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Insights of an Eco Artist

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In conversation: Flòra O. Hartyándi

Insights of an Eco Artist Team

Meet Flòra O. Hartyándi, an artist, art therapist, community worker, and traveller who believes that in art, everything is possible. The artist has a passion for giving new life to natural and human waste, transforming them into something new and unique, with their own stories to tell. Flòra draws inspiration from folk arts, symbols of different nations, and traditional techniques to create complex and alternative worlds that draw the viewer in and invite them to be a part of the story.

4 May 2023

In art everything is possible. I like that.
I’m artist, art therapist, community worker and traveller.
We, humans like to think we are living in a different, higher level in the world compared to nature and animals. My opinion is, it’s a big mistake. So I try to create harmony between us and them. I belive everything will fall into place in the middle of the Nature.
I love to give new life to natural ‘waste’ and human ‘waste’ as well like a crazy wizard. In that new life, they could be something very different like a rebirth. They have feelings, fears and stories. I based my arts on things collected in nature.
I’m seriously interested in about folk arts, symbols of different nations and the traditional techniques. I got theme, inspiration from them. I try to create complex, alternative worlds, that the viewer inevitably becomes a part of it, cannot be able to remain an outsider: immerse in them, see them, feel them, discover, create a story around what they see, use their imagination…

Your art seems to be inspired by a deep connection to nature and a desire to create harmony between humans and the natural world. Can you describe how this connection and desire first developed in you, and how it has influenced your artwork throughout your career?

We, humans like to think we are living in a different, higher level in the world compared with nature and with animals and in my opinion that is a big mistake. We are animals as well, and nature within the whole Earth is much stronger than human beings. We need more humility, love and belief to live with the Earth. We cannot eat, breathe and live without nature's help. We depend on it. We should respect this fact more.

I came from Hungary. Originally, Hungarians were a wandering nation who believed in supernatural magic. (We still have a strong cultural connection to herbal healing.) This way of thinking had already fascinated me even as a small child. 

Nowadays, I try to use only natural materials and recycled materials and I hope that my art in the distant future will decompose without harming the environment. 

In addition to being an artist, you are also an art therapist and community worker. How do you balance these different roles, and how do they inform and intersect with each other?

Art is the key. Art can be a tool to help to communicate with others. Art can connect people. Art can be a common thing in an unfamiliar group. Do you know someone who never doodles, hums or hits a beat? I don’t think so. These are the basics of art.

While doing community work or art therapy I need to be present, creative and able to react quickly.

I really enjoy the unpredictable situations these jobs can provide. They offer me new ideas and topics for my next creations. 

For example, I recently finished the LABELS project. This is a size 36 dress from 811 clothing labels. This idea was formulated during a community job. We collected clothes, toys and books and gave them away. We received so many new, never used or almost new clothes. On the one hand, it was amazing, because we were able to give clothes in good condition to the poor. On the other hand, how is it possible that we buy so many clothes unnecessarily? 

The average European buys 26 kg of textiles and throws away 11kg of textiles every year. Meanwhile, worldwide, only less than 1 per cent of textile waste is used as clothing. 

I wanted to create something to react to this phenomenon.


End of the World by Flòra O. Hartyándi. Image courtesy of Flòra O. Hartyándi.

Your artwork often incorporates recycled or repurposed materials, giving them a new life and purpose. Can you talk about your motivation for using these materials, and how you approach transforming them into art?

It's not just because of my worldview. It's like a game, a joyful challenge to create something new and unusual from boring or broken things.

I try to give them a new life, with a different message, with some twist. I think humor can also be recognized, but it depends on the viewer. There are people who think my art is scary. 

I think to manage your life you need all of these skills: you have to be a player, a rebuilder, a cross border. If you find an area where your bad habits are useful, you win the jackpot, because luckily life is not black and white.

I try to show these points of view. 


You mentioned being interested in folk arts and traditional techniques. How do you research and learn about these art forms, and how do you incorporate them into your own artistic style?

I grew up with my incredibly active grandparents, they were always doing something all day long: gardening, cooking, baking, tinkering, sewing, embroidering…They were ready to teach me everything with no concern for time. They gave me a strong foundation. My parents also helped me, from the age of 4 they took me to different craft classes, just because I was interested: weaving, ceramics, leather works, felting etc. Then I learned traditional art techniques in schools too. But every year it becomes more and more difficult to find a good teacher, a true, traditional master. It’s a shame because these are important skills and I would like to learn as much as possible, so I can create what I have in my mind and fix things in my home. 

I have a couple of favorite books and I use the internet, but only for small, quick things like a reminder of how to do a special knot. 

I love being in a workshop and learning face-to-face. 

I have recently started learning how to upholster. Fortunately, we still have traditional upholstery classes. I enjoy it so much.

End of the World by Flòra O. Hartyándi. Image courtesy of Flòra O. Hartyándi.

One of your submitted projects is entitled End of the World. Can you lead us through your creative process and motivations for the project?

There was a period when these emotionally difficult, politically strongly influenced and poorly paid jobs in Hungary became too much for me. I was absolutely exhausted and I didn't want to burn out. I needed some changes.

A couple of months later I found myself in the middle of the fabulous Dartmoor National Park(UK) as a worker in a youth hostel with my photographer life partner, a lovely local girl with writer's veins, a frolicsome boss and uncountable quantities of sheep, wild horses, deer, rabbits, birds, without phone signal, with extremely poor internet connection in the real nature. I could not be more grateful to have had this opportunity. 

I have started to work on ’The End of the World Project’ in this unrealistically gorgeous place which is full of legends. The project is based on my ironic discovery: In my soul, there is a fearful, end-of-world atmosphere (because of the last few years) while my body is in a charming place that could be at the end of the world. I started to focus on not just my feelings, but on the local stories, legends and wonders of nature to create a new world.

We spent 8 months in Dartmoor and a further 20 months in Great Britain. While we were roaming I was working on ’The End of the World Project’ all the way. Our last stop was Inishturk Island (IRL)with less than 50 inhabitants.

The end result is 28 months, 6 World Heritage places, 5 sparsely populated areas, 2 National Parks, 1 Tax Haven, 8035 hours of sheep baa and 28 art pieces, inspired by the locals, the legendaries and the wildlife. Made from nature- and human- wastes.

You've won several awards for your artwork, including the Special Mention Award at the Art Show International Gallery in LA. Can you discuss how it felt to win this award, and how it has impacted your career as an artist?

The world is full of wonderful, talented artists. It is difficult to find the way to the audience. Every award, an opportunity to show my art both online and offline brings me one step closer to this.


Labels by Flòra O. Hartyándi. Image courtesy of Flòra O. Hartyándi.

You have exhibited your art all over the world, including in Hungary, Canada, Germany, and Austria. Can you talk about the differences and similarities you've noticed in how your art is received in different cultural contexts?

It’s a shame, but I mostly didn't have a chance to travel to these exhibitions. Of course, I try but sometimes it’s hard to manage these travels. To be honest it's easier to tell the difference when you have the opportunity to exhibit your art at festivals. Compared to appearing in a museum or gallery, presenting my artwork at a festival is less formal, so visitors are more direct, and I can reach different types of people. People who might not go to museums. These events are of shorter durations, a couple of days mostly, but that means I can be there from the first moment till the last. I can chat, watch, listen, and get more feedback. These occasions have given me a lot of positive feedback and energy. My favorite experience was at the Neustadt Art Festival in Dresden. Germans are bluntly honest, they don't pretend. At the same time, they are passionate about nature and recycling, so they easily connected with my art. 

According to my experience, while in England there are many galleries and exhibitions, the opportunity to see art is quite common, and the English are chatty, in my own country (Hungary) it's not fashionable, so I got more eye-roll and fewer words at home than abroad.


You have a background in hand-drawn animation and textile and weaving art, among other mediums. How do you decide which medium to work in for a particular piece of art, and how do you approach learning about and experimenting with new mediums?

Most of the time I just find something, a household item, a pebble, a driftwood and I have a vision. That thing will be the base. Sometimes, I know right away which technique I'm going to use. Sometimes I need to do some research or try different materials and techniques to find the solution. My main goal is for the artwork to resemble the image in my head as closely as possible.

From time to time I start to learn new techniques, which can also give me new ideas or help to finish an abandoned work. 

Labels by Flòra O. Hartyándi. Image courtesy of Flòra O. Hartyándi.

Your art often creates complex, alternative worlds. Can you describe the role that storytelling plays in your artwork and how you hope viewers will engage with these worlds?

I try to create complex, alternative worlds, that the viewer inevitably becomes a part of it, and cannot be able to remain an outsider: immerse in them, see them, feel them, discover, create a story around what they see, and use their imagination. 

To increase this effect, I made a soundtrack for "The End of the World Project”. I named myself Dj Sheep and I recorded several sheep baas, blowing wind sounds, and twittering of birds during our travels and I edited a dynamic atmosphere noise music from them. A lot of people lift their eyes from their phones first when they hear an unexpected sound of a sheep baaing when they arrive. Sometimes it is a funny moment. I love to see their faces when suddenly they arrive in the present and they let in the first impression of my world.

I would love to involve people, to be part of my created world and then to trigger thoughts and/or feelings through them. If I can do this, I reach my goal. I am very interested in human psychology, I still try to help others. In my experience, an exhibition can give unusual questioning, a new point of view, and people can delve into it for about 15 minutes at least. It can arouse curiosity which can trigger people’s imagination. All of these things can help. So maybe I can give the starting push, the rest is up to the audience.


What's next for you as an artist? Are there any particular projects, collaborations, or exhibitions that you're excited about?

As I mentioned before, I'm now learning upholstery. My new project, beWILDer is based on my new skills. I plan to create a dinner party situation in a small, strange place with music and animals, to bring nature in? or put people out into the wild? we will see…

Cover Image:

End of the World by Flòra O. Hartyándi. Image courtesy of Flòra O. Hartyándi.

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