One of the more confusing things about living abroad is getting your head around a new set of holidays. I was surprised that in Malta, Easter Monday isn’t a national holiday. I was surprised, too, that in Montserrat, 17 March, St Patrick’s Day, is. Independence Day, Labor Day, Memorial Day – all were once key parts of my calendar. In Hungary, I do well to remember 15 March, 1 May, and 23 October.
Ireland’s national holiday, St Patrick’s Day, is now celebrated in Hungary, albeit not as a national holiday – more a local one wherever the Irish diaspora and those with an affinity for the ould sod gather. From this year, we have a new national holiday that is already making its mark in Budapest and beyond – St. Brigid’s Day. The feast day itself falls on 1 February but the national holiday will be celebrated on the first Monday in February.
It is the first Irish national holiday named in honour of a woman, and what a woman she was. Brigid is both our matron saint and a Celtic Goddess. A celebration of her celebrates all mná (women). She was some woman, for one woman: an environmentalist and an advocate for and protector of nature, animals, and all living things. And she was a master brewer.
On 1 February, Irish embassies around the world will be putting St Brigid on their host countries’ cultural calendars. This global effort is designed to celebrate the creativity of both Irish women and women in their countries of accreditation. Here in Budapest, the Embassy of Ireland in Hungary continues an initiative that began in 2020. This year, it is presenting an exhibition of fine art under the banner ‘Even beyond that…’. Curated by Linda Berczi, owner of the Space Gallery, the exhibition features three female artists: Judit Horváth Lóczi, Szilvia Fekete, and Natalie Forrester.
Judit Horváth Lóczi leads a full life. Even beyond being an artist, she’s a mother, a wife, a runner, a logistics expert, a chef, a friend, a perfectionist, an order freak, a cleanliness fanatic, a bookkeeper, a correlation researcher, a flow-runner, and a fighter. I’m sure, if nudged, she could add to this list. But to take away from it? Not likely. Each of these facets of her life influences her art and makes her the woman she is. She will be exhibiting artwork from three different series. Quarantine, a collage series made in the first wave of the pandemic, took shape when making art with her children became her own personal therapy, helping her ‘work out, formulate, and face the fears, the insomnia, the monotony of repetition, the hunt for the good news, the helplessness, and other feelings’. Want Back my Bright Future was birthed in the outbreak of the war in Ukraine when compassion was supplemented by concern about her future and that of her family. In comparison, and as a balance, the elements of Piece of Harmony tell of when she ‘realized how important it is, to find such moments, when despite the external events, impacts, we turn inside and self-reflect, and then we notice something beautiful, something fine, good in this world’.
I’m convinced that Szilvia Fekete is a woman St Brigid would have befriended, had they both walked the Curragh of Kildare in the same era. She will be exhibiting pieces from her Extended Definitions series which ‘extend the physical boundaries and the usual square shape of paintings’. This body of work marries the artificial and the natural – the built environment and nature; she has a fondness for trees. Her paintings spill over traditional boundaries of edges and frames, perhaps mirroring Fekete’s ambition that women in art will be able to break through the age-old stranglehold that male artists have here. ‘The presence of women is spectacularly underrepresented among the juries of art awards, professors of art universities and admission committee members of doctoral schools for artists. In other words, in positions of power in art.’ Her wish is that ‘the attention to the creative work of women in connection with St. Brigid’s Day spreads from Ireland to all of Europe and even beyond that…’
Natalie Forrester met her Hungarian husband ten years ago on Baggot Street, a bustling street in Ireland’s capital, Dublin city. Today they live with their son in rural Hungary, in the village of Sóstóhegy. There, in her studio, she creates her abstract art. She describes it as ‘moving meditation’. With the medical world showing what seems to me to be a marked reluctance to recognise, let alone treat the symptoms of all stages of menopause, Forrester has had to find her way through the morass of hormonal imbalances…ten years too soon. Early onset menopause changed her plans for her life. For her, art is therapy. As a colour theorist who studies the psychology of colour, she finds that solace in her palette. ‘Colour soothes my soul. Green eases my anxiety, magenta helps me rationalise, red gives me strength, blue calms me, whilst purple inspires.’ It was while working on her purple collection, Encapsulating Creativity, in particular a triptych BURST!, that she had a flash of inspiration that will see her busy for the next, say, 20 years or even beyond that… ‘I’m going to create one original artwork per page of James Joyce’s book Ulysses. […] “The Colours of Ulysses” will consist of 933 original artworks, and as they are collected around the world, they will connect a network of Joyceans and art collectors alike.’ Two of these are part of the exhibition.
The free exhibition opens to the public on Thursday 2nd February at The Space Contemporary Art Gallery, 1015 Budapest, Hattyú utca 16, ground floor 4. Don’t miss out – it runs until the 10th.