Zsuzsa Szenes graduated from the textile department of the Academy of Applied Arts in 1955. Initially, she worked in the Komplex Textile Studio, designing curtains and fabrics. From the beginning of her career, she drew a great deal. In the early 1960s, she made drawings using ironical, sprawling forms. Later, she implemented the linear, lace-work-like designs into textile.
Her first composition with wool-stitching (a technique developed by her, based on roving wool), entitled the Tree of life, was on display at the exhibition Textile Wall Picture in 1968. This was an occasion on which a group of artists intended to renew textile art, and members of the spatial textile movement exhibited together for the first time. Szenes became one of the leading figures of this movement.
Like her contemporaries (Gábor Attalai, Aranka Hübner, Gizella Solti, Margit Szilvitzky, and others), Szenes went far beyond the limits of the genre. She had a significant role in establishing the textile biennial in Szombathely and the textile workshop in Velem, but she also played a key role in establishing conceptual thinking in domestic textile art, which earlier had been somewhat conservative.
Using wool-stitching, a technique she herself developed, Szenes created object interpretations, and she also developed installations, environments, and actions. At the end of the 1970s, she participated in the transdisciplinary exhibitions (Textile After Textile, 1979; Textile Without Textile, 1979) with photo-works. In the middle of the 1980s, she began to deal exclusively with graphic arts, creating an unparalleled series of tiny images called “Iconostasis,” which were rich in emotional and imaginative charge.
In the domestic art scene, alongside her works (the wool stitchings, drawings, textile montages, paper collages), the house in which she lived also played an important role. The famous address 6/b Virágárok street became something of a mythical locale in the second half of 20th-century Hungarian art, as Szenes, together with her husband, artist Miklós Erdély, was the creator and shaper of its open atmosphere.Although she was never openly critical of official cultural politics or official socialism, she played an important role in the culture of dissent by helping several cultural forms which the state considered potentially damaging find a place among Hungarian artists. Szenes was among the pioneers of concept art and land art in Hungary, which the official cultural authorities often saw as examples of Western bourgeois culture. Szenes’s decision to experiment with peripheral textile art demonstrated the interdisciplinarity of these tendencies and at the same time emancipated applied arts.
- Budapest, Hungary
- Beöthy, Balázs