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Ildiko Kovacs

Serpentine 1999

Museum of Contemporary Art, donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program by Ann Lewis AO, 2009

oil on plywood

H 155 W 275 D 4.3cm
H 2980 W 120 D 1687cm

About the Artwork

Ildiko Kovacs’ abstract paintings reveal the influence of contemporary Indigenous art as well as Western traditions of art making. Her paintings rely on gesture and speak of painting as a physical act that relates to bodily movement. The processes of layering, accumulating and removing paint over time are also central aspects of Kovacs’ practice.

Her paintings – thick, ropey and gestural – reveal these processes, and when brought together with Emily Kame Kngwarreye’s equally gestural painting for example, a dialogue begins between a Western, and very Australian form – based on observation of the natural world – with imagery deeply imbued with a sense of the spiritual and anchored from being within the landscape. The flicking back and forth from these alternative viewpoints lies at the heart of contemporary painting in Australia.

Considering Australian painting in the wake of the rise of Aboriginal art, for non-Indigenous practitioners, can only mean moving forward with a solid understanding and grasp of the potential that Indigenous art offers. Painting must also find a place within the wider philosophical and conceptual framework offered by Conceptualism and Post-Modernism that is constructed within a rubric of skepticism, irony and strategy. If much contemporary painting could be classified as cool, then Kovacs’ work is definitely warm in its construction, meaning and intent.

Importantly for an artist like Kovacs, links to Western, or European traditions still assert their influence. Easel painting and abstraction still rely on the tropes of the Abstract Expressionist movement and its emphasis on gesture.


References: Glenn Barkley (curator), Almanac: The Gift of Ann Lewis AO (exhibition texts), Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, 2009

Ildiko Kovacs

– About the artist


Ildiko Kovacs is a painter whose practice is strongly process-based. She builds her images by layering, accumulating and removing paint over time. Her paintings are distinguished by their surface effects, luminosity and organic use of line, which together create the illusion of depth and movement.

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