- Kiss Again: Paintings and Ceramics by Zoltan Kiss, Sept. 11-30 at West Vancouver's Ferry Building Gallery. Opening reception, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 6-8 p.m. Meet the artist, Saturday, Sept. 15, 2-3 p.m. Info: ferrybuildinggallery.com.
NO matter what sort of work Zoltan Kiss is creating - realistic or otherwise - at the heart of his paintings are architectural forms.
In tribute to the places he's been and representative of his accomplished professional career, the celebrated West Vancouver architect, painter, potter and writer's long-held passion for architecture continues to find its way into his works.
"The paintings are mainly about architecture and not how a certain city looks," he says, reached last week at his vacation home on Hornby Island. Kiss and his wife, Jytte, have had a home there for more than 40 years. He used to do all of his pottery on Hornby, though has gravitated more towards painting in recent years, doing the bulk of it in his West Vancouver home studio.
Kiss is an avid traveller, and often sketches when exploring both new and familiar places, taking liberties in his versions of the buildings around him.
"I simply eliminate the ugly parts and put the nice ones together so they're instantly rearranged," he says. "Then when I come home, I do another rearrangement and that's the painting. Whenever somebody asks me, 'Where is that?' I'll say, 'Well, it doesn't exist, but the idea came from Croatia' or what have you."
In recent years, Kiss has decided to move away from realism and instead experiment with abstraction.
"Instead of just doing abstract colours and shapes, I still keep architecture (in mind) because it has a lot of forms so I simply abstract the forms and I concentrate more on the colours and the connections," he says.
Kiss is referring to his new works as "Dream Towns."
"Each one of them is an individual memory. I'm not trying to create my own style. I just simply think about what I wanted to express of the feeling of a particular moment or day or what I admired. . . . Whatever I draw is an abstraction to start with. The colour sometimes is totally different from what the original is because I feel that it should have a colour harmony that I would like to see," he says.
Kiss is active in the local arts community and has a longstanding relationship with the Ferry Building Gallery. His latest show, Kiss Again, is his sixth at the West Vancouver space and will feature an array of his painting and ceramics. It's set to open with a reception Tuesday, Sept. 11 at 6 p.m. and a meet the artist event is being held Saturday, Sept. 15 at 2 p.m. Kiss is excited to see how audiences react to his new abstract works and is grateful for the support of the gallery over the years.
Kiss, 88, was in his final year of architectural studies in Budapest, Hungary in 1944 when he and his classmates and professors were forced to flee the country before Russian forces closed in during the Second World War. They subsequently spent half a year in Germany while it was collapsing.
"We managed to get in to Denmark just a week before the war ended," he says. "Because Europe was closed down for several years, I lived in Denmark for five years."
The stint proved fruitful as it was where he learned about pottery, as well met Jytte - "the girl next door." Their 60th wedding anniversary is approaching, he says.
In 1950, "the world opened up," and Kiss moved to Canada, having a sponsor in West Vancouver.
"I didn't come to Canada, I immigrated to West Vancouver and I never moved. I've been there for over 60 years," he says.
Kiss finished his architectural studies at the University of British Columbia in 1951 and went on to lead an accomplished and award-winning career, both as a member of a local firm and within his own practice. He was responsible for some large buildings at Simon Fraser University, including designing and building the Academic Quadrangle (according to design specifications outlined by Arthur Erickson and Geoffrey Massey) in the 1960s. His work on the project afforded an introduction to fellow North Shore artist Gordon Smith, whom he got to do some large mosaics, which are still there today.
Kiss chronicled his life in a 2005 autobiography, recounting in exciting detail his experiences over the years. Entitled Without a Blueprint: Surviving in a Changing World, copies are available at the Ferry Building Gallery.
As all of his creative and career pursuits exemplify, Kiss continues to push the boundaries of the mediums he's working in, keeping innovation, an approach he has no plans to abandon any time soon, clearly in his sights.
"I will just carry on to try to improve and do new things all the time, not to get stuck in any groove," he says.