Csaba Kis Róka

Csaba Kis Róka, Installation View, 2010. Photograph by Thierry Bal

Csaba Kis Róka, Installation View, 2010. Photograph by Thierry Bal

Csaba Kis Róka (b.1981, Hungary) explores the innermost corners of the collective subconscious, delving into the realm of the unexpressed, and blatantly opposing political correctness. Playing with a rich pictorial texture that densely coagulates on his canvases, the artist stages traditional genre scenes imbued with irony, cruelty, abuse and random violence.

Kis Róka’s paintings analyse the effects of trauma, social stigmatisation and political repression, and address the conditioning of the individual psyche by the system. The powers that define notions such as shame, depravity and contempt can be traced both allegorically and explicitly in his work: most noticeably when he includes in his compositions men wearing military uniforms or bureaucrats’ hats. The governance of the state and the army are the most obvious expressions of manipulation of the Self. Wise old men (resembling the busts of ancient philosophers, alluding critically to conservative education and the legacy of cultural traditions) are also often included in his bestiary. Their bodies are frequently mutilated: a leg is missing, or an arm, as in ancient statuary.

Most of his characters suffer as much violence as they perform; the good are indistinguishable from the bad. As in Petronius’ Satyricon, homosexuality and the tension generated by the difference in age and status of the lovers are central themes. But the range of sexual deviations represented is perhaps closer to de Sade’s The 120 Days of Sodom. Little is left to the imagination. But Kis Róka’s work bypasses vulgarity, since it is immediately obvious that this imagery is a grotesque allegory, the hyper-sexualisation of his characters an allusion to the abuse of power.

The picaresque world narrated by the artist confronts us with our inhibitions. It is a comprehensive review of the most opprobrious psychological features. Csaba Kis Róka reinterprets the lessons of the old masters such as Hieronymus Bosch and Francisco de Goya, adding to their legacy a new twist of witticism enshrouded in camp, queer politics, Gothicism, comics-related aesthetic and youth culture. Arguably his work can be viewed as ‘touched in the head’. Yet his emotionally dysfunctional characters (oppressed by a variety of societal clichés and expectations) undoubtedly unveil the dark side of the Self in a somewhat playful and ironic way.

Csaba Kis Róka at Liverpool Biennial 2010

Selected Works, 2010
Oil on canvas
Exhibited at 52 Renshaw Street