Catalyst of Hauswife
Godot Catalyst Award
The Godot Catalyst award is established by Godot Institute of Contemporary Art in Budapest, Hungary in 2022. The first private institution in Budapest has a significant 20 years old background in Hungarian contemporary art. Their goal is to support hungarian contemporary artists. The complex strategy they have gives the opportunity to understand visual art for wide audiance. They have three venues for exhibitions, and an online gallery. Beside them they orgenise the Godot Art Fair since 2016 and Art Camps every summer. Also thye makes open calls for artist such as the Godot Catalyst Award.
The winner of the Godot Catalyst Award was Andrea Fajgerné Dudás.
ANDREA FAJGERNÉ DUDÁS
CATALYST OF THE HOUSEWIFE
Written by Viktoria Popovics arthistorian
Andrea Fajgerné Dudás is an artist, contemporary painter, housewife, feminist, performance artist and a mother of two. She feels at home in all of these roles, but only after she challenges, breaks down and reinterprets female role models, the expectations attached to being an artist and the elitist behaviors. She took her husband's name according to traditional Hungarian custom, which she interprets both as belonging to a man and as an artistic statement.
She explores the intertwining of female identity, social roles and patriarchal conventions, while as a feminist she is also creates confusion in the contemporary art milieu with her conservative female name. The dual play with roles and identities runs through all her activities, whether it comes to paintings depicting and imitating housework, a jam-making performance, or mopping up an exhibition space. The most common sources of her work come from her private life, housework, culinary activities and motherhood, but these themes are embedded in a broader, global social context that affects women. She draws attention to gender inequality, oppression and to the exploitation nature of unpaid work done by women through a critical examination of the concept of invisible work, domestic work and home.
The central motif of Fajgerné's art is her own body, depicted in its unvarnished reality, (also) shown naked, pregnant, fat and wrinkled, thus going against the ideal body image conveyed by the mass media and casting her vote for self-acceptance. She sometimes uses her body as a basic art material, as a canvas or as a projection surface fit for conveying a social message. Her performances aim to shake the audience out of their comfort zone, while she also becomes part of an improvisational, unplanned situation. An integral part of her artistic activities is eat art, where she expresses experiences and feelings that cannot be displayed through her paintings. The most important point of alignment of Fajgerné's creative practice is the feminist artistic tradition, which aims to raise the work of forgotten female artists to public awareness. Her paintings are full of art historical references, and she enjoys appropriating and rethinking the works of women artists she appreciates (e.g. VALIE EXPORT, Frida Kahlo, Renate Bertlmann, Birgit Jürgenssen, Niki de Saint Phalle, Mierle Laderman Ukeles) and regards them as role models.
The exhibition entitled Catalyst of the Housewife is the adaptation of Fajgerné's most important themes and her overall artistic activities, which can be identified almost as a brand, to the conditions of the venue. In addition to figural painting, we also witness her adventures in the direction of geometric and lyrical abstraction, but this time she also extends her painting art to unusual surfaces and objects. The exhibition – and the installation overall – gives an insight into the artist's studio, kitchen and garden and into her life art, interwoven with diverse roles and identities.
Worn out kitchen towels Trabant, 2021, painted wrecked Trabant, 3,5m x 1,5m x 1,4m
(Trabants were two-stroke engine cars withdrawn from circulation after the change of regime in Hungary due to the fact; they do not have catalystic converter. To travel by a Trabant a catalyser is necessary; so many people changed their cars.)
In my art, I deal with the marginal issues of female existance. I invest myself in playing women’s traditional roles, I create performances and paintings while I am knocking down the patriarchal roles of our society with all my choices of provokative and embarassingly intimate matters and taboo topics. As a white, middle-class woman from Central- Eastern Europe I am aware of my situation, my life is underdeveloped compared to the West, and nonetheless, it is happy and calm for third world countries.
Invisible work is a determining theme of my art in which I am concerned with the unpayed housework done by mainly women. In today’s Hungary, there is a national-conservative concept according to which a woman’s place is at home, in the family, in the kitchen, in the household with the children. In my painting titled: Picaboo, the woman is blending into the background (hiding) behind a pile of unwashed dishes in the pantry. I need to be invisible to do my creative work neccessary for my career and fulfillment. In my abstract paintings I depict tea towels (kitchen towels) which are minimalist tools continuously (constantly) decorating kitchens. In this way, minimalism appears in each and every household and the kitchen becomes a gallery.
In 2016 I decided to create a new series of paintings about the kitchen towel as its theme. These strict geometric shapes, squares, and lines required a new way of thinking of mine. The typical red and blue colours of kitchen towels limited my palette. I also demonstrate the movements of the kitchen towel completing household chores not only its colours. The movements are expressed by gestures of paint strokes and in this way; I make invisible work visible, in this case -housework. The tea towel symbolises the abstract painting of everyday life; it is constantly in front of our sight and engrained in our consciousness.
I am in an ‘in between’ situation, like my painting is situated between figurativity and abstraction. I make invisibility visible via the language of painting. Brushstrokes and paints demonstrate cleaning. Gestures represent rubbing and wiping. In 2021, I mopped on the canvas like a cleaning woman and I made invisible work visible with this gesture. This gesture appears as a background on my paintings. Abstract expressionism highly used blue (ultramarine) colour and the female body as paintbrush (Yves Klein). So it is not surprising, that women artists answer with their gestures and their bodies became a paintbrush e.g.: Lynda Benglis, Shigeko Kubota. Mierle Laderman Ukeles ‘Care’ (1969) approached household in a different way. I eliminated pigment and made everyday activities visible, as an artistic gesture with which I drew the attention to those who really do the housework. In the 70s, Brigit Jürgensen regularly draws herself as a housewife. If we take a closer look at Brigit Jürgensen.’s drawing of floor mopping, Bodenschrubben, we can see that, the artist depicts men as floor-cloth ‘Waschlappen’ who are squeezed before mopping.
Ironing is a time consuming but the activity itself provides an opportunity for my thoughts to soar freely. Ironing appears as a process of contemplation in Karin Mack’s Bügeltraum photo series. In her Bügeln drawing in Birgit Jürgensen irons herself like a tablecloth. In the video by Latícia Parente, Tarefa, a woman is ironing a dressed-up housekeeper on an ironing-board pointing out the difference between two women in a patriarchal system. Ironing, as a household chore was a popular theme with feminist women artists of 1970s, for instance: Renate Eisenberg, Sandra Orgel and Valie Export. During my painting performances I regularly iron canvases with an iron-shaped paintbrush. In this way, I demonstrate the gestures of ironing. I deconstruct tea towels, divide into elements and I put into a new structure. I work with the gesture of cleaning, while the geometric system of kitchen towels indicates the grid. My circule gesture reflect on abstract expressionism and as Mierle Laderman Ukeles washed the museums.
In the socialism, housewives and women on maternity leave typically drove Trabants. This car was the only option they could easily come by, most commonly in blue or white colours. I see Trabants are “running trolleys” and their grids remind me the square pattern of the tea towels, consequently Trabants become equal to kitchen towels. I painted a wrecked Trabant. With my Trabant scrap patterned of a kitchen towel, I express my respect to the Citroen B12 of Sonja Delaunay whose work depicts cars painted with patterns she designed. She received several orders and painted most of the cars with the motives of her paintings. Her paintings inspired clothes fabric patterns as well. This mindset of art-complexity highly inspired me, since I design performance dresses, too. So I paint a typical car which used to driven by women in the 1980s, when I was a child. I used a wrecked car, since these cars were withdrawn from circulation and they are difficult to be purchased. As a second reason, I used a wrecked car because it looks like a worn- out kitchen towel: ragged, rusty and it serves as a beautiful metaphore. Besides, its surface is exciting, that is why it is not cleaned. Using wrecked cars is not so recent in art if we think about Cesar’s and John Chamberlain’s art.