The Energy of Creation – Interview with István Pölös

Artodu: The works of István Pölös always bring to mind: it is incredible how much creativity and energy flow from his artworks. The pictures and photos of István cannot be categorized into a single style or conception. We might feel as if we would be walking around in a continuously operating art laboratory, where things are being formed that we have not even imagined they could exist.

István Pölös: I am glad that you could not put me into any single style or category. It is maybe because we, architects never consider a certain style as an important factor. In our buildings the most important thing for us is to give a relevant fresh architectural answer to today’s questions. We always adapt to the given venue. In my visual artworks, from the outside this may seem a fervent intention of finding the artistic path. Actually, the chosen technique always adjusts to the present circumstances. I have already drawn on brick, concrete or board at construction sites, on colour prints with light, car, ice, using different techniques. For example my heliographies do not come forth so that in the morning while walking to my studio I imagine to make a nice heliography. Instead, day after day I have to solve a specific 3D problem by model building for instance, while almost by accident these heliographies are born (let’s say as the sun starts shining). In my work coincidences play great part, this by the way could not happen without detailed preparatory work. Of course, if any exciting theme pops up during my work, I go around it afterwards.

Artodu: Where did you learn to draw and paint?

István Pölös: I graduated at an architecture school, I gained my diploma at the Faculty of Art of Drawing and Form at Technical University of Budapest and I had excellent painter and teachers, but during my university years I also went to drawing science projects at College of Fine Arts. During my studies in summers I drew not only streets and houses in this period, but also portraits in Greece, Italy or Bulgaria and I learned a lot from street artists as well.

Artodu: Did you start up your own architect office immediately after university?

István Pölös: After university I started to work in an American architect’s office specialized mainly in skyscrapers. The Emery Roth and Sons is a New York based company, which at the beginning of the 1990s opened an office in Budapest too, this company had designed the twin towers destroyed on September 11th 2001, but even back in the 1950s they also had designed a high-rise together with Walter Gropius, the former director of Bauhaus.

Artodu: Did you draw by computer or by hand in those days?

István Pölös: At the beginning of the 1990s we still drew by hand, my first facade drawing at my first workplace was made with colour pencil. Since 1993 I have been drawing by computer. Free hand drawings have been completely squeezed out of architectural works by computers I was not satisfied with the boring and quickly expiring computer visuals of the 1990s so I tried to thrill it with the traditional graphic techniques. In 1996 in Copenhagen and in 1999 in Paris I got the second prize at the international architectural graphic design contest; since then I have been using mixed techniques and most of works are made this way. I have prepared almost every piece of work by combining traditional and computer graphics for 21 years.

Artodu: István, your works are infinitely colourful and complex and plenty of your drawings and paintings are made continuously. How and when are these artworks born?

István Pölös: Every moment of my life is about visual artwork, pictures can be created at any time. A piece of art might be born during my work, but also on a train or tram, it is not tied to a certain place. On the social network it might seem as if these artworks were made in the last 1-2 years. In reality, I had time to prepare the pictures; some of them are 30 years old already. The larger size abstract works that require a larger space are mostly created outdoor on a terrace with the Danube in the background; landscapes however I rather make between four walls, because I don’t need a special landscape for it. Creating a work can be bound to more places because of the technique.

Artodu: How is your artistic activity affected by the fact that you work as an architect, you create designs and you must meet deadlines?

István Pölös: We are a small office and I like to do one single work at a time. I have never wanted to follow the usual practice of architect’s offices, where architects at my age work on 22 projects at the same time with 60 CAD designers. What I like in my profession is not meetings, travelling, organizing, but rather designing and the creative part of it, I am still drawing my designs today, I don’t have designers as incredible as it may seem. Meeting deadlines is very important, because we could not operate as an architect’s office without it.

Artodu: Can you separate drawing, creating images from architecture or are these activities related?

István Pölös: My two-dimensional pictures are a kind of by-products of my architectural work, without this professional inspiration it could not even be born, I meet a lot of people during my work, I get to special places, I meet special problems and I get inspired mainly by these sources. Architectural design is a long term creative process, the realisation of a building can take years and it is the result of the mutual work of many participants. On the contrary, a picture is prepared in much less time, even within half an hour. That’s why it is very difficult for an architect to keep in hands the visual graphic artist inside (who is wanting faster results) during his work, but it is necessary sometimes. On the other hand, I experience every minute of the after work imaging and free hand drawing as total freedom.

Artodu: Have you ever thought of putting artistic work first?

István Pölös: I have been living of architectural design for 27 years. The diversity of space creation and the architectural work brings more excitement for me despite its difficulties than two-dimensional creation. I have never thought of this.

Artodu: Very exciting are those pictures of yours on which some motion strips can be seen. What technique do you use with these pictures?

István Pölös: Almost every picture has a glaze stained-pen drawing or aquarelle base. Sometimes I print it in a larger size and continue to use glaze with a certain liquid, then it returns to the computer where it can go through further modifications, I have no exact well-experimented recipe for it. I like the mixed technique a lot and I like finding new ways. For snow design (artarmac) for example the completely new, big striated winter tire is the best. Details will not be sharp enough with used tires.

Artodu: What are you working on at the moment?

István Pölös: At the moment we have just finished a 6000 sm condominium design with Árpád Álmosdi and Móni Csendes co-creators, the pile foundation work has just been started. The exhibition of my friend, Ferenc Csurgai sculptor has just ended, where I had some curator’s roles. One of our family houses is going to be ready in the coming days at a neighbouring settlement. There is also an exam period now, this time I am usually asked by the Technical University to write the opponent part to diploma works. In summer I have more time to paint on the terrace too, I am now preparing for my independent exhibition at autumn, where I am introduced not as an architect.

Artodu: At the 2010 Architecture Biennale in the Hungarian pavilion at the Venice Biennale your son Péter Pölös’s drawing were included as well in a group drawing exhibition. Has he chosen a similar career?

István Pölös: The Borderline exhibition was organized by Andor Wesselényi Garay, the group drawing exhibition was part of it, where 4 childhood drawings of my son were also included. Péter draws very well to this day and he is creative, 3 years ago he was also admitted to the Faculty of Architecture in Denmark, but he chose the mathematician career. This autumn he is going to start his Master’s degree at the University of Copenhagen. Among the visual genres he is mainly interested in film production.

Artodu: We really liked your photos and heliographies about a solid fence and a perforated gate on instagram under the heading “nuovopiazzuola”, Are these own creations?

István Pölös: My own design. In the city centre of my residence I could design a completely new square with my colleague, Marianna Ilyés, which was handed over not long ago. We formed a little square around the Evangelic Church, the fence and the gate separate an elementary school from the public place. I hope we also proved with this work that size is not the most important element of a work. The location is Cegléd, the real name of the square is Ordass Lajos alley, if someone would like to go there to see the gate while opening.

Artodu: Video diaries, videos – these are you latest works. What interests you while preparing these novel creations?

István Pölös: On one hand I document a moment, on the other hand what really interests me is how an ordinary object becomes an artwork, whether it could bear new contents beyond its original function. A made a film about a new sliding-door too, together with the background noises I consider it a moving painting. Whoever sees the film for the first time might not even know that he sees a gate. I consider the short videos and also my pictures as one of the frames of the film of my life or even as letters of a book. Maybe they are nearer to the latter, a kind of punctuation of a pictography, tiny elements of a bigger artwork. I hope that these frames or punctuation marks will be able to stand their places independently in real space. It will turn out at my Budapest exhibition at autumn. I am very excited.

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