08 Oct Street art inspired by cartoon characters of the communist period of Hungary
In the work of Hungarian street artist 0036Mark the cartoon characters of the communist era come back to life spiced up with contemporary pop-cultural allusions. We talked to the artist about the cartoon culture of communism, the generational memories about the change of regime, and his working methods.
Your childhood roughly coincided with the last years of the communist regime and the early years of the new democratic Hungary (from the mid-80s to the mid-90s). What are your most important memories from this period?
0036Mark: Yes, it was during my childhood that the change of regime happened in Hungary, so at the beginning, it was the Hungarian cartoons and children’s stories that my parents could use to keep me occupied. This was the golden age of Hungarian cartoon-making with such geniuses as Béla Ternovszky, Attila Dargay, József Nepp, Marcell Jankovics, Ágnes Bálint and I could go on with the list; they made such wonderful cartoons that the whole of my generation can quote them word for word even after 30 years.
And then, similarly around the time of the change of regime, the age of the VHS started, when Western blockbusters trickled down to us on video cassettes copied over and over again. And so the cartoons gave way to 90s action movies, sci-fi and horror films, which we watched again and again.
Bruce Willis (in Die Hard) meets with Grabowszky, a popular cartoon caracter from the 80s
How did you get the idea to make street art using the cartoon characters of the 80s and 90s?
0036Mark: What I do as street art is both parody and nostalgia at the same time, in which the works of this period (like my memories from childhood) get mixed up in my head. I merge the characters together as if this all was some big continuous film. But elements of Hungarian pop culture or historical allusions can also be found in my work, like how Duck Tales was cut short on TV when they announced the death of the first freely elected Prime Minister.
Duck Tales was cut short on TV when they announced the death of the first freely elected Prime Minister
And sometimes it’s the spot itself that gets me going, like in the case of the ET fire hydrant. I aim to use Hungarian references in my work, mainly cartoon allusions. If I put something up abroad, I focus on the classics of that country; to Belgium, I brought a Smurf-themed work, but it turned out it was all Smurfs there without my help… These classics get so much more attention there, there’s a greater demand for keeping these cartoons in the public mind, and this is very appealing to me. I did also smuggle in a bit of a Hungarian detail too, a Matyó-style tattoo on one of the characters.
The Big Ho-Ho Angler (a character of a TV series from the 80s) catches The Little Mermaid
Did you do street art earlier too?
0036Mark: Like VHS movies, graffiti had its heyday in Hungary in the 90s, and I was terribly interested in it too, so I did graffiti for a few years. But I have never been very active and I never thought I was much good either, so that stopped. Sure, we did have some exciting nights there, chases in railroad shunting yards, hiding in the dark, and the smell of paint, the clinging of can bring on some Pavlovian reflexes in me to this day. But it didn’t quite satisfy me just to paint my name in a lot of places, and only later, in the street art connection did I realise that I wanted to do things not merely for the graffiti crowd, but rather to try to stop more kinds of people on the street.
Köbüki a popular character from the communist period of Hungary plays a DJ set wit Daft Punk
How many pieces have you completed and what does the process look like?
0036Mark: There are about 30 or 40 types up on walls already and 20 more are ready to go up. But luckily I have a lot of ideas too. I get comments saying what I do is very creative and that my brain is like that of a sick genius. I think my brain has simply found a track in this and keeps me entertained too while doing it.
It’s always the idea or the joke that has to come first. My pieces are not comic strips, this has to work as a single image so that other people would get it, would make the parallels in their heads that I had made in mine. Sometimes I burst out laughing after the first sketch version because I see that this is going to work, but there are other, less strong plans too. The best thing is when I consider a piece difficult to take in, and still, I keep getting positive feedback on it, like in the case of Hungarian Gothic, when I overlaid Grant Wood’s famous painting American Gothic with characters from a popular Hungarian cartoon from the 70s.
Hungarian Gothic: Grant Wood’s famous painting American Gothic
with characters from a popular Hungarian cartoon from the 70s
As more and more people see my work, more and more muses throw in their ideas. People keep sending me ideas, and all I have to add is my own way of seeing it. The second phase is gathering the material and turning the idea into an image, then it’s stooping over the computer and drawing. The final stage is printing, cutting and then to the spot, where the piece is going up.
A fire hydrant meets with E.T.
Do you have a favourite artist from the Hungarian street art scene or from the international one?
0036Mark: My favourites from abroad do similar parodies as I do. Like Fidia, Coté Escrivá, Ben Allen, Matt Gondek, but the works of a lot of other artists inspire me too. The Hungarian street art scene isn’t very big, and I don’t want to insult anyone by not mentioning them. I also wouldn’t handle graffiti as a different thing, I’d rather consider both genres as part of ‘urban art’, and would rather say that everyone’s my favourite who did, does or will do quality work to make the streets of this city more unique, more interesting, so that people would see it’s worth looking around more.