Hungarian Artist Barnabàs Lakatos Gelléri talks about his recent London solo show at David Kovats Gallery and the importance of creating an inclusive environment for queer artists



1. How did you come up with the concept for the show? Is it something you have been working on for a while now?

The exhibition is titled after one of my paintings since my works directly reflect on my own life. “Arriving into Something New” also speaks directly about starting a new stage of life – life has sped up around me, and I’m happy and very excited to show my paintings to so many people. And for the audience, it might also be an arrival into something new, as this is my debut exhibition.

2. Tell us more about your materials and techniques, what fascinates you the most while creating? Do you have a signature technique or do you like to experiment?

Over the past year, the structure of my paintings has followed a blueprint that I could describe like a recipe. I use three techniques in parallel: I’m experimenting with spray cans, Japanese inks, and a more traditional painting method with acrylic paint. Although there is a fairly clear structure to how I paint, I’m constantly trying out new things in the details of my paintings. I feel like there are inexhaustible possibilities in it and I always find new thrills while painting. The way my paintings come together is like a puzzle, so it is a mystery even to me what the end result will be – this keeps me engaged.

3. How do you feel about the art scene in Hungary and Budapest at the moment? Are there good prospects for young artists?

I think the Hungarian art scene is full of great artists and great initiatives. Maybe sometimes I feel it is a little cramped; I feel like we don’t look across the fence that much and people don’t tend to peak in from the outside that much, either. Therefore, I feel very lucky to be able to try my luck at a gallery in London, because I couldn’t really define myself on the Hungarian art scene.

4. Tell us more about the queer identity in the arts sector. What does a queer lifestyle mean to you and how important it is to be able to express it?

In Hungary, the political climate around the queer community is deteriorating, more and more exclusionary regulations and laws are being enacted. Nowadays, I believe that being queer in Hungary is not only a matter of identity but also a political role. Last year, Queer Budapest started to gather and present Hungarian queer artists, which was a very powerful initiative and has received significant international feedback. For me, being queer means freedom and openness, as well as the courage to live in a positive way, to be ourselves, to discover ourselves – I think it’s worth living that way!

5. How do you feel about the current developments in Eastern Europe when it comes to politics linked to LGBTQ rights?

Honestly, I could burst into tears when I’m being asked this; then I feel very angry and start to feel ashamed. It’s unbelievable that in Eastern Europe men can be beaten up for wearing nail varnish, or women can be harassed for being in love with other women. People in the west can’t even imagine how painful it is to us to grow up here if you’re “different”, or how every day is a struggle in this exclusionary environment. And on legal issues, we are not moving forward but moving back more and more radically and faster. This is why the role of a “queer artist” is important here.

6. Is an international career something you have been working on? What else you have in the works after this international opening?

I really want to work internationally. I also find it important to show myself in Hungary as an artist and as a person. In September, in parallel with the exhibition in London, another solo exhibition of mine will open in Budapest, and in October I’ll be at an art fair in London. In November I’ll be at an exhibition in Cologne with the Queer Budapest group, then I’ll be in London again in December. This period promises to be quite intense, but I’m very enthusiastic and happy to have the opportunity to make so many appearances.


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