Ildiko Kovacs has amassed a striking body of abstract paintings that reveal a unique and singular sensibility.
Ildiko Kovacs: Down the Line 1980-2010 was a survey of striking art works produced by leading Australian artist Ildiko Kovacs and curated by Daniel Mudie Cunningham. The arresting body of abstract paintings in this first major survey were produced over three decades and loaned from notable public and private collections.
This survey unveiled the motivation of line in Kovacs’s practice, its unique connection to colour and how it endures as the key element to generate form and meaning. Kovacs describes the line as a metaphor for landscape as well as a personification of her own nature. Over the years, she has developed a graphic visual language drawn from abstraction’s Indigenous and non-Indigenous ties. The line has taken time to materialise and evolve in Kovacs work. Earlier paintings exemplify an artist committed to developing a unique and intuitive visual language, while also responding to the influence of various Australian painters.
Following the early expressionistic work, Kovacs refined her approach by experimenting with a ‘less is more’ approach. As a result Kovacs produced a cluster of Untitled paintings about the ‘void’ – where visual content is stripped back and emptied out from the picture plane.The self prompted crisis initiated by the void paintings led Kovacs to rouse shape from the negated surface. Shape materialised as a precursor to line, setting the scene for an explosion of bold line work that would become her signature style.
Throughout the 90s, Kovacs used line as a mapping device, enticing movement and temporality while sparking an ongoing tension between positive and negative space, as evidenced in Alfred’s Journey (1993). Several irregular shapes are connected across the sparse expanse of canvas by meandering line. The sunburnt palette evokes the land, the brown line and shapes referring to the trace of a journey where the trail has been etched into the earth. In Slow Roam (1995) shape is discarded in favour of a languid weaving line suggesting an earthy ‘slowness’. Like an aerial view of the landscape glimpsed from above, Kovacs’s paintings reveal the unpredictable residue of movement across space.
Over the last decade the artist’s style has matured with evident shifts from her youthful expressionistic work to the void to the line coinciding with transitions in her life. The enduring impact of Indigenous art has been particularly felt throughout this period. Her most recent work continues to respond intuitively to the land portrayed by line, while also looking to transmit emotion and sensation through colour. This unique marriage of line and colour is an electrifying experience for the viewer and deems this survey a ‘must see’ exhibition.
"This survey shows the continuous unfolding of a remarkable talent. From the start, she has maintained an intensely physical, non-verbal, non-conceptual relationship with media and imagery, yet the results of her engagement are consistently absorbing, sensitive and intelligent, and are nothing if not communicative. Her works reserve their greatest reward for viewers who are prepared to do more than merely look and genuinely aspire to see, using their imagination and empathy. It is those viewers who will sense the force of spirit, recognise the integrity of purpose, be exhilarated by the clarity, and succumb to the poetic charm of Kovac’s paintings" - Terence Maloon, Senior Curator of Special Exhibitions, Art Gallery of New South Wales.
A major book on Ildiko Kovacs was launched with the exhibition. Published by Hazelhurst Regional Gallery, this attractive hard-cover publication features essays by Daniel Mudie Cunningham and Terence Maloon.
Image: Ildiko Kovacs, Serpentine 1999 (detail), Oil on plywood, 155 x 275 cm, Collection: Museum of Contemporary Art, Gift of Ann Lewis AO.