(b. Sopron, September 5, 1945)
1964: Gymnasium of Fine and Industrial Arts, Department of Textiles; her master was Lola Gálffy. From 1964 she joined the Circle of Friends of the Arts and the Professional Circle of Fine Arts in Budapest’s XVII district, the latter led by the artist Tibor Tóth. Since its founding in 1969, she has been a regular attendee - and in many cases head - of the Summer Arts Colony in Gyula. She has attended the Creative Camp of Nagybánya-Magyarlápos since 1996.
Her paintings are closely linked to the socio-graphical, descriptive spirit of the Gyula Arts Colony, yet they are a strongly subjective, passionate variant which spiritually identify with the subject matter.
Personal exhibitions: 1978, University of Miskolc Gallery, Miskolc; 1983, Medgyessy T. Hódmezővásárhely; 1992, Móricz Zsigmond Theater Gallery, Nyíregyháza.
Selected group exhibitions since 1975: The exhibitions of the Gyula Summer Art Colony; Vásárhely Autumn Exhibition, Tornyai J. M., Hódmezővásárhely; Lowland Exhibition, Békéscsaba; National Biennale of Drawings, Salgótarján; National Biennale of Watercolors, Eger; National Pastel Biennale, Esztergom; National Biennale of Scenics, Hatvan.
Public exhibitions: Hungarian National Gallery; Tornyai J. M., Hódmezővásárhely; Art Gallery of Reformist Religious District in Királyhágómellék (Transylvania).
(From: Encyclopedia of Contenporary Hungarian Artists, 3-rd volume, s.v. Szakáll Ágnes. Written by Gábor Pogány



The descriptive world of Ágnes Szakáll
The beauty of barrenness is the only thing I have to hope for.
János Pilinszky, poet
In 1964 the Association of Friends of the Arts in Rákosliget arranged an exhibition of the works of Gyula Czimra. While Ágnes Szakáll was only a child at the time, her paintings can be seen as successors of Czimra’s portrayals of room interiors, with their spare lines and reduced colors.
Two locations have determined Szakáll’s personal and artistic life: the artist lives in Rákoshegy2 and spends her summers at the Art Colony in Gyula3. Her motifs are taken from these rural and small-town milieux. Szakáll describes her works as ‘sociographic’ and ‘documentative’, and believes they constitute a personal profile of people and their environment. Her relationship to the subjects of her pictures is apparently removed and dispassionate. One is reminded of viewing the world through a camera lens, as the artist portrays a factual and objective world without distortion. In Rákoskeresztúr and Bátor Street 20,4 there is little to be seen of the yard through the ragged wooden fence: only rigid roofs and the dissected limbs of trees. The sparse coloring gives a monochromatic feel to the paintings, which brings to mind old sepia photographs with their slight sparkle of silver nitrate. The faces of characters remain clear through time: they are real and, at the same time, are memories of their own existence (On Holiday at Sándor Toma in Magyarlápos). Most of the works are characterized by the geometric shapes of larger, flat surfaces (fence posts, ornate door panels), while in some cases more organic forms take precedence (patches of scrub, fallen plaster). Ágnes Szakáll has – through her talent rather than intentionally - succeeded in avoiding the pitfalls of pathetic intonation. The world comes vividly to life as Szakáll attempts to portray the essence of existence hidden behind everyday scenes, which may seem a little sad to us, yet are familiar to her. It is almost as if the artist has absorbed the symbolic verses of the poet Imre Simonyi: “And stopping in Gyula’s night…at the big temple under the moonlight / we firmly agreed: night has no rainbow.…” Human life rendered by the artist appears in faded settings of open doors, broken and twisted carpentry, rusty ironwork; the tailor with a sinewy neck sews industriously (They Will Come for the Coat in the Afternoon), but no-one sits in the barber’s chair (I’ll Close the Shop in the Autumn).
Tenacious and hard-headed attachment to “Hungarian” lands is not unknown in the field of Hungarian arts. The sentiment is most embodied in the work of István Nagy. However, in the 1990’s Ágnes Szakáll, as a member of the Arts Colony of Magyarlápos, decided against following the scenic traditions of Nagybánya. Rather than painting “mountains manifesting the rim of the sky”, she painted the backyards of small towns in Transylvania, which had been deprived of historical honor through rapid industrialization. Szakáll chose to depict the far less spectacular everyday reality of human existence instead of the passionate color-chords of other painters (Looks Like Home). Szakáll’s paintings are like the opening lines of wordless stories. We see mirrors, doors left open and eyes peering inside. We suspect the contours of figures, left out of the location. The artist still hopes for the beauty of barrenness.
György Szűcs
Translated by Zsuzsa Széles