I always try – oh so hard – not to indulge in nostalgia. I’ve been invested in making a home for myself in the UK, away from my native Hungary and away from America where I lived for half a decade. I felt at home in Boston and New York, but my years in London have been different: it’s been love.
In London, I’ve become an artist, gone to school, felt welcome. Here, unlike in Hungary, I’ve been able to live and work without worrying about politics every day. And unlike in America, I’ve been able to settle without a visa thanks to my EU rights, which was a privilege I’ve never taken lightly.
I thought London would be for life or, when I wanted to be more cautious, for the foreseeable future. Little did I know that the foreseeable future would end on 23rd June 2016, to be replaced by uncertainty, anxiety and a fair amount of pre-Brexit nostalgia.
But nostalgia makes me uncomfortable. I usually try to ignore it. In my paintings of my childhood home in Hungary (included in BNC 2016), I paint against it by considering familiarity versus alienation, and feelings of belonging versus the impossibility of return. I try to make paintings of domestic interiors that are calm and collected, decidedly un-nostalgic.
Yet with Brexit, this newest incarnation of nostalgia is here to stay, so I’ve made my peace with it. I like the writings of philosopher Jeff Malpas on nostalgia being “a form not of escapism but of return; not a restoration of the past but a reflective appropriation of ... temporality.” And that’s kind of positive, isn’t it? I can live with that.