The depictions of animals in art evoke both the boundless richness of nature and, through the symbolism of animals, the thoughts, fears and desires of man.
I was born on 30th June in 1973, in Budapest.  My road to sculpting was quite irregular, in spite of the fact that I have been studying for this career since my childhood. Until I was 13, I attended the Medgyessy Ferenc sculpting workshop led by the sculptor Gábor Szabó in Pestújhely.

In 1990, I acquired a profession in ceramic moulding in the Art Primary School on Illatos Street. With early enrolment approved by the director, I continued my studies in the Secondary School of Visual Arts also known as the Secondary School of Fine-and Applied Arts of Budapest, “Kisképző”.
In 1994, I graduated from the secondary school, and earned a certificate in leather craftsmanship.  Meanwhile, every Saturday afternoon, I went to the art camp on Százados Street to sketch in Gábor Szabó’s studio which meant a real intellectual workshop to me. Here I could absorb the atmosphere of classic studio and art.

Sometimes we also went to visit my teacher’s father, Iván Szabó sculptor and the studios of other artists who were living there. Even then, this world has already had a strong influence on me.  I come from an intellectual family. In addition to his work as an engineer and managing his company, my father has become a registered collector during these years.

My mother had a great impact on me by her inherent, great taste and sense of beauty. In addition to our trips and the swimming pool, we used to go to exhibitions, galleries and art auctions. I grew up with my sister in a home furnished with good taste and filled with a lot of valuable paintings, books and albums.  
I married on 17th September 1994, and our first child was born on 30th June 1995. After I postponed my studies, I painted a lot in this period; I designed and made sculptures, statuettes and plaques for orders. However, my life took a different turn. On 30th July 2005, our second child was born.

At first, painting was an obvious choice in the months that I spent with my child at home, but later, when I was commissioned for an exhibition I found sculpting again and the unique style that still characterizes me. The framework of my life is made of my work, sculpting, and it is able to hold me on the ground as much as it is able to take me away from reality both in years with difficulties and trials and the happy and successful periods of time.
I didn’t choose animals, they were the ones who found me and refuse to let me go for now.
My sculptures are realistic but also transformed as they carry symbolic meaning. I have a strong pursuit of independence, and my work is also characterized by freedom. I strive for uniqueness with a form of expression that is only my signature. At this point, I can take advantage of the disadvantage resulting from that I haven’t finished my academic studies, because nobody’s style has left its mark on me.

No one makes such sculptures in Hungary except for me. The method of execution is also unique: My Mediterranean potteries, that I loved making in my childhood, gave me the experience and routine for the technique I also apply today. Actually, it was the source of my idea according to which a sculpture can also be made like this, and it requires nothing, the fireclay can hold itself due to a good static concept.

About my husband: he is an economist, he has been present in the Hungarian economic life with his work for 25 years. He has been working in high-level management position. Besides his responsible work, I get a great deal of help, support and love from him so that I could work as independently and freely as possible. He is interested in high literature, history, old books, engravings, maps and flying.
The depictions of animals in art evoke both the boundless richness of nature and, through the symbolism of animals, the thoughts, fears and desires of man.
There is this adorable photo of the artist. She is lying in bed, tucked up to her chin, laughing at the unicorn lying beside her. In bed with a unicorn? Why not, when the creature is family and can crawl into your bed any time. It is a member of the family, like all of Ágnes Nagy’s statues. But how do statues become family members? This is the curious path on which Ágnes Nagy, the artist, walks, and this is also the path on which her sculptures take shape.
Imagine a little girl who wants to be a sculptor almost from childhood! She attends art workshops, art schools, goes to the Vocational School of Fine Arts, and all the experience and knowledge she has gained there she keeps savouring at home. In addition to his profession, her father is also an art collector, so she is surrounded by books and masterpieces, and occasionally they go to auctions and exhibitions. This palpable love and presence of art defines the whole life of her family.
The aesthetics of life, with no pretence, but the most natural and sincere respect for the things of life. The beautiful meal, the table setting, the porcelain tableware, from which - let's face it - even the simplest bite has a different taste, meaning and value. But all this would not have meant much if this particular little girl had not been impressed by this life, or had not been in awe by such respect for beauty and the world.

Even as a small child, sculptor Ágnes Nagy lived in art, with art and for art. During her high school studies, she became a ceramist, then graduated in leatherwork, but never made it through the doors of tertiary education in art. She got married at the age of twenty-one and had children, but this new life deepened in her the sense of significance of how inseparable art is from life.
She did not give up drawing and patterning, and she became more and more deeply involved in the two sources from which all good art is born: herself and reality. On the one hand, the question is what I see, what I want to see in the world, what inspires me, and how I can understand and express it in my own words. But on the other, the question is what I want to shape out of all this. Experience and creation cannot be separated.
Good art always draws on real visual experiences: this is what gives it its authenticity. But good art also requires knowledge, knowledge of materials, technical knowledge, taste and a sense of form: and this is what gives it its quality.
It is mainly animals that provide an inspiration for Ágnes Nagy's sculptures. Actually, not so much the domestic cats hanging around our houses, or the dogs the guard our homes, not even the finches or the reptiles in the terrarium. As far as I can remember, I have not seen any animals living in the artist's home. Her animals are rather inspired by the animals created in art. From childhood, she has been attracted to the - so to speak - symbolic world of animals. And how natural it all is!
Our young children love to play with teddy bears, foxes and squirrels, and how cute the pure polar bears and lions in toy shops can be, but it doesn't mean that sooner or later we would want real bears or lions. Then what is it that is so beautiful in the animal world? Mostly, it is animals’ special quality of being similar to humans and representing the infinite diversity of nature at the same time.

Since ancient times, we have projected our human qualities onto the world of animals. In every animal we discover a human quality, and we want a share of those qualities of the animal.
We want to be as strong as a bull, see as sharp as an eagle, and be as fearsome as a lion. It is no coincidence that animals are also symbols. Nations derive their origin from powerful and large animals, bears, eagles, lions in the coats of arms of kings and countries, all of which refer to the power of the people and the ruler, and I do not believe that there has ever been a king in history who would considered himself a king of fleas, crickets and voles, when he could just as well have been the symbolic descendant of elephants, eagles and tigers.
The history of fine art begins with the depiction of animals. The first man-made pictures show animals. Bulls, buffalos, hyenas, rhinos and other animals. Human beings in the animal kingdom not only admired nature, but often recognised themselves.

In the hierarchy of the animal kingdom, whether of particular species or of groups or communities within species, the role of the leader, or the shared caring of the offspring, form a system that in many ways resembles the organisation of human communities.

The depictions of animals in art evoke both the boundless richness of nature and, through the symbolism of animals, the thoughts, fears and desires of man. The Trojan Horse itself was already a work of art for the unsuspecting Trojans.
However, independent, monumental animal sculptures require not only talented and inspired artists, but also a certain architectural environment. Sculptures demand space for themselves, and they can also create their own space.
How are cultural, symbolic and visual experiences transformed into sculptures? There are two ways to make a sculpture. The artist either carves the work out of the material or builds it. Both creative methods are classical, and both have a deep message. Ágnes Nagy builds. She first creates her works in velvet clay, from which she produces casts of different colours and shades.
But the starting point is soft clay. "The work of sculpture is like a purification process in the sweatbox, you have to suffer for it, not only mentally, but also physically, which I don't want to spare. Often good memories, but also pains and grievances come up and somehow, they all wash over me by the end of the day," the artist wrote.
But building, constructing from small units, gives you plenty of room for experimentation and even play. Of course, this takes time and thought, but Ágnes Nagy loves it. She doesn't want to cut corners, she's not interested in quick and clever solutions, but in what comes out of a natural process of ripening and maturing. Good wine, good spirits take time, truly substantial food is slow to prepare, and time is a hindrance to speed, but a key to wisdom. And for slow and serious work, you need good material. High quality material represents quality and durability.
It is worth remembering that works of art, however witty, put together quickly from cheap materials, are bound to bring about rapid decay and miserable destruction. But the truly great things, if not everlasting, are impressive even in their ruins.

The destruction of great things is also great, and so, even in this state, they radiate inspiration and life energy. Ágnes Nagy understands all this and wants us to understand it, too.
And in fact, animals also enshrine the idea of eternal time and the wisdom of experience. For God created animals before man, but it is not difficult to imagine that at the end of time man will not be the last inhabitant of the earth. Animals came before us, and animals will stay after us. And the same way as it is with art, understanding animals leads us through ourselves, through understanding ourselves.

What Ágnes Nagy says about all this is that: "Instead of reflecting on events, I mostly analyse myself, it's important to introspect what I can do to make the world a better and more beautiful place. The elevated and majestic message is essential for me. When the artist portrays constant despondency and decadency, then it can easily become a reality. I want good in my life, and I wish good for everyone. I feel that we have the Garden of Eden within us, and we can create it here on Earth.”
So, what is living art? The quality of something going from being "inanimate" in a material sense to being alive. Why can we become so attached to certain objects? Because their quality, their symbolic meaning makes them an important part of our lives. Because even when they are disfigured torn, they preserve something of the desire for quality, the humility of the man who created the object, the sanctity of creation instead of the ordinariness of its making.

Living art itself radiates life and power, and makes us want to be near it. It becomes a member of the family, a part of our lives that we won't let go of, that we won't abandon even in its weakness, that we even let into our beds when it needs a stroke.
When we see the love and with the different ways in which Ágnes Nagy poses in the company of her sculptures, we feel something like this. These sculptures are living things, and the photographs taken with them reveal the honesty, intimacy, power and infinite longevity almost like family photographs rooted in history.
Whether by design or by accident, the fact that the surface of one of the artist's most exciting works, the unicorn sculpture, is covered with old engravings is of profound significance. "Terra Antiqua", as the title of the sculpture says, or "Ancient Land", almost an unknown territory, with its labyrinths, its landscapes to be discovered, its secrets and mysteries, and of course the history of the landscapes seen in the engravings. It is now a mysterious and imagined world: like the unicorn itself, but also a world that includes the history of our lives. It is almost a family album, with former relatives we no longer know, but in whom we still recognise our own traits.

One of our distant relatives is the centaur, who embodies this wonderful imaginary union between man and beast. However, Ágnes Nagy's centaur, dubbed "Terra Incognita" (Unknown Earth), is not simply a hybrid creature. It is not a half-horse, half-human creation, but a continuous transition from one to the other. A man's chest protrudes on the equine underbody, but the man's head is again that of the horse, while the human head serves as a kind of support under the hoofed foot. "The Unknown Earth" is the title, and it is the inscrutability that binds us humans to animals. As if they were us, and as if we sometimes understood them better than ourselves or our fellow human beings.
It's a rare occasion when we encounter sculptures that try to grab our attention with something other than cold majesty, cunning complexity or trivially flat cleverness. It is a rare occasion to meet sculptures that want to become our friends, even family members. They don't intrude into our lives but make us feel as if they have always been part of our lives, but we just haven’t noticed them until now. And it is also a rare occasion to meet an artist who, in the sincerest way, gives shape to her own insight, her own experiences, and who recreates – in a very original way – a world whose survival depends in large part on our relationship with our most ancient relatives, our brothers and sisters, our animals.

Living Art
by Gabor Bellák

chief museologist, art historian, Hungarian National Gallery