Hungarian artist Melinda Dovak’s “Encrypted Tales” solo exhibition is being held from February 1 to March 31 at New Zero Art Space, Yangon. She is showing 8 abstract paintings, free and loose with colour and feeling. Her paintings are composed with pale and grey-scale colours. All pieces are mixed medium on canvas. She lived for one month with an art residency programme in Myanmar with this exhibit being a product of her time there.
A keen art lover from childhood, Melinda Dovak did not become a professional artist until the age of 22. She attended the Hungarian University of Fine Arts, where she emerged with a Masters Degree. She has participated in many artist residency programs including those in Italy, Romania, Poland and Germany. Her residency in Myanmar, however, is her first foray into Asia.
Q. Tell me about your experience of the residency program in Myanmar.
I really enjoyed it! Aye Ko and the people who work there made my program really amazing. I think it is nice that I had my own room, and I could paint in the big gallery, I mean, I had a lot of places to work on my paintings. We worked together with the students from other local galleries, and I put on some workshops for the students. It was a new experience for me to teach in English, I hope they liked my courses. I had one week off to look around Bagan and Inle Lake, and these places were some of the nicest things I have ever seen in my life. I had never seen something as special as the Pagodas in Bagan before.
Q. What is the difference between Myanmar and Hungary? How different is the art and culture and other situations?
The two countries are really different, we have totally different foods, and maybe this was the hardest part of my residency program, that I just eat so much rice and pasta like never before. I got ill maybe two times. However, I think there are really similar things between the two countries, like our history. I know Myanmar people suffered a lot and you had a lot of wars and conflicts, these things are true for Hungary too. There were times when Austria, Germany and the Ottomans were destroying our country, and then later oppression under the Soviet Union. In wars, there are winners and losers, and Hungary, being small, often lost. It might explain why Hungary is poorer than its European counterparts.
Q. Your colours and creations are very free. How did you create your paintings?
My residency program with New Zero Art Space is my first visit to Asia. As a result, it was really intense to meet with the Buddhist religion and its symbols for the first time. Not just the temples, but the textiles and dresses that people wear are really colourful – that made a big effect on me, and my artworks turned out to be more colourful as a response. As I tried to do some research on Buddhism, the first symbols I came across influenced me: ‘Eight Auspicious Signs’. However, I work with them in a contemporary way, creating my own abstract symbols. For example, the golden fish symbolises the auspiciousness of all living beings in a state of fearlessness, without danger of drowning in the ocean of sufferings, and migrating from place to place freely and spontaneously, just as fish swim freely without fear through the water. In Yangon, for me, it is really easy to feel a little bit similar, as I met here with really nice and warm people. Before my trip, I had fears because I did not have any experience in Asia, and it is really far from my home. But now I just feel like a passenger, who travels without fears, spontaneously and freely in the ocean of now.
Q. What is the concept behind your paintings?
I am interested in creating an illusion, creating a painted fake-space. I am trying to grasp a kind of the sacred by using Trompe-l’oil and op-art surfaces. Different illusions and dimensions are appearing as different fields of reality. Altogether they pose the question: what is real? Our memories are always rewritten by our emotions so we can only experience a subjective reality. In my paintings, I try to represent a certain universal truth or rule and shape it into pictures by using no viewpoint. The elements of my pictures are fighting within the painting alike: sometimes figures win and sometimes abstraction does.
Q. How did you feel about the hosting of the exhibition in Myanmar?
It was really a good feeling, I did not expect that many people to come, because as an artist from abroad, I just do not have too many local connections, and much more people came than I expected. I really like the space in New Zero Art Space, I mean I think my paintings fit on the walls in a nice way, so now I just have some new photos to my artist portfolio. Also, I feel a little bit proud, that I just had an exhibition on the other side of the world.