Szabolcs Bozó - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale Hong Kong Wednesday, June 22, 2022 | Phillips

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  • “My characters are like forms to me. It’s the randomness of them that I like — the more ridiculous or outlandish they are, the better.”
    — Szabolcs Bozó

     

    Standing before the vivid works created by Szabolcs Bozó, one feels as if they are stepping inside the pages of a colourful children’s book populated by absurd yet adorable characters. Channelling the joyful exuberance of simpler days, the Hungarian artist’s oeuvre comprises bright, bizarre creatures, often manifested on large canvases and murals. The present work is emblematic of Bozó’s iconic style, depicting a falcon-like creature with wings painted in rich shades of royal blue and gold. As the title suggests, the character is a hybrid of a bird, a cat, and a man -- its front leg seems to be that of a human’s, while its hindleg is a brown paw with sharp talons characteristic of birds of prey. It is the ridiculousness and joyousness of Bozó’s creations that makes them all the more lovable and endearing to critics and collectors alike.

     

     

    A Nostalgic Narrative

     

    While Bozó is hesitant to make an intentional connection to his homeland, perceiving his work as a tribute to childhood and imagination rather than a reflection of culture and history, Hungarian pop culture has had an indirect influence on his aesthetic. In regard to this, Bozó reflects: ‘...my figures are mostly not tied to local pictorial traditions. Of course, there are a character or two that I bring from home. For a previous show, for example, I made a Süsü, the dragon, but the Czech figure Krtek, the Mole is also a recurring character.’ i Born in 1992, the artist grew up in a newly post-communist Hungary — a time when local creatives and productions flourished. Eastern Europe had their own animations and cartoons, and Bozó’s incorporation of beloved characters into his oeuvre is a nod to nostalgic children’s entertainment, which often intersects with the region’s rich folkloric culture.

    Still from Hungarian Animated Film, Johnny Corncob, 1973, directed by Marcell Jankovics

     

    Painted in a bold, bright palette that looks as if picked straight out of a crayon box, a cast of delightful, animal-like creatures dance merrily across Bozó’s canvases. Their eyes, reminiscent of googly eyes used in arts and crafts, peek playfully at something outside of the frame, brimming with curiosity and mischief. The characters appear to be endearing little troublemakers, all donning cheeky, knowing smiles. Their round, bubbly bodies recall the form of a twisted balloon animal one would likely find at a child’s birthday party, imbuing the works with lively energy and sentimental feeling. Bozó’s art-making process plays into the nostalgic narrative of his works as well — he rolls out his canvases on the floor, filling in the outlined forms with large, loose strokes as if the surface were a giant colouring book ii.

     

    “Funnily, I used to say that instead of Cubism, I represent the Cuteism movement.”
    — Szabolcs Bozó

    faux naïf

     

    Bozó’s understanding of colour is profound, his paintings brimming with varying textures and tones despite the use of single-colour blocks. Opting for a looser hand instead of strict, solid planes of pigment, Bozó’s surfaces are erratic, mottled, and full of surprises. In the current work, traces of fingerprints and even footprints are sprinkled throughout; smudges of colour and stray specks of paint stain the white backgrounds, purposely clumsy yet exuding a juvenile charm.

     

     

    Detail of the present work

     

    Impulse and imperfections are integral to his paintings, mirroring the excited and uninhibited way that children create artwork, focusing on enjoying themselves, instead of fixating on details and errors. His brushstrokes are unpredictable and wide, intentionally messy and instilled with unparalleled enthusiasm.

     

    Unmediated in his expression of creativity, Bozó’s zoomorphic characters are chimeric and fantastical, often sporting extra limbs and wearing unsettlingly human expressions. His creations are refreshing in their honesty and naivety, possessing a boundless imagination that one typically associates with the pure, untainted childhood experience. Bozó’s deliberately cartoonish style is best described as faux naïf  —  French for ‘falsely naïve’ — which connotes art that eschews traditional painting techniques in favour of simpler, intuitive visual cues. Born out of the desire to seek out authenticity, this movement has been popular since the early 20th century, pioneered by artists such as Henri Rousseau and Paul Klee. More recently, faux naïf has been characterised by juvenile art styles and childhood imagery, noticeable in works by those such as Edgar Plans, Katherine Bernhardt, and Robert Nava.

     

     

     
    Left: Lot 38, Katherine Bernhardt, Laundry Day, 2017
    Phillips Hong Kong Evening Sale, 22 June 2022
    Estimate HKD800,000 - 1,200,000

    Right: Lot 40, Robert Nava, Shark Wing Pegasus, 2019
    Phillips Hong Kong Evening Sale, 22 June 2022
    Estimate HKD1,200,000 - 1,800,000

    Collector’s Digest

     

    Currently based in London, Szabolcs Bozó’s work has been widely exhibited in numerous cities, such as New York, Miami, Palma de Mallorca, Madrid, Paris, and Shanghai, among many others. His recent solo exhibitions include The Explorer (2021) with Carl Kostyál, London; Kawaii (2021) with Almine Rech, Shanghai; Busójárás (Carnival) (2021) with Almine Rech, Brussels.

     

    The artist’s first solo museum exhibition, Must You Dance , will open at M Woods Beijing, 9 July, closing 9 October 2022. The exhibition will include paintings, works on paper, and site specific installations and sculptures.  

     

     

    Szabolcs Bozó, quoted in Adam Hencz, ‘A Perfect Antidote to Disquiet Times: The Goofy Creatures of Szabolcs Bozó’, Artland, online

    ii ‘SZABOLCS BOZÓ’, CASE STUDYO, online

    • Provenance

      L21 Gallery, Palma
      Private Collection, Macau
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

37

One Bird, A Cat and A Man

signed, dated and inscribed 'BOZÓ 2020 LONDON Bozó' on the reverse
acrylic and oil stick on canvas
130.5 x 160.5 cm. (51 3/8 x 63 1/4 in.)
Executed in 2020.

Full Cataloguing

Estimate
HK$400,000 - 600,000 
€48,700-73,100
$51,300-76,900

Sold for HK$882,000

Contact Specialist

Charlotte Raybaud
Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+852 2318 2026
[email protected]

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

Hong Kong Auction 22 June 2022