Krisztina Erdei’s documentary-style photographs evoke a constellation of qualities or moods. They are certainly quirky and humorous but often also insolent, stirring, poetic or simply bewildering. Signs of westernisation and globalisation are everywhere in her work, which spans numerous communities across the Ukraine, Lithuania, Kosovo and her native Hungary. Investigating the spirit of the contemporary, her work also resonates with ghosts of the past, providing a glimpse into the shifting circumstances of this part of the world. For the 19th Biennale of Sydney: You Imagine What You Desire, Erdei will present a selection of ten large-scale photographs, taken over the last decade, at the Art Gallery of NSW.
A graduate of philosophy and political studies, Erdei’s social curiosity informs her wide choice of subject matter – an incredible cast of people, places and things populate her frame. Throughout her work there is a sense of the private made public, but with a humility and familiarity that remains distinct from pure voyeurism. Erdei’s work celebrates the unexpected and the incongruous; as a practitioner, she captures the humour and absurdity in the everyday. What are we to make of this mountain of crucifixes or the juxtaposition of a roadside llama, a box of peaches and a small boy with wings?
Digital photography is deeply imbedded in our contemporary engagement with visual culture, affecting the way we produce and digest images. Erdei spent time working in a photography lab developing prints in mass quantities, and her practice is both indicative of and a response to this status quo of speed and disposability. Her talent lies in creating a feeling of the stumbled upon or the lucky snapshot. Her aesthetic resonates with the charm of a spontaneous spirit. What we see is not the action of a refined, meticulous hand, but a visceral, almost clumsy, haphazard look through the viewfinder. Indeed, the artist talks of the camera as an extension of her body.
Erdei is a founding member of the Lumen Photography Foundation, created in 2002 to nurture an experimental, international platform for photographic art in Hungary. She has exhibited extensively all over the world. Her solo exhibitions include ‘Antiglamour’, Godot Galéria, Budapest (2011); ‘Lack’, VízuM – Contemporary Art Institute of Miskolc (2010); and ‘Formalities’, Le Volume, Vern-sur-Seiche (2009). Erdei’s work has been included in group exhibitions at La Fabrique, Montrouge (2012); Contretype, Brussels (2011); Museum of Contemporary Art, Shanghai (2010); Prague Biennale 4 (2009); and Korean Foundation Cultural Center, Seoul (2007). In 2010, she was shortlisted for the 7th BMW–Paris Photo Prize.