Mother and son breathe new life into beasts and gardens

Anna Torma and David Zsako display their nature-inspired works at the University of New Brunswick Art Centre in the Beasts and Gardens exhibit. (Caitlin Dutt/AQ)

Mothers often see their children’s drawings as works of art that hang on the fridge. But Hungarian artist Anna Torma, took her children’s doodles to the next level by transforming them into art-ready pieces to hang on the walls of art galleries.

While still in Hungary in the 1980s, Torma started to embroider her sons’ designs onto wallhangings.

“My first embroideries were their drawings and then our collaboration immediately began … we began to work as a group of artists.”

When the two boys were four and eight, the family immigrated to New Brunswick and brought their drawings with them.

One is David Zsako, a Halifax-based multidisciplinary artist who has exhibited throughout Canada. The other, now 40, is Balint Zsako, a New York-based artist who has exhibited his works at several New York galleries.

Anna Torma’s work features her children’s drawings embroidered on wallhangings. (Caitlin Dutt/AQ)

Now, Torma and her son David Zsako, are excited to be displaying their art at the University of New Brunswick Art Centre in a new exhibition called Beasts and Gardens.

It’s the first time the mother and son are exhibiting their art in the same building, even if it’s in two different rooms.

“It’s a big step ahead,” said Torma. “It’s two separate [exhibits] but spiritually it’s really strongly connected.”

Zsako uses photos of natural objects, snake skins, plants and even animal skulls to create a kaleidoscopic new image that seems to metamorphosize at every glance. The once alive pieces of nature are reborn into something new. They form birds, beasts and horror stories.

“In a sense I’m taking everything from my picture and breathing new life back into these creatures and plants. In a sense I’m immortalizing them,” he said.

Torma’s work is the lighter version of Zsako’s interpretation of nature. Torma’s embroidered creations take a step back and look at multiple creatures on the canvas. Half of the designs feature scattered cartoon-like beasts and naked people thrown on the backdrop along with some of her sons’ imaginative drawings. The other half feature intertwining collages of flowers.

In a way, their art is like yin and yang. Most of the tapestries feature her stitches are white or a light colour. It’s the opposite of her son’s black backgrounds. But both feature manifestations of beasts, flowers, vines or parts of creatures.

David Zsako uses natural objects in his art to create creatures such as this one. (Caitlin Dutt/AQ)

Torma said she finds a celebration and warning in her artwork. She loves nature and feels connected to the land, but knows the environment is at risk. She said it shows through her beasts.

“It’s an awareness of the whole tendency where we are not careful with our environment. It’s not a wise era for us.”

The exhibition will be on display until March 1.

Torma said the exhibit is a chance to look at nature in a new light and through the eyes of a mother and son.

“We’ve been through lots of things in our life together but he is now a nice separate identity personally and artistically. But we have strong bond by artistic taste … so I very welcome this opportunity for both of us.”