Atau Hámos in front of Jung Von Matt Academy
Photo: Luke Betts

Has Hungarian origins, is Berlin-based and has his first solo exhibition in Malta − interview with Atau Hámos

Atau Hámos is a 24 years old tape artist with Hungarian origins (his father is the acknowledged video artist, Gusztáv Hámos) who grew up in Berlin. Currently he is working on his first solo exhibition, opening in June in Malta. Haven’t heard of tape art yet? Never mind, in our interview we also reveal this unique art form.

You can find the interview in Hungarian here: Interjú a fiatal kortárs képzőművésszel, Atau Hámossal

To be honest, I didn’t know a lot about tape art (creating room and space installations with colorful tapes − the editor) before I came across your work. How did you meet with this unusual art form?

Since both of my parents are artists, I actually never wanted to be one. I always did a lot of sports and wanted to joinsome kind of special force of the military. I had already applied, but my parents and my ex-girlfriend kept asking me: are you sure you want to do this? Then I said

alright, I have two more weeks until the start of my military service and if I find anything else in this time that is more fun, then I will do that.

And then I just googled “art collective Berlin”, and Tape That came up. I started an internship for 3 months there and then stayed working with them for 2 more years. It was a really cool time, we flew to over 20 countries, including Japan, Taiwan, Kyrgyzstan, Kosovo, Lithuania, Denmark, England, France. Then the coronavirus canceled everything, and I decided to do my own thing.

Atau H\u00e1mos, Natural Born Digital, Karlsruhe, Germany 2022

Atau Hámos, Natural Born Digital, Karlsruhe, Germany 2022

Photo: Luke Betts

You continue to travel: you will have your first solo exhibition right in Malta in 2B Gallery this June.

Tape art is still a young medium, it's not taken too seriously by fine art collectors.

For a long time tape was like graffiti: it’s cool, but no one really knows where it fits.

It is strongly connected with workshops, events and collaborations with brands that are not typical for art. It grew quite fast, but still has not arrived to the real art scene. I want to change that, so I teamed up with an art dealer from London and she made contact with the gallery in Malta. It’s a quite new venue, I will be the second artist exhibiting there. I can create freely, I won’t be limited.

Are you going to the gallery and create site-specific works or will you also take some pre-prepared installations with you?

I want to do a different kind of exhibition style than just hanging out works – I would like to work with the rooms, the spaces there. My first thought was that I will do a room installation and implement works inside of it, that people can buy and take home.

First I encountered your work in Székesfehérvár at a group exhibition of top_OS csop_Ort titled Community | Building. It was a joint installation with your parents. Does this happen often, that you cooperate with them?

This was the first time that we did an artwork together. They are media artists, creating in the field of film and photography, and I mainly do spatial or room installations. In the past four years, I worked a lot with different brands and institutions.

Here Comes the Sun installation, Schule am Weinweg, Karlsruhe, Germany 2023

Here Comes the Sun installation, Schule am Weinweg, Karlsruhe, Germany 2023

Photo: Luke Betts

How can we imagine this kind of cooperation?

It's not always easy to work in the field of commissioned art. Sometimes the clients have strict ideas, but with the corporations that I have worked with so far, I had a lot of freedom.

The trick is: don't give your best plan right at the beginning, because usually they don't take the first idea.

Once we have an agreement, I try to create something that fits the space, but with my own aesthetics. My artworks are not museum artworks, because they are in rooms where people work, learn or live. I did a design for a school that specializes in learning methods for children who have problems with their vision. The challenge for this project was therefore to create a room installation that would be exciting for people with and without visual impairments. We needed good color contrasts and big structures there.

It’s basically a design approach and I really enjoy thinking about certain problems and trying to solve them. It’s usually a process to understand what is happening in the space.

At the same time, these vibrant colors and contrasts also seem to be your own style.

With tape it is really hard to do gradients and it always fascinated me to do things that are not easy to do. So I started to apply a crazy amount of different colors in order to make it a smooth gradient, and then the style developed further. Now I am more into taking the unnecessary stuff out. It is not easy to do circles or round shapes, but with cuts I can dissolve the straight lines. I like to question the tapes’ basic principles.

Very often, my starting points are structures and grids where I can zoom in and out: urban networks, pixels, nervous systems.

I often work intuitively, so surprises can happen. In the school I worked at, they had an acoustic ceiling and it had a lot of holes in it. I tried to stick the tape on it, but the next day I came in the tape was falling off. I had a stressful week of trying various stuff, researching chemicals. Recently someone asked me to design him a boat, so now I'm working with materials that can work with salt water.

To what extent can you bring your own ideas into and express yourself with this kind of art form?

I started two and a half years ago with my own label, and first I needed to make some money with it. But now I arrived at a point, that made me think: if it’s not about fulfilling my needs, what can I express with my art? The topic that interests me recently is the transformation from teenage years to adulthood.

In the past two years, I realized that I'm growing up. I think many people at my age would share the same feelings, the fear of the war in Europe, the fear of climate change, responsibility and showing emotions. I would like to visualize what it is like to grow up in these times.

EDGE installation, Jung Von Matt Academy, Hamburg, Germany 2021

EDGE installation, Jung Von Matt Academy, Hamburg, Germany 2021

Photo: Luke Betts

What was the longest project you worked on, and how long did it last?

The longest project was 9 weeks in Hamburg, with the second biggest marketing agency in Germany. They have their own creative school with six rooms and a terrace I designed. It was really exhausting, I worked with only one assistant.

But I think sometimes you need to go over your limits, when you want to create something really special.

I enjoy working hard, creating big installations, but after an intensive work of 7-8 weeks I am done, and I need 2 to 3 weeks to get myself back together again. But I think the process of suffering and going through it connects you with your art. I know how much pain and how much energy went into the creation, so for me every installation has a high value, because I risked my own health for it. I never do things by halves, either I go all the way down or I just don't do it.

Is this maximalism coming from your parents?

I grew up with them working from home all the time, so this can be a reason that, for me, work is different than for other people.

Now I have my studio in my bedroom, so I sleep next to my work.

I am deeply connected to what I do, I don't have any other hobbies, except doing sports.

But as I have seen you also do workshops and team building activities. So even if your work is rather solitary, you share it with a community of people.

I'm giving workshops in an educational center for children and youth on a regular basis. I enjoy working with kids and teenagers – I find their creativity fascinating, and I am amazed that they are not afraid of failing. Sharing my knowledge and giving something back to the city I’ve got so much from is important for me.

PORTAL installation, Jung Von Matt Academy, Hamburg, Germany 2021

PORTAL installation, Jung Von Matt Academy, Hamburg, Germany 2021

Photo: Luke Betts

What can we know about your connections to Hungary? Are they still live?

My dad's from Budapest, he escaped from Hungary when the Iron Curtain was still there: he traveled to West Germany and then just didn't go back. When I was younger, I visited my grandmother in Budapest 2 or 3 times every year.

She made the best krumplileves, and I remember Túró Rudi as well.

But she is no longer alive, so the part of the family that remained there is small now. My dad didn't speak Hungarian with us when we were small, but I feel connected to the country.

I guess now the exhibition is in your primary focus, but what other plans do you have for the future?

It is hard to plan in my lifestyle where you don’t know what's happening on a given day. Maybe I will get a call and in two months, I am doing a 3-month project in Ireland. But I would really love to work with some sort of a team or collective: it would be great to create by myself, but also with other people, together. It is hard to find people at my age who are really committed. They rather study or travel the world, and do not invest so much time in creating something.

The long-term plan for me is to learn, how to express myself through my art.

Your vibrant work is full of energy, movement. Am I right that you would like to make an impact on the viewers?

I'm quite an optimistic person, even if I had some struggles along the way, probably as most people. I didn't get my final exam, I didn't go to university, I went right into work.

I create stuff that is bigger than me, so I can step into it, I can walk around it.

It also speaks about pushing through different difficulties: I was able to find my way to deal with struggles and hard times. I would like to encourage everyone to face their struggles and fears, even though it might seem impossible to overcome them. Take your life into your own hands, and do something that you really enjoy! It is especially true to Berlin: it's a good playground to develop yourself, and to not to be judged by other people. Here you can also feel a sense of openness, new ideas and new concepts.

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