So I wanted to bridge those too. It’s a very exciting process. I’m just trying to push the boundaries of painting within my own limitations.”
One painting shows a human face and hand, a skeletal leg and spinal column, along with forceps, tubing and other medical paraphernalia within an atmospheric grey and sky-blue background. Other works include wheels and gear mechanisms, imagery she finds in magazines or on the web. Viewers may find their identification with the human form challenged by the mechanical devices and dismemberment, even as they’re seduced by the appeal of the abstract. Kocsis simply says she wants viewers to engage. “I hope they find something in it that they’re familiar with, or that makes them realize something — I guess impacting them in some way, emotionally or intellectually.”
Kocsis left Hungary in the late 1980s, and lived in London for several years. She met her Canadian husband there and came with him to Canada, settling first in Montreal, where she studied art at Concordia University, and then Vancouver, where she has lived since 1994. She completed her BFA at Emily Carr University in 2005. Since then, she’s had solo exhibitions at the Campbell River Art Gallery, the Vancouver East Cultural Centre and the Maple Ridge Art Gallery. She received a Canada Council project grant in 2010, which allowed her to spend five months expanding her artistic horizons in Paris and Berlin. She will have her first European show in Switzerland this year. Kocsis is represented by Petley Jones Gallery in Vancouver.