Our Canadian Panorama Club President, Artist Imre Székely
Visual artist Imre Szekely, whose works are on display around the globe, serves as president of the Canadian branch of the Panorama Club, an international Hungarian organization.
In November 2013, the Panorama Club opened its 111th member organization in Victoria, British Columbia. Imre was asked by Panorama’s founder, Laszlo Tanka, to serve as president of the new group, along with his wife, Jennifer Penalosa, who is the vice-president.
Imre is a graphic artist who has lived in Victoria, the capital of British Columbia, situated on beautiful Vancouver Island by the Pacific Ocean, for 32 years.
Let’s get to know him. Here’s what he has to say about himself:
I am a very spiritual, devout and religious person. For me, the most important things are peace and respect for each person (those deserving of respect.) Most people desire peace and harmony. The true artist shares these desires.
With my creations, I also try to support people who have done a lot for humanity and worthy causes. This gives me more satisfaction – and creative inspiration – than all the money in the world.
Coming from a Communist country where freedom of expression was suppressed, I appreciate a free country, such as Canada. Here my free thoughts – not to mention my heart and soul – have flourished with love, respect and the peaceful co-existence of people from different backgrounds. I found a new direction and a whole new life, which I could subsequently provide for five family members who joined me here. When I arrived at the Trairschkirchen Refugee Camp in Austria in 1987, I didn’t think it would last one year until the Canadian Government sponsored me.
My work, which combines shapes and lines in the two techniques I use, brought a new style to my motifs: hyper-surrealism, providing me me greater experience and freedom of interpretation. Hyper-surrealism originated with Andre Breton’s Surrealist movement in the 1920s. It reached a hyper or excessive level in the 1970s.
As a poet and writer, Breton felt that freeing his mind from the past allowed him to reach the truth through dreams or the unconscious. This can be applied to other arts as well. This process takes me into a deeper expression of my inner mental, emotional and spiritual world. This art genre challenges me to go beyond mere technical skill to a deeper level of imagination and a higher vision.
Hyper-surrealism, a term coined by Iranian-American artist Leila Zafar in New York City, in art refers to a detailed – or rough-and ready – composition or painting, which lends itself well to the monotype method that I employ as well. The combination of the theme, the colours and the artistic technique used with it allows the expression of the final work.
I share my present art studio in downtown Victoria with Adam, my 44-year-old son, who is a DJ and radio show host in his spare time. Thus, I have the ideal environment for an artist as one of the most difficult tasks in the world is to create something out of nothing.
A composition begins with grasping the subject, then conveying it to my mind, to my senses. Since one of my main art techniques is linocut – which I learned from my drawing teacher Imre Krausz in Győr – I first adjust my creative thoughts to this. In Győr, I attended István Tóth’s private art school. Tóth was a two-time Munkácsy Award-winning painter.
After that, I taught Hungarian and art at home. I also taught art in the Netherlands and Austria, combined with professional presentations. Here in Canada, I taught the Hungarian language and drawing in weekend Hungarian Schools in Winnipeg, Toronto and Victoria.
I draw the sketch on a piece of paper. When the composition starts to come together, I draw it on the linoleum and carve it out. There is no room for error here, because it is no longer possible to correct it – as it is a negative / mirror / pattern – since, after pressing, the positive image appears on the special offset paper. Carving lino is a very technical and practical job, it requires great dexterity! A combination of razor-thin fine lines and large carved surfaces.
My special technique for creating another image is to print the different coloured lino on the background rolled with the primary colours on the originally white offset, special printing paper. When it dries, I turn the paper over. On a sheet of glass, it is then rolled evenly with black printing ink. I place only the part where it picks up the black ink, drawing a line with a pencil on the part where it comes into contact, thus leaving a mark, line or spot. So, using the triple graphic technique, each finished image is considered a unique creation!
Only the lino print may be the same, yet the coloured background and the black monotype lines and figures are different! Most recently, I created one of my colourful large-scale works for Katalin Karikó – as a token of my thanks and respect for her and her scientific colleague for providing the mRNA-based Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
The title of the artwork I created for her is: Hope by a Persevering Genius, for which she thanked me very much in advance and wrote that she would considers it an honour to have this work dedicated to her. I hope that I will be able to hand over the picture to her personally.
I, too, consider this a great experience and one of the milestones in my artistic career, knowing that she has this art work in her possession. Of the two main elements in the picture, the colour of the first lino is green, as it is the colour of hope. The colour of the second lino is blue, because it is the symbolic colour of genius and knowledge. This work is worthy of Dr. Karikó’s excellent personality. I am proud that she is also Hungarian!
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, I created an artwork which I offered to the Director-General of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. I managed to find a connection with him; he saw a photo of the picture and liked it very much. I wanted to personally deliver the picture to Geneva, but because of the travel restrictions and the two-week quarantine introduced in both Canada and Switzerland at the time, I was unable to do so. However, I also invited the Hungarian Embassy in Switzerland and the Swiss co-chairman of the Panoráma World Club to this ceremony. The title of the picture: Satan Sneers.
I would like to mention that the Canadian Inspired magazine also wrote an article about me, published in January 2021. So far, the online version of this excellent interview has been downloaded by 1,485 people. The photos were taken by my friend Kor Gable, aka Zoltán Nagy, a photo and video artist. CREATIVITY DOES NOT RETIRE | INSPIRED 55+ Lifestyle Magazine (seniorlivingmag.com)
During my artistic career, my biggest work is Abba Pater. Pope John Paul II received it from me at a personal audience in the Vatican. The Holy Father gave me his personal Apostolic blessing and wrote in his letter of thanks that he was praying for me. I have been influenced by that moment ever since.
Because Canada welcomed the people fleeing from home and their family members with good heart in 1956 – and later me and my family – I created a large colourful picture with the title: Canada Past, Present and Future. I donated this work to Canada, and the prime minister at the time, the Honorable Jean Chrétien, received it from me in the parliamentary staff room in Ottawa, in the presence of, among others, the Hungarian ambassador. The picture is in the National Gallery.
I donated a picture to the current prime minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, when he was here in Victoria. I also invited him to my studio.
I didn’t forget about my country, either, as I donated my linocut entitled Conquest to the Hungarian Parliament, for which they thanked me very much. In addition, in 2010, I had an independent graphic exhibition in Pécs, when the city served as the European Capital of Culture. Here I received the honorary title “Ambassador of Culture,” for which I am very grateful!
One of my works is Homage to Pécs which I presented to the mayor the city, and I donated the certified copy of this picture to the University of Pécs. At the close of my exhibition, I donated 31 pieces to a local art foundation, so that the artists would be supported. I donated my Szent István work to my hometown of Győr at the town hall in the presence of the mayor. I presented my work Waiting for Jesus to the Győr Cathedral, which the county bishop accepted from me in the presence of the media. This work of mine is in the Diocesan Treasury in Győr.
I also gave one of my famous works to the Canadian Embassy in Manila, for which they kindly thanked me. I have donated works as well to the Hungarian Embassy in Ottawa and the Consulate General in Vancouver.
Here in Victoria, there is my creation Homage to Victoria at the City Hall. The mayor and city leaders thanked me very nicely in a polite letter. The picture is displayed in an elegant place in the building. There are also several articles about me in the colourful magazines of the Panoráma World Club, in their publication, “Magyarok a Nagyvilágban” or “Hungarians Around the World.”
I am also among the most famous Hungarians in the big, colourful world books entitled Portrait Gallery of American Hungarians and Hungarian America. I am also very happy about that. There are many more newspapers and magazines which have articles about me in several languages. They can also be seen here on my website.
I love animals, nature and the ocean. I try to promote the well-being of humanity in my life and my works! But my latest colourful large-scale work was also created with me by life, actuality. Its title: Premonition of World War III (46 x 100 cm), a work made with a combination of paper engraving, linocut and monotype, in a hyper-surrealist style. I will probably donate it to the Secretary General of the United Nations, António Gutteres, for his efforts to try to prevent the outbreak of World War III, which would be the first atomic burning of the Earth, according to Albert Einstein’s prediction.