June 18, 2020 / 12:53 PM / 14 days ago

Grief over virus deaths sets Hungarian artist on darker course

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Hungarian artist Jozsef Szurcsik lost four of his friends in a matter of weeks to COVID-19 and the tremendous pain and grief he feels has transformed his art.

Hungarian artist Jozsef Szurcsik paints in his studio in Budapest, Hungary, June 17, 2020. Picture taken June 17, 2020. REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo

Szurcsik, who teaches at the Hungarian University of Fine Arts and is one of the country’s top contemporary artists, has always tried to reflect on the relationship between the human soul and the landscape in his often surreal paintings.

He says his creative process has been deeply impacted by the grief he now feels.

Before he painted with a plan in his mind, but now images of skulls, burning heads and pained faces simply flow from his brush. Unintentionally, some of the faces in his paintings reflect the features of lost ones, he said.

“I have four friends who were important to me, there are four people whose passing away is very shocking... If this epidemic had not happened they could have been with us for a long time,” he said.

He can still hardly talk about his loss. One of his friends who died was little over 40 years old.

Hungary, which has a population of around 10 million, had recorded 4,079 cases of COVID-19 as of Thursday, including 568 deaths.

Szurcsik, who makes etchings, lithographs, oil and acrylic paintings on canvas, and also painted sculptures, said the new imagery of his paintings worked as a kind of therapy. 

“I did not want to visualize a concrete figure, far from it... and still there are figures who resemble those whom I will not meet anymore,” he said.

He said society is split between those who belittle or even doubt the seriousness of the coronavirus, and those who believe it is a deadly reality.

“There are those who deny the virus and those who believe in it, experiencing on their own skin and through their losses... staying alive but suffering the pain.”

Reporting by Krisztina Fenyo; Editing by Alexandra Hudson

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