Ilona Keserü’s (1933) œuvre – which spans nearly seven decades – is widely known amongthe Hungarian public. As one of the most important artists among the generation usuallyreferred to as the Hungarian Neo-Avant-Garde of the 1960s and 1970s, she exhibited at theIparterv exhibitions and participated in the activities of the Pest Workshop. Already in theearly years of her work, her method can be characterised by a balance between the Tachistimmediacy of self-expression and the defined world of intellectually organised, closedcompositions. It was in 1967 that she discovered the heart-shaped gravestones of theBalatonudvar cemetery, which became a central motif of her painting. The ornate forms of thegravestones, rich in associations, recur regularly in her embossed textile pieces, reproducedprints and subsequent paintings of the 1970s. Her work often features constellationscomposed of curvilinear forms, sometimes clean-cut, in other cases passionately ’entangled’.
In recent decades, her work has been shown in numerous national and international solo and group exhibitions and has been included in several significant public collections. Her recentinternational appearances have been a real triumph, attracting considerable attention in theprofessional press. The emotional intensity of her canvases and the wild, elemental gesturesof her paintings have made her emerge as one of the most influential representatives of Hungarian Lyrical Abstraction. These successes were preceded by a systematic, art-historicalcatalogisation of the entire œuvre. In 2016, the first volume of the artist’s bilingual catalogueraisonné, entitled Self-powered Works (edited by Katalin Aknai), was published, covering theperiod between 1959 and 1980, containing more than 400 works. Following the launch of thevolume, the London-based Stephen Friedman Gallery presented Ilona Keserü’s work at FriezeMasters in the October of 2017 alongside three internationally renowned women artists: JudyChicago (USA, 1939), Barbara Hepworth (UK, 1903–1975) and Barbro Östlihn (SW, 1930–1995). The highly successful exhibition was widely acknowledged. The first volume of thecatalogue raisonné was followed in 2020 by a second volume covering the artist’s creativeperiod between 1981 and 2000. The third volume is currently in preparation.
The mini-retrospective showcasing Ilona Keserü’s work at Q Contemporary brings togethersignificant pieces from each decade of the artist’s career.