Interview: Artist Agnes Toth

by Cass Art

As part of our Meet the Artists programme Agnes Toth will be joining us at the Charing Cross store at 13 Charing Cross Road WC2H, to talk about her art, painting processes and portraits.

We caught up with Agnes Toth to talk inspiration, portraiture and essential materials for an exclusive Cass Art interview.

Was there a defining moment when you decided you wanted to be an artist?

No, it was a natural and organic process. Painting and Drawing became my major occupation from the very early years at the age of 3-4, and from then on it slowly started to be obvious what is going to be my profession in later years.

Who or what has influenced your work most? Who: Pieter Brueghel, Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, The Dada, The Belgian Symbolist, The Pre- Raphaelites, John, Singer Sargent, John Everett Millais, William Turner, Cy Twombly, Lucien Freud What: gardening, nature, wallpaper, frescoes.

How has your practice evolved since then and what are you working on at the moment?

I became interested in fragments, from the realistic representation I moved towards abstract, and began to manipulate the images, play with forms, and transparency. The organically growing forms are now the major determinative element of the paintings. Currently I am working on a project that is about boat builders in Cornwall, I connect their working method with slow processes. I am also planning to hitchhike from the Bosporus to Falmouth on the sea, and travel with various sailing boats and tall ships, which I will then adapt into a series of paintings.

Where do you look for inspiration?

My inspiration is mainly from my everyday life, whatever I come across can influence my practice. The other source is my garden, where I spend the most of my time if I'm not in my studio. Nature is the major source of inspiration. And I'm fascinated with how nature grows and evolves.

Where did you grow up and where did you study? Did these places have an influence on your work?

I grew up in Budapest and the UK, but where the biggest influence I got was in Cornwall, Falmouth. That is where I did my MA in Fine Art at the University College Falmouth. Cornwall was absolutely determinative.

What draws you to portraiture and do you make any other work?

I'm not solely a portrait painter, I consider myself to be between realistic and figurative and abstract. I have always been fascinated with people, the differences, their little habits, and obsessions. I find it difficult not to have a figure in the painting, but when I paint someone it's more about the skin, the tones, the flesh, the colours of the veins through the translucent skin. Many of my other works are rather literary, and I use images from my travels, and experiences, just random things I see. Currently I am painting a giant bird with the Rodin Museum's interiors in the background from Paris.

How would you describe your work?

Realistic but abstract, figurative but non figurative, fragmented, meticulously detailed.

Could you tell us about your working method and process?

I use several layers of primer, then I use one layer of oil, which will be the base colour of the painting. The actual painting on the canvas is only one layer, I don't use several layers, my working method is focused on that one first layer. It enables me to have each fragments complete throughout the whole process of the painting, so halfway through I begin to see where to take the painting further.

What materials do you use?

I use oil on canvas, I deliberately decided not to use any other materials. I would like to be able to achieve any ideas, and projects with this one material. And not use different materials for different project. I love to work with oil and I will always be working with this substance.

Do the materials you use inform the work or vice versa?

I tend to work on an area until any brushstrokes are completely invisible. This is why I prime the canvas too, so that the texture of the canvas becomes invisible. I like to direct the focus on the colours and the forms, and I prefer to have any other things that would be distracting, such as brushstrokes or the canvas's texture vanished. It's not that I don't love the texture, it's a different focus, if I was an abstract painter I would of course focus on the brushstrokes. However I enjoy looking at different textures.

What are the vitals tools in your studio?

Brushes, paints, turpentine, canvases, stretchers, lamp, window and a clear studio space.

Which colours are essential in your palette and why?

Every colour is essential, but my favourite colours are Cobalt Turquoise Light, Magenta, Naples Yellow Light, Winsor Emerald, Kings Blue Light, and so on. I use Winsor & Newton and Michael Harding paints, the oils are absolutely beautiful, they are so rich and clear colours, and love using these materials.

Find more of Agnes Toth's work at

Image: Drummond Money-Coutts – The Magician by Agnes Toth, 2013 © Agnes Toth

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