Magyar artist Anita Nemes depicts Budapest in loving color

Photo : nemessis
Magyar artist Anita Nemes depicts Budapest in loving color

Thin, twisting lines portray colorful Budapest complete with people, buildings, baths, neon signs, and much more. The works of Hungarian graphic artist Anita Nemes playfully depict the city with heart and soul, and can be seen at her current Printa exhibition, or emblazoned on posters and postcards. At the opening of this exhibition, titled “Léleksimogató” and on view through early April, we talked with Anita about her relationship with Budapest and her distinctive talents, which were utilized in the past for such diverse projects as a dissection-guide book and a Budapest-themed coloring book.

We Love Budapest: For how long have you been drawing, and why did you decide to become a graphic designer? 

Anita Nemes: I was already drawing a lot as a child. I wasn’t difficult to handle, I just needed a few pencils and paper to keep quiet. But it wasn’t always so clear that I would become a graphic artist. My parents wanted me to learn a profession, since they think that artists only starve to death – although they have a point. In the ’90s, I was only interested in music, more specifically the imagery, video clips, posters, and newspapers of bands. I browsed a lot of international art publications as well, and wanted to create similar things. Because of this, I decided to work in advertising, which led me to the printing industry, and then to typography.

Photo: Anita Nemes (nemessis)
WLB: What do you like about drawing, and art in general?

A. N.: I graduated as a typographer/graphic designer at MOME, and now I’m working as a freelance graphic designer. Over time, I began to miss “doing what I want”, so I started drawing again. In addition to design, it’s illustration that I’m getting more and more interested in, especially graphic reproduction procedures – I like how these analog techniques sort of soften the digital sterility.

Photo: “When does it grow dark today?” / nemessis
WLB: Where do you get the ideas for your drawings?

A. N.: Simply from everyday life. When I’m walking down the street, if I happen to be in a good mood, I get ideas just from the things around me. For example, my picture titled “When does it grow dark today?”, was made the same way. In the early fall weather, it was hard to tell when exactly the sun would go down. Sometimes, I like to take a thing or two from the street: neon signs, flowerpots, buildings, atmospheres. I like to make funny, quirky pictures, and compensate for the depressing things around us – which is why I titled the series exhibited now “Cheerfulizer”.

Photo: Sunbaths Budapest / nemessis
WLB: What publications did you illustrate, and how did you get involved in these? 

A. N.: I receive commissions mostly for typographical works, although not many people know that I draw, as well. I made illustrations for a book by Attila Erdős, titled Felvágóskönyv; earlier, I created infographics and street scenes for Pesti Est magazine, and pictures of commuting people for the BKK; a few months ago, I had to illustrate a drink menu based on rethought jokes; and currently, I’m working on a coloring book.

Photo: Friday night / nemessis
WLB: Tell us about this coloring book!

A. N.: We’re almost finished after more than half a year of work. Our main target audience is tourists lingering in Budapest with genre paintings of the best-known places, but it could also be appreciated by local fans of the city. Naturally, we tried to avoid clichés, but as usual, I drew on ideas from everyday life, with a twist. The editor uses her daughter as a test subject, who used to get incredibly confused by my chaotic lines. I had to learn how to draw closed and easy-to-color elements. I hope that the book will be a big hit; right now it seems like it’ll be finished by the end of March or beginning of April.

Photo: detail from the coloring book / nemessis
WLB: Why are your drawings so detailed? Are details important to you? 

A. N.: I tolerate monotony well; I like breaking up text too, for example. It calms me down, like yoga. At the same time, I like to work fast – at times like these, I feel a bit sorry that I didn’t become a sort of paint-throwing artist. But when I get to drawing figures and I know what I want, the process becomes like dancing, and the lines just draw themselves.

Photo: Hanging corridors in Budapest / nemessis
WLB:  Many of your drawings are connected to Budapest. What’s the reason? 

A. N.: I was born here – spent my childhood downtown, then my teenage years in the suburbs. For me, living in the city center is a well-deserved reward. In hindsight, I’m also glad that I spent about ten years commuting from southern Pest, because then I was forced to realize that life isn’t a piece of cake.

Photo: Sunbathing in Budapest / nemessis

WLB: What do you like the most about Budapest? 

A. N.: Cycling, walking in the city, and seeing how each district is a bit different. I often walk to Buda and act like a tourist, dreaming about living there. The Víziváros (a riverfront section of Districts I and II) is a little Viennese and bourgeois, there are more old store signs and small shops. It’d be nice to live on Gellért Hill, and Bartók Béla Street is becoming a more and more interesting place, too – places open one after another, so I often come by to have some fun.

WLB: What are your favorite routes and places? 

A. N.: Did you know that each spring, the cherry blossoms bloom beautifully at Tóth Árpád Promenade? But in my opinion, District V is a real living space, and except for the tourist influx, it’s like a small village. In addition, the surrounding area of Bródy Sándor Street and Gutenberg Square in District VIII is one of my great favorites. Of course, it’s easy to praise the more popular areas; I also often go to Soroksár by bicycle, I have multiple routes. For hiking, I recommend the allegedly official bike path along the Little Danube – for those who like a bit of fright. A must-visit resting point is the romantic Téglagyár Square of the Gubacsi residential complex in Pesterzsébet. So there are a lot of things to love here.

Photo: Bathing Budapest and Neonlight of Budapest / nemessis
WLB: You have a series inspired by the baths and neon signs of Budapest. Why were these exciting to you back then?

A. N.: In the ’80s, my mother worked in a store in the Paris Court and I often joined her, drawing the dress patterns back in the warehouse. The courtyard was full of neon signs, with the smell of cigarettes and coffee mixed in the air. On special occasions, we went to Mézes Mackó, and I walked a lot on the neon-lit Grand Boulevard, as well. These scents and sensations are closely tied to my childhood. They are inevitably present in my age group; we’ve been chewing on this retro-bone for a while now. For example, my illustration Bathing Budapest was made as a reenactment of György Konecsi’s artwork of the same name. Many of my friends were bathing enthusiasts, so we frequented Szecska like old men do. Only baths in Budapest have this kind of an atmosphere. In the summer, our favorite is the Csillaghegyi Bath, because it’s so loveably run-down. So I wanted to take these small architectural elements home somehow, and the reworking of Konecsi’s picture was apropos.

Photo: nemessis
WLB: Where can your products be purchased? 

A. N.: Mainly in Printa, since we implemented the work with them. But people can also look me up personally. I would like to spread my work, but I don’t want them to be mass-produced, so I’ll probably stick with limited edition, high-quality posters.  

WLB: What do we need to know about the current exhibition? Which of your artworks can be seen there?

A. N.: Printa, that’s all you need to know. … The city, as always, plays a central role, but rural landscapes get some space too, I promise.