Agnes Hay is an artist unbounded by medium. She paints, draws, films and animates, she has worked in ceramics, metal, textiles and wood, she has designed theatre sets and costumes, dabbled in writing and music composition. But this year she has ventured into something new.
In collaboration with Alex Eagle, Hay has turned her hand to jewellery, in an exclusive collection that translates her signature wire faces into dramatic, delicate, wearable works of art. The resulting pieces – a pendant necklace hung from a black ribbon and a face paired with a tiny golden stud for the ears – are entrancing.
“The resistance of the metal gives the lines an extra energy. It is making the pen walk from the paper into empty space.” She says.
Hay’s endless curiosity and creative courage emerges from a history of rebellion. She was born and raised under the veil of Communism in Hungary. Her art was deemed subversive and in 1985 she moved to London, along with her partner, journalist and dissident György Krassó whose vehement opposition to the regime led to threats of persecution. She has lived here ever since, raising a daughter and continuing to create art that engages with the shifting situation in her native land.
Here we speak to the artist about the inspiration for her latest creations, the joys of life in London and the art of imitation.
How did this collaboration come about?
This collaboration came about quite organically. I made small wire sculptures and Alex Eagle saw the possibility to adapt them into jewellery. I had to ‘translate’ the shapes from 3D to 2D and reduce their size a bit. It was interesting for me and rather empowering.
Is this the first time you have made jewellery?
I don’t recall ever making jewellery apart from macramé headbands in hippy times. Using wire came directly from my line drawings in the 1990s. This is the continuation. The adaptation of them as jewellery does not make much difference in the making of them. I just tried to minimise the loose ends so they don’t catch the wearers’ clothes and make them as strong as possible.
What are your creative inspirations?
These wire pieces were inspired by Greek art. I draw a lot in museums, especially in the British Museum, which is around the corner from my house. I try to capture complicated images with just one line. I do copy a lot. It is a way of learning and it is a way of having a conversation with artists of the past. Some people think my pieces are reminiscent of Picasso or Matisse but Picasso and Matisse copied the Greeks, just as I did.
What do you find stimulating about London? How do you find the contrast to Hungary?
I think it is clear that London is a great place for me – fantastic museums, galleries, exhibitions and architectural spaces. It is wonderful that in the British Library I can research Hungarian subjects better than in Hungary. I rejoice in the multiplicity of cultures: I’ve learned Chinese painting, Indian dance and I’ve sung in a Swahili choir. I would not find those things in Hungary, and maybe because of my Hungarian background I appreciate the culture more than the locals.
What are your upcoming projects?
There is a Greek vase in the British Museum with dancers that I’d like to translate into 3D wire sculptures and turn into a mobile.