Anna Farkas

From Roots to Wings – Interview with Anna Farkas

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Recently I had a class reunion meeting in Hungary with my high school friends. There are about 20 of us having the urge to see each other on a regular basis, so we meet once in a while, but at least once a year even though we live in different parts of the world, have families, are busy with our jobs … I was trying to understand why this is so important to us and I came to the conclusion that we still seem to have very similar core values and motivations like respecting others in their nature as humans, accepting them as they are, helping those in need, giving our best at what we do and trying to create a better world around us. We are undoubtedly part of the history of each other and we did something very fundamental: contributed to and became part of the roots of each other.

Anna Farkas, Hungarian graphic designer, was also influenced by her former classmates to a certain extent for sure. But the fact that she grew up in an artistic environment probably had an even greater impact on her life and career. The work of her grandma, graphic artist and illustrator Anna F. Györffy, is well known in Hungary. One of her children’s books, Mosó Masa Mosodája (Washing Masa´s Laundry), belongs to the very basic library of each family there. Little Anna had spent much time at the house of her grandparents in Szentendre, a famous artist village near Budapest. In this way she had an early and thorough insight into the life of artists, a life between inspiration, creation, freedom, and sometimes also deadlines. Today as a multiple Red Dot Design Award Winner – an international product and communication design award by the Design Zentrum Nordrhein-Westfalen in Essen, Germany to honour the best design innovations –  and winner of several other renowned prizes, Anna admits that her artistic development was significantly influenced by her family. Not only that she grew up in an artistic environment with all the sense for beauty and the respect for self-expression, she also had a quasi “carte blanche” to work out for herself who she wanted to be. No obligatory constraints, no wrongly understood parental authority, no knowing-better-what’s-good-for-you mentality. She was simply allowed to try and fail as well as to try and succeed. “We had and have many artists in the family. It was in the air that this is a different kind of world. There were different answers to questions than usual. We were for sure an “extreme” family, not an orderly and regulated middle-class, but a creative and free one. This still has a huge impact on me.”


Anna Farkas won the 2015 reddot Award for her Anaptar Calendar


Thanks to this open family spirit she realized early what the best way for her was to make her inner world visible to others. “Seeing my grandma I knew from the beginning that I will do something artistic once I grow up. I never wanted to do anything different. I always wanted to create”, she recalls. However, the right direction still needed to be found. I realized that – in my opinion – I am not able to create a painting in an autonomous way. It was clear to me that I need a kind of direction, a problem or a question I can solve. After a while it was obvious that graphic design was the best fit for me.” She loves to have a challenge coming from the outside which she can accomplish by artistic means.

Maybe applied arts can make it tangible for us how to approach ordinary problems differently. If you want to see an artistic answer to a practical challenge, just have a look at Anna’s Starry Light by Anagraphic lamps. “The lamp was also a solution to a problem. 2010 in connection with the Budapest Design Week there was an initiative to invite 25 graphic designers to decorate old industry lampshades. This was the task. The readymade lampshades were auctioned for charitable purposes. It is typical for me that I try to solve problems through unconventional approaches. One day I looked up to the sky and I thought that the ultimate lampshade is right above our heads, so I didn’t paint or draw but simply drilled the starry sky into the lamp.”


Starry Light by Anagraphic, Anna’s Design Company in Budapest, Hungary


Asking Anna about the process of artistic creation once there is a task, she says that the first feeling is always fear and suffering. “My goodness, I will not be able to solve this. I don’t have any ideas, since I have already done this and that. So what should I do? I better give up. But then I start working, I do the research, get used to the topic and the ideas come along with this.” After a deep creational phase, basically during executing the ideas, she once in a while finds her work even boring at some instance. “Because I have seen it so many times.” Nevertheless, she also finds the time to reflect and be proud of her work in her own way. She basically won all prizes you can win as a graphic designer in Hungary. Still, success is a special topic for her. Even though she was assigned the Red Dot Award for two of her works, she defines success as a feeling of artistic satisfaction. All the external recognition can even be a burden, since there are certain expectations connected to them. This can be perceived as a kind of limitation of artistic creation, but also as an engine for inner motivation to create even better. “I always think that next time I even need to outperform myself, otherwise it makes no sense. This is a big burden. But, actually, I do not mind having this traits this brings me further. Just imagine I would not want something better, reach higher or go further. It would be the end. It would be a standstill.”

And what if more and more people would let the inner artist out and find their wings? “Well, as a result of the catharsis which is at the end of the creational process I always have an incredible feeling of joy. This is my adrenalin. If more people could experience this, I guess we had a more balanced society. If people could release this feeling in themselves and experience joy through a kind of catharsis, we would have less stress and hatred in life.”

I believe that artistic self-expression is not a privilege of the most talented, but an asset we can all get back to. Well, as Pina Bausch, famous German dancer, put it once into words: “Dance, dance, otherwise we are lost”. This means to me that we all need our own catharsis, flow or dance. As humans we cannot afford being without it. So folks, music on, canvas out, curtain up. Create – no matter what. Be courageous and find your way.


Anna’s 2015 Anaptar Calendar in all of its beauty

Picture Source: Anna Farkas. Find more from Anna at Anagraphic  and Starry Light

Translation from Hungarian: Aniko Hanke/Hendrik Achenbach


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