Szakats’ work blends the traditional art forms of embroidery and tapestry weaving with photography, creating multifaceted, magical, and slightly eerie art pieces. Using mohair yarn, the Austrian artists, Szakats weaves and stitches every strand in a monotonous cycle to produce art that has a piece of herself in every piercing of the canvas. 
Taking inspiration from her presence in the fashion industry, Szakats chose to focus her work on textiles and the history of textiles. The merging of modern with traditional highlights the historical influence on Szakats’ work, in which she hopes to tell a story through images just like traditional medieval tapestries. Making time for her own artistic satisfaction rather than trying to keep up with the rush of the fashion industry and the ever-growing demands of being a designer, Szakats’ desire to slow down and pause time is reflected in her work; which can be seen as a freeze-frame of one of life’s moments, capturing the motions and emotions of human nature.
Your latest exhibition at Galerie Chloé Salgado is named My Only Desire. Is this “my” you personally? Or is this a separate being? Perhaps the viewer?
The title is actually borrowed from one of my favourite artworks, a 16th century series of tapestries, The Lady and the Unicorn of which the 6th tapestry is called Mon Seul Désir. The first five tapestries represent the five senses. The sixth and last which has the enigmatic title My Only Desire opens up a space for interpretation - precisely this question, what is meant by the only desire? Perhaps this one desire is to overcome all desires? Something that goes beyond sensual perception? This is a line of thought that is recurrent in my work. Using the title is an homage to this particular historical artwork, of which the maker(s) have remained anonymous. The title certainly is quite personal to me, but I would not relate it to any one specific or separate being.
How would you describe your artistic style? The Andrew Hodgson’s review of your exhibition describes it as “uncanny”, do you think your work is, in some way, unsettling? Or are you trying to project a completely different image?
I like the idea of the works being seen as “uncanny” or unsettling. I came to realise that the works function to a certain extent as Rorschach tests, as different people have had really different reactions towards them - ranging from cute to weird to actually being disgusted (in rare cases, and mostly related to the hairy texture). The unsettling feeling might also come from the fact that what someone perceives initially as charming or cute might then turn into something more undefinable after looking at it for some time.
The “human interior” is mentioned a few times in Hodgson’s review. Why have you chosen to depict the fractalised and scattered “human interior” and its disassociation with nature? How does your art style and form reflect this?
The fractalised form actually came from developing this embroidery technique that I started to work on about a year ago: what was initially thought to become a very large tapestry work, first required smaller studies of some of the motif elements. In the process of making the studies I realised that the small format actually helped to concentrate the attention, and made it more interesting to play with different placements when hanging the works together. It feels closer to the heart to work in this fractalised way - I am certainly not the only one to perceive myself in this confused and scattered way, given all the contradicting and conflicting aspects of my personality and desires.
Can you help untangle the narrative of Anne-Lou Vicent’s story? What does it mean and why is it relevant to your exhibition? Vicent mentions the “freeze frame”s of blurred memories, is this the feeling you are trying to evoke through your work? How do you want your audience to react?
Anne-Lou’s approach of writing accompanying texts for exhibitions is a very free and intuitive one. Whereas I relate a lot to the historicity of animal allegories in medieval tapestries, she looked at those reference works and translated their visual elements onto a hyper-contemporary level. She created the human figure that is absent from the works in my show and regrouped the fractalised elements into one person. The narrative - if there is one - is just of an instant, a brief look at this human female figure, how she questions her desires, and what has come of them.
When Anne-Lou speaks of a freeze-frame of blurred memories, I think this is how she sees the works and it makes sense to me; but I would not say that there is any specific reaction I am trying to evoke. Planning other people’s reactions does not seem that interesting to me.
The process of making your pieces is monotonous and intricate considering you have to puncture thousands of strands of yarn onto a canvas. Does this have an impact on your mentality? Does it even drive you crazy but are driven by the ever-fulfilling outcome?
Thank god it does not drive me crazy! Rather the opposite. The repetitive gesture helps me to quiet down the mind and to sink into a deep focus. It certainly is the same effect that countless numbers of people have experienced when working with their craft, or some gesture they have mastered. I have come to appreciate this practice as crucial to my personal wellbeing and consider it a necessity in my daily life.
What goes through your head when you are in the process of creating one of your pieces? Is there anything in specific that you think about to remain focused? And, is this thought what manages to keep you inspired after working for days, even weeks?
As I mentioned before, the repetitiveness of the gesture actually helps to stay focused. There is something about this interplay of using ones hands and concentration. I guess that’s why fidget spinners were invented?! I have also listened to endless hours of podcasts and audiobooks while working, but sometimes I work in silence. And then there is the obvious focus on the piece itself, constantly checking whether the motif and colours look right or if I need to change anything.
You were influenced by medieval tapestries if I’m not mistaken? Why does this time period stand out to you? Why did you want to revive this style and develop it into a more modern art form if the reason for its beauty is its association with the past?
Coming from a fashion design background, constantly working with this material, my attention automatically turned towards textile-related art. I was simply curious about the history of this medium. The period between the 11th and 16th century saw the highest evolution of tapestry craftsmanship. I am speaking of the European context, since textile craft has had a different evolution and timeline on other continents. Learning about it revealed so many interesting facts. I especially appreciate the enigmatic, somewhat mysterious quality of the story telling in tapestries. I would not say that it only relates to the past, because allegories are timeless. Perhaps it is precisely this timelessness that makes it possible to reformulate an expression in the same lineage whilst being anchored in the present.
You used to be a designer in the fashion industry. What was it about this world that wasn’t quite right that made you want to make and pursue your own woven path? Do you enjoy having control of your future, or do you find the passing of time and the influence of fate daunting?
After many years of working in the fashion industry I grew weary of the constant speeding up of production cycles. There is no more time to really develop anything in a profound and satisfying manner, it’s a constant chase of deadlines and lagging behind with work. There are just too many collections to be produced, and at some point it all felt somewhat void of sense to me. I had to make my production more personal to fill that void and did not feel that the fashion environment could provide a platform for this. Clothes as they are considered nowadays did not seem like the right medium to me - which does not mean that they cannot be the right medium for someone else, obviously!
I never know exactly where having control stops and the influence of fate begins, Both aspects influence each other and produce an outcome, which I accept and deal with. I have been extremely lucky all my life so I cannot complain!
Considering this is your first solo exhibition, do you think your next exhibition could be a collaboration? Who would you love to collaborate with?
Actually, I have done previous solo exhibitions in Vienna and in Paris, for example at Cité Internationale des Arts. I have also shown works together with very talented textile artist Abbey Muza last summer in Chicago, USA. We enjoyed the project and have been thinking about a second edition of a duo show, this time in Paris.
However, there is a difference between working collaboratively on pieces on the one hand, or showing them in a duo setting together on the other. It might be interesting to be more closely involved in developing works together, rather than just deciding how to install each ones individual works in one common space. This is something that would be interesting to try out some day. For now I just really enjoy being able to have a process on my own, without having to check in with anyone else - because I had to function as a team player in design teams for so many years.
Where do you think you’ll go next? Are you going to continue your artistic pursuits, or do you think you will focus more on your teaching at the École Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs?
Both sides are complementary - the teaching allows me to be somewhat financially stable and not be entirely dependent on selling works. I appreciate this freedom in my practice. There is a risk of getting pinned down on one type of work one makes some day and to be forced to keep making the same thing, because it works. That would be rather depressing and throw me back into the same vicious cycle I have experienced in the fashion industry.
Teaching is also quite fulfilling and helps to stay connected to a community. If I just stayed in my studio 7 days a week and spent 10 hours a day embroidering, my mind might drift away!
Artistic work is the main focus in my life, so at the end of the day I arrange everything else around it.