The opium smoker’s dream

The Hole NYC 2022

Taking its title from a well-known painting by Hungarian artist Lajos Gulácsy, this exhibition leads the viewer on a green fairy trip through the artist’s unconscious. Referencing European Avant-Garde movements and hanging on walls decorated with early 20th century flourishes, these paintings conjure a vibrant and unruly techno-surrealism.

A swirl of internet imagery, coming together in mechanized and hybrid ways, populates Keresztesi’s bleak landscapes. In this “image cache” we see Japanese Noh masks, Barcelona chairs, Bernini, Brancusi, Thomas the Tank Engine, bicycle parts, piercings, lava lamps, vape pens and selfie sticks. Using both masking and airbrush alongside traditional brushwork, these oil and acrylic paintings succeed as great science fiction: imagining and giving image to the future while criticizing and framing the present.

U.F.O. (Unreadable For Others)

Future Gallery

The title Unreadable For Others insinuates a sort of codex that can only be interpreted by the author. The imaginative collaging of various cultural elements leads one to puzzle, how did the artist arrive at such an absurdist narrative within the paintings. However, the highly recognizable imagery hints at a sort system of communication which transports you a bizarre virtual nexus. 

Keresztesi’s visual language is made up of stark art historical references, imagery from pop and subcultures alike. In these new paintings, one see visual clues of Caravaggio, Harry Potter, Hieronymous Bosch, 3D rendered organs, Frank Lloyd Wright, Smartphones, Joseph Beuys, X-files and Modigliani amongst others. These images are abstracted and democratized removed from cultural hierarchy, and then mashed together into new compositions. The resulting canvases can be deciphered as unique conflations of different time periods. 

R.P.G. (Robocop Paints Grisaille)

courtesy of the artist and Everybody Needs and VUNU, Kosice. Photo: Tibor Czito

Definition of ROBOCOP in English: NOUN Science Fiction A robotic or bionic law enforcement officer; (in extended use) a police officer whose behaviour is likened to that of a robot. Origin 1950s.

Definition of PAINT in English: NOUN / VERB 1mass noun A coloured substance which is spreadover a surface and dries to leave a thin decorative or protective coating. ‘a tin of paint’ count noun ‘bituminous paints’ Origin Mid English: from peint ‘painted’, past participle of Old French peindre, from Latin pingere ‘to paint’.

Definition of GRISAILLE in English: NOUN mass noun Art 1A method of painting in greymonochrome, typically to imitate sculpture. ‘trompe l’oeil elevations painted in grisaille’ Moreexample sentences 1.1count noun A grisaille painting or stained-glass window. ‘fine grisailles by Hans Holbein the Elder’ Origin Mid 19th century: French, from gris ‘grey’.

V.G.A. (Van Gogh’s Airbnb)

Curated by Andrea Soós


In his works created for the exhibition Van Gogh’s Airbnb, Botond Keresztesi analyzes the cultural significance of the human ear. His paintings deal with the jewelleries and technical accessories such as wireless headphones worn in our ears.

The show was inspired by the movie entitled Blue Velvet, directed by David Lynch in 1986. In the opening scene protagonist Jeffrey Beaumont discovers a discoloured human ear full of ants while walking in the forest. Beaumont starts an investigation in order to find the owner of the ear.
In criminal investigation the human ear is considered to be an even more reliable biometric measurement than fingerprints that can be used to identify individuals. X-raying the semicircular canals inside the ear can describe a person very accurately. Meanwhile a number of cultural meanings are attached to the human ear: its piercing is an ancient ritual. Earrings made of bones represented the role of the individual in the community in Asian, African and South American tribal cultures. In the years of slavery earrings worn by slaves symbolised the hierarchic relation to their owners. Cutting off ears was a typical element of torture in the Medieval era as well as in mafia wars. However this kind of mutilation became art historically significant when painter Vincent Van Gogh cut off his left ear during a quarrel with Paul Gauguin in 1888. Van Gogh was hospitalized and his tragical act characterized the paintings created in the last months of his life.Through the examination of objects and symbols, Keresztesi interprets narratives from the past that describe the present as well.

The portraits shown in Trapéz include stock photos found on the internet and 3D rendered images. The ears in his paintings belong to unknown people. They are floating above surreal landscapes that recall the settings of science fiction films from the 1970s and 1980s. These post-apocalyptic works, however, depict an uncanny image about the future of humanity in the realm of the climate catastrophe.

L.O.L. (Lungs of Lilies)

Photography: Grégory Copitet / all images copyright and courtesy of the artist and Galerie Derouillon, Paris 2019

A proposition from Hugo Vitrani
Interview by Antwan Horfee

A.H.: City – age – origin please?

B.K.: I’m living and working in Budapest for 10 years now. I was born in Romania in a Hungarian majority, when I was 3 years old the whole family moved to Hungary. I raised up in a super boring miner town next to the capital but I had to learn there to find simple things more interesting.

How would you describe the type of iconography you are creating by putting things together?

It’s some kind of Wikipedia of images in my head which I put together. I’m using a lot of art historical references (I was euphorised by the classical museums since I was a child). My other fetish is the object, any kind of Plastic, metal, non functional, functional.

Sometimes the form itself, sometimes the colour gives me something. I can be a formalist. I like the surrealistic relationship between two different things, or age. When you search for an image on google for example and you realize that you ended up on some shitty memes. So basically I am just reflecting on my generation’s visuality I guess. In the medieval ages people met with 3 paintings in a lifetime, now we check 300 or more per a day.

Are the spaces you describe dreamy in a good way, or decadent and chaotic?

I think dreams are decadent and chaotic for sure. I almost never remember my dreams exactly. But I remember the structure, which is chaos. Sometimes I have a dream about walking on the streets of Berlin and the next corner I find myself in my hometown. I like this system on my paintings as well.

Should people feel threatened by your vision of imagery or should they consider they are invited to be part of it?

I would say its more like an invitation yes. I like the different interpretations of different people. For me these paintings are very subjective and its okay to stay the same subjectivity from the viewers. For example, one image can scary me and by the other hand some people have rather good vibes from it. We have different backgrounds and I like it.

The retro look due to building systems I see in the world of art nowadays seems to count for you as well, what do you think about it?

I felt the same. And the funny thing is that these artists usually born the same year as me. I think its a generation thing, as I was born in 1987, at the end of the 80’s, raised up in the 90’s and be a teenager at the early 2000’s. So I have some good child memories from the analog world but i am also okay with the internet and the Spotify things instead of cassettes for example. Maybe the stranger thing madness is about my generation as well. We are living in a world when almost all of the information from the past are became visible by one certain point in time with the internet.

Is this a punctual wave for you or is this the vocabulary you will be speaking forever ? I don’t really know what will I do in the future. Things are always changing except the human nature.

I am really curious about my generation’s old people what will look like. The human body is almost the same for thousand years, but maybe we wont need memory in the future just a good cloud or hdd. I really don’t know.

Robocop, tools from the hardware store, machinery that are living together in the desert etc., are these metal-made machinery an obsession for you ? ; or some kind of nostalgic buttons you press on in your compositions , for people to be transported in the period of time these (mostly iconic ) subjects are from ?

As a painter, I really like metallic surfaces. But for me for example the Robocop is like a modernist mask which I am also obsessed with. The 20’s 30´s in art history is a very inspiring period for me. Maybe that’s where my mask and machine fetish came from. I almost never painted human face for example. Its always an artificial mask for me.

Are you touched by artists they make real machines as art pieces? If yes, any in particular?

Jordan Wolfson’s machines are blowing my mind, but I would say it´s not my main focus. I saw a speaking robot in the Kunsthalle Vienna which was quite interesting. Or a video by Pierre Huyghe (Human Mask) is one of my favourite which is not really about machines but reminds me a lot.

How do you consider your practice? Drawing, painting, orchestral? Invent your term please if needed.

90% of my practice is about painting in a quite classical way. I’m not really a graphoman type, I am almost never doing drawings, or sketches for the paintings. But in this year I started to do one colour airbrush paintings on paper, which I usually call drawings instead of painting. Also sometimes I am using installation elements on my exhibitions because i like to play with the space.

X-Z, all kind of folkloric genre movie references are visible in this world and they are loud, are you a film nerd?

I wouldn’t say that, but I like movies or sometimes rather series (dark ones like X files or Lars von Triers: The Kingdom). My favourite movies are about the surreal banality lets say. One of my favourite is Emmanuel Carrere’s La Moustache or Quentin Dupier’s Reality. Both French somehow.

What kind of music is in your head when you do your art?

In the studio, I am always listening to something. Mostly music, but also the sound of documentaries. From music let’s say from A to Z, sometimes I do house days, sometimes trap ones. I’m also a big fan of 80´s pop music, so it depends on the weather or my inside mood.

Do you consider the planet in a tragic posture ecologically or it’s all good ?

Of course it’s not, but its really hard to see the planet as one whole thing, or just living in Europe, making craft beers from drinking water and meanwhile on the other side of the globe people drinking infected water and die from it. So it´s a super complex question and I believe we have so many problems everywhere. Global warming, you can feel it everywhere somehow. If not, you can see the people who had to leave their on deserts or war zones. Everything connects to everything in a tricky way.

Are you part of a special scene?

Yes. Hungarians, they are the most rhapsodic persons in the world maybe, and no one speaks our language. Also there is this famous quote: if you have a Hungarian friend you don’t need an enemy.

You use a lot of airbrush, would you use another tool if this one was gone, and what will it be? Just so we know your next step when the doctors will tell you to stop :- )? I have a lot of problems with my airbrush, so this is a good question. Usually its easier to use simple spray can. But I was wondering to go back to the oil paint as well, its a totally different thinking.

So, lots of objects and fetish sourced things are visible in your work, do you collect any of these items, or even collect anything?

I am not collecting anything specially but I have a lot of stuff from each thing. As I said before I am obsessed with objects. I have a lot of baseball caps which I only use sometimes.

Do you think the part of Europe you’re from is forgotten on the art side? Why? Honestly a bit yes. Maybe because of the language dungeon, we are on an island compering to the Slavic neighbours or the German ones, even the Romanian language is more flexible because of the Latin roots. Of course there is English as the simplest way of communication but its a post soviet trauma, but I am quite optimistic in a new generation who are raised on the internet and think more international. So the most important should be to be more open to the world I guess.

Are you doing art in a very rhythmic processed way, like one of these machine at their task, or do you just pass by the studio from time to time?

I am doing art like a shark swimming or a horse standing. If they stop It they’ll die probably. So for me its really important to do it everyday unless I fell out from my routine easily, even if I am travelling I always keep one eye on the work and try to think about it.

Any computer involved in this work or only handmade?

I’m super dumb for the computer programs so its analog 100%. I am using a projector and that’s it, the rest is mental Photoshop.

To me its very surrealistic on many points, would you talk about any art movements or stylistics at all? Do you even care of the past?

For sure! As I am using a lot of art historical references its really important for me of course. Specially the surrealism, because my ultimate art hero is René Magritte lets say. Maybe I started to paint because of his works. Also very important the Hungarian masters for me. I have some important references in my mind.

Are you looking at other artists or you live in your cave and not look at what is contemporary to you?

I try to know what’s going on in the art world nowadays. I am specially focus on artists like my age. For example, Avery Singer or Jamian Juliano Villani. There are a lot of really good American artists, specially in painting! Also I am a huge fan of Jim Shaw or Peter Saul from the older generation, but for me contemporary is not a strict term , it can be anything which is actual in our present.

How do you see the French scene?

I never spent so much time in France so I rather know the German scene honestly. But I can see a lot of good emerging artists from Paris or in Brussels as well, I mean French artist. I really like the connection between these two capitals for example, and of course Paris is way better international than Budapest 

To your opinion , is there any new path the art in general should take more? Is the point missed?

The art world is super complex, it has a really wide range which I don’t even know , so maybe I am not the best person to answer this question.

Any artists you wish specially to speak of ? Or any artist you want to support and see evolve asap?

Too many artists which I really like, but I hope maybe I can exhibit one time with Mario Alaya or Sven Loven. I am in love with their works! Or I am also a big fan of Sebastian Burger and Julius Hofmann from Germany. Or what was the question? 

Any frustrations or huge delectations of all kind in any fields?

Money is always a frustration, If I have that’s why if not its opposite but same.

J.P.G. (Jurassic Park Genetics)

Photography: all images copyright and courtesy of the artist and Schimmel Projects

Botond Keresztesi’s recent work are undoubtedly pointing to the fact that technology is non-human. In order to give support to his bold artistic statement, he provides the metaphor of arthropods by which we can rethink our contemporary techno-cultural conditions from a radically non-anthropocentric point of view. By doing so, Keresztesi unwittingly evokes the thoughts of the media theorist Jussi Parrika, who, in his visionary book entitled “Insect Media: An Archeology of Animals and Technology”, provides us with a genuine media historical narrative that leads us from the sheer metaphor of “media as insects” to the radical concept of “insects as media”. As much as Parrika encourages us to dehumanize our media culture, Keresztesi’s pre-historical arthropod creatures are also providing a deeply non-humanist phenomenology of the world that lies beyond the dialectical opposition of nature and technology. In fact, the insects, scorpions and their techno-mutant alterations depicted in his works are also becoming self-referential metaphors of painting and art itself, of a new kind of perception that is highly sophisticated and yet not necessarily human.

– Zsolt Miklósvölgyi

L.S.D. (Lex Selfie Drama)

Curated by: Gabor Rieder

Venue: ArtKartell Project Space, Budapest, Hungary

Date: May 5 – 25, 2018

Photography: Dávid Biro / images copyright and courtesy of the artist and ArtKartell Project Space

From the very beginning, art has given ambivalent answers to the question of how it may be capable of mirroring reality. In the antique times, two Greek painters staged a contest to see which of them could create the most lifelike painting. In the painting by Zeuxis, the grapes were so perfect that birds would try to peck at them.

However, Parrhasius became the winner, for all he painted on the canvas was a veil, but it fooled even his adversary. For long since antiquity, the measure of authenticity had been the extent to which art was capable of bringing things tangibly close even if they were actually not present. Today, however, artists have a different role. Media, dimensions and narratives have multiplied. The absurdity of the present is reflected best by taking into consideration how many bizarre situations and unexpected turns overwrite our most basic ideas and plans on a daily basis. Today, faithful representation means the presentation of things lurking in the background, or ones that are simply invisible, yet present.

This time, Botond Keresztesi goes after the rarely seen supporting characters of the culture of sanitary fixtures. The pictures at the exhibition Lex Selfie Drama (LSD) are in quest of the makers of bathroom mirrors, who have been Photoshopped out of the images. In the course of his quest, he encounters unexpected visitors. It turns out that the mirror is a portal to another dimension, through which fantastic creatures can enter our reality. The Japanese Goblin emoji, the monsters of the nineties computer games Quake and Doom, the liquid metal policeman from Terminator 2 all arrive together with Ucello’s dragon and Picasso’s acrobat. Although these peculiar creatures are invisible to ordinary people looking at stock photos, Kereszesi’s paintings now reveal how they spend their time in our bathrooms. The fact that they have actually been here and are not merely figments of Keresztesi’s imagination is proven by the colourful towels preserving the imprints these creatures have left behind, much like the shroud of Turin.

From another perspective, Lex Selfie Drama is a thought experiment as to what would happen if making selfies was banned. A dystopia that leaves no room for self-expression. This seemingly absurd assumption is not entirely unfounded if we consider the absurdity of Hungarian politics. The conservative developments of state-funded culture often give the impression that in the eyes of the regime, critical artists are warriors of the dark side, canoodling with monsters.

However, Keresztesi’s works are far from either black or white. Much rather, his airbrush paintings are detailed, objective observations. Perhaps the snapshots are sometimes too much in close-up, so no wonder we are startled by the unusual nature of the spectacle at first. His last exhibition, for instance, revolved around fake nails: militant nails were towering out of a pink o Bag, clanking on the keyboard and gripping the Mountain Dew bottle. They seemed unfriendly, although they meant no more than to adorn the hand that wore them. The sanitary fixtures at the present exhibition come to life in in a similar manner. Again we are given the sensation that decontextualized bathroom sinks and chrome pipes are no less unrealistic than the virtual characters appearing in the images. The way Keresztesi’s compositions avoid any resemblance of being organic, not to mention their improbable framing, everything we have to know about the present state of reality regarding a given theme is brought uncomfortably close. Surreal creatures help to make the picture we get as accurate as possible.

– Gyula Muskovics

D.D.R. (Digital Dreams Recordings)

Keresztesi’s paintings create enchanting alternative realities by drawing the viewer into unknown, yet strangely familiar, microcosms. The works collide 2D and 3D as a reflection of visuals absorbed in everyday life and brought together in a surreal landscape. Dreamlike and sometimes eerie, they connect digital images, Internet surfaces, cybernated realties, infomercials, pop and avant-garde culture in a stream of consciousness floating across the canvas. The sujets can be traced back to European Avant-Garde movements such as Cubism, Futurism and Surrealism. Keresztesi is combining these different artistic approaches with topics such as dreams, ecstasy, sin, death, passion or hallucinations. These surreal compositions are created by combining different techniques such as airbrush and masking in combination with traditional brush work. Although the paintings have a strong emphasis on the figurative, they cannot be categorized as photo-realistic. Keresztesi uses found material such as warehouse rave party fliers from the early 90’s mixed with images taken by the artist himself. These photo fragments are visually equivalent to collections of images: dreaming, a shadow of moments from our everyday life. Dreams are built from the images of our daily perceptions, assembled from our visual data bank. Virtual space and the physical space of dreams are very similar. Taking these pictorial quotes from the dreamscape, virtual worlds, art history and alternative culture, Keresztesi transgresses contexts and manages to construct humorous interactions between these visual worlds. In “D.D.R. – Digital Dreams Recordings” Keresztesi creates realms of possibilities in parallel universes which co-exist next to ours and allows us to reflect on our viewing habits and approaches to the world.