The first thing your will notice when you enter the well-lit workshop owned by Nóra Soós and her husband, Márton Győri, is the strong smell of colourful oil paint. An artistic chaos rules the place: In the room painted bright white there is no doubt that your eyes will be immediately drawn to the colourful paintings on the wall..

Győri is standing in front of a wooden easel set up next to a huge wooden table filled with neatly arranged oil paints, and he arranges concentrated fine lines on a small canvas with his paintbrush. Meanwhile, Soós tells us: “We have met about 20 years ago at the entrance exam to the Hungarian Academy of Fine Arts. Ever since we have been working together non-stop, since we have always shared our workshop.”

The painter lady is originally from Szombathely, but for the past few years both artists have been living in their common house in Budapest, which has a large and another small room used as a workshop, so that everyone can work in peace according to their own needs.


Colourful and critical

At the first look the works of the artist couple do look a bit similar: Both their styles are characterised by expressive, strong colours.

Soós, being a contemporary artist, focuses more on recent social events and personal reflections about her environment and her own life – and on children. She explains enthusiastically: “I spend a lot of time with children. I really like how they have they own world and how they behave in it.” Perhaps the reason for this interest is that the couple has two children of their own.

She has been reflecting on her own childhood continuously ever since the beginning of her career, and this is often associated with the socialist system ruling in Hungary at that time. One example is her work titled “East European Gulliver“, which depicts her as a small child, blowing soap bubbles, surrounded by huge Matrjoschka dolls. The dolls represent “Gulliver”, the giant from the Jonathan Smith’s classic novel, “Gulliver’s Travels”.

The more Matrjoschka dolls you put in each other, the bigger the doll becomes. The artist used to be small but now she is also big. “I used to play a lot with these dolls in the 1980s and I still collect them. They are really simple but still have a somewhat grotesque glow. All in all, the picture presents the whole Eastern Europe and the former Russian influence. The fact that the dolls are significantly larger than me on the painting makes them scary.”

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Another feature of her style is that she distributes different layers on her canvases. “This transparency is really important for me. These are not only visual layers but also layers of space and time. They represent different places, different things that I am uniting in a single dimension,” the artist says.

Otherwise she does not believe that you can paint critical events with only dark colours. “Every artist has their own way of working with colours. I simply do not like heavy colours, I am repelled by them. With my choice of colours I loosen up the seriousness of the topic a bit.“


Beauty is not cheesy

Márton Győri comments: “My works are in a strong contract with Nóra’s works in terms of topic. She is a real contemporary artist, who reflects her environment permanently. I don’t follow this loud, rough way, which tells about our history in the present world. I paint in a more romantic way, if you want to put it like that. For me, colours are only tools to create something beautiful. I believe that paintings are absolutely OK to serve this goal too, even if some people label them cheesy.”

Győri describes himself as a modernist. He says that his works are all about Judaism, without exception. “On one hand, my grandparents were Holocaust-survivors and that accompanied me during my whole childhood. On the other hand, not many artists are working with this topic nowadays – if so, then only in relation with the Holocaust. Such paintings are mostly quite depressive, of course. I prefer to paint the cultural aspects of Judaism, the philosophic, literature and poetic values.”

He shows us his paintings on the wall, which are full of synagogues and scenery. Győri often studies the literature sources for months. He reads biographies, which he processes in his work, and he explores other aspects of his subjects’ lives.

His painting titled “Arany felhő”, or “Golden cloud” in English, was for instance inspired by the poem by Hungarian poet, Árpád Tóth. He painted many trees with thick trunks and branches, which are often seen as foliage according to Győri, and also many small houses, which look like wooden building blocks. “These ones symbolise former Hungarian villages, which used to have no synagogue but a large Jewish community – until the Jews were deported and murdered. Since the communities did not have enough money, there were no synagogues built. Many simple small houses were marked with a small stone tablet on their roof.”

Besides the above mentioned, we can also see a human figure on the painting, sitting on a roof accompanied by a cat. “The figure can be interpreted in different ways, it can be a painter, even myself, or even a writer. He and the cat are marvelling at the golden clouds, which could represent the light of God.”

Győri mentions that his strictest critic is his wife. “Just like John Lennon used to say: ‘I just believe in Yoko and me’, so I just believe Nóra and myself,” he nods with a confident look towards his wife.


Criticism is a valuable way of support

Soós values the support she gets from her husband: “In the past 20 years we have learned to handle situations when our very strong views about the world collided. There were times when we were able to inspire each other mutually, but actually we were following different paths. I always say that nobody knows me as well as Marci – and this is also true for my art. So when I need artistic support, he is the first one I will ask. He gives me a lot of important advice, because we are working in almost the same room and we are talking a lot about art.”

Of course, they see things often very differently, but through discussing them they both profit from valuable criticism. Soós adds: “Of course we discuss about our views. That’s not a cheesy, romantic thing, but really serious disagreements, and these make us stand out of each other’s way and leave the other one alone. Everyone needs their own time and their own story.”

The two artists each market themselves in their own special way. Although the couple does not have fixed contracts with galleries, at least Nóra Soós has a looser but important connection with the Faur Zsófi Gallery. “I organise large exhibitions there from time to time. The benefit is that I get help with organising the event, my works are brought to auctions and the gallery negotiates with collectors. A gallery takes care of a number of things that you sometimes would not be able to handle on your own, so they are able to lift off a burden from your shoulders,” she thinks.

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No compromise in art

On the contrary her husband completely rules out doing business with galleries: “My last exhibition was about eight years ago and I still sell all my works. For me the most important thing is the picture. When I don’t believe that it’s perfect, I am not able to concentrate on anything else,” Márton Győri explains, and turns from time to time critically back to the painting on which he is currently working.

Then he emphasises: “As a freelancer I have the benefit of being completely free and I do not have to satisfy anyone in any way. If I would work with a gallery, a lot of compromises would be part of the process. And I don’t like compromises in this, since I know exactly what I am interested in painting – and those are the only things I would like to focus on.”

Soós nods in agreement and says: “When you are still young and you just finished school, you will accept anything and participate at any exhibition. As you grow older, you become more closed. But I don’t believe that you always have to be present everywhere.”

Győri moreover thinks that it’s no good when people just want to get out there and for that they are ready to fulfil any wish: “That’s a vicious circle. The only way to painting is to paint. I believe that we are missing good artwork. When a picture is really beautiful and someone really likes it, you don’t have to advertise it to a lot of people – the clients will find you. Nóra and I, we have never had another job and we are able to make a living from selling our work.”


Trying things without a plan? Not possible in Hungary

Making a living from their own art remains only a dream for many artists. Győri believes he knows why: “I know many painters from Western countries, which have stronger economies, who could unfortunately not paint at all, and still they were confident. They thought that was no problem, since their parents were able to help them and they just kept on painting – maybe they will make it, maybe not.” According to Győri, these people had an easier time trying their skills, since for them choosing a career was not a vital battle full of risks.

“In Hungary most people are not able to do this, since normally even the parents would go bankrupt in such a way. Here, if you can’t paint and can’t make enough sales, you will simply starve to death. Or you became a ticket controller or meter reader.

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“The perspectives are not so free here in this respect. This is an enormous pressure put on your shoulders. Many people are only able to get so far as their economic situation allows them,” the artist explains.

In 2003 he studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Nurnberg for a year, while his wife studied in Munich for the same year. She remembers: “For me it was already crystal clear at that time that a German artist starts from quite a different situation than a Hungarian artist. At that time they used to organise yearly exhibitions and these events attracted a lot of people to the city. For me it was a great surprise that something like that existed and quite honestly it was a goldmine: I could sell all my works.”

Győri adds: “They are trying to do the same thing at universities here, and although the idea is good, the demand is much smaller here.”

According to the couple, the art market in Germany is completely different from the one in Hungary, mostly because of Germany’s economic strength. Still, Győri thinks: “The art market is not the same as the one you read about in art magazines for example. That is only the visible part, with data about which work was auctioned for how much and so on. The market is much broader and more colourful of course, and a great part of it is not open to many people. All in all I think that the Hungarian art market is going well, it flourishes, and we are very grateful for that.”


Personal contacts instead of marketing

Although they are working separately, Nóra Soós and Márton Győri have been planning for a long time on making a series together about their children. “However, at the moment we don’t even have enough time for our own projects,” Soós says with a laugh and she adds: “At some point of our life there will be time for this work, and we are definitively planning on doing it.” As the next project, the artist is planning on organising an exhibition at the Faur Zsófi gallery, which will open next spring.

Even though Győri organises no exhibitions at all and Soós only a few, the couple can always be contacted, if interested. “On Facebook for example, we really like to use that platform,” she says. “And if someone is interested, we are happy to invite them to our workshop. In addition we organise an open-door event each year, which always attracts many visitors. There we have conversations about the paintings in a cosy, relaxed atmosphere.”


Both artists were born in Hungary in 1979 and studied art at the Hungarian Academy of Fine Arts from 1999 to 2004. Márton Győri earned the Domanovszky Endre Award in 1999, and he was nominated for the Gundel Art Award in 2006. Nóra Soós earned the Strabag Festészeti Díj (Strabag Painter’s Award) in 2005 and the Prima Primissima Award in 2008.

Contact data and portfolio
NóraSoós: www.soosnora.hu/eng
Facebook: www.facebook.com/SoosNoraofficial/
Instagram: @soosnono

MártonGyőri:
http://gyorimarton.hu/



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