About the Art of Ilona Keserü

Ilona Keserü is a leading figure of the neo-avantgarde generation of artists that coalesced in the early 1960s. She would ultimately create a coherent oeuvre in Hungary to make a powerful statement for the second half of the 20th century.
She had been professionally trained from childhood. Her mentor, beginning in 1946, was Ferenc Martyn, once part of the École de Paris, who returned to Hungary in the mid-40s. From him she mastered the fundamentals of drawing in the mother tongue of abstract art.
In 1958, during the most oppressive years of doctrinaire socialist realism, she graduated from the fresco department at the Academy of Fine Arts in Budapest. A turning point in her career came with a stay in Italy in 1962-63. In the first half of the 60s, she began to paint in a classical modernist vein influenced by abstract painting. These were dynamic free-flow drawings of sweeping energy, restricted to a palette of three or four colors, in the Numbered Images series. These were the first manifestations of Keserü’s crystallized color sensibility.
In 1967, Keserü discovered the rustic, heart-shaped headstones of the cemetery at Balatonudvari that would become a central motif of her painting for a long while to come. Although previously familiar with the place and its gravestones, she was so moved by the experience on one particular excursion with friends near Lake Balaton that she – as she puts it herself – “immediately felt a powerful need to paint a cavalcade of these shapes in all their variety. They appeared before me – beautiful, weathered, crumbling bits of limestone large and small – that nothing in this world was so important or close to me than these big puffy, arching, two or three-lobed, half-buried stone pastries.”

Katalin Aknai