“If you put me in a room for months, without any real human interaction, I think I would be fine with it,” confides Eszter. “That’s probably because of how my brain works. I’m not able to get bored - as a massive overthinker, my brain never stops.” Judging by Eszter Magyar’s ability to juggle four Instagram accounts, a professional makeup artist career, personal creative work, a burgeoning line in merchandise - T-shirts, posters and a colouring book, no less - and ceaseless interviews, “never stops” couldn’t even begin to cut it. Describing herself as a “makeup artist” and “makeup activist”, Eszter Magyar has steadily gained prominence in both the beauty and art worlds for her sensational creative work. Boasting 106,000 followers and counting, @makeupbrutalism is Magyar’s most followed account, hosting a vast range of unconventional makeup looks.

Eszter Magyar

A glimpse at @makeupbrutalism and you’ll understand why her following has soared from 37,000 to 106,000 in just seven months. Her work is gripping: a parted mouth with gold wetness covering the lips; brightly coloured ‘gloop’ spilling into a stretched eye; facial features superimposed onto fish skin. Clearly, not your quotidien beauty look. A recurring theme in her work is the manipulation and playfulness that one often finds in surrealist art. Magritte’s play with perception in The Treachery of Images (1929), (“Ceci n’est pas une pipe” / “This is not a pipe”), is recalled by Eszter’s own “This is not makeup”. Likewise, the eye being touched and manipulated so casually as a central subject in her work has the effect of Buñuel’s and Dali’s silent surrealist masterpiece Un Chien Andalou (1929), where the tortured eye is almost as seductive as it is repulsive - it’s impossible to look away.

Eszter Magyar

Magyar grew up in Budapest, Hungary, but moved to Berlin in 2013 to study makeup. Returning to Budapest after a year, she then relocated again to Berlin last October, and worked in India for some time between these transitions. However, just a few weeks ago, she made “the now or never” career decision to move to London, where she is currently residing with her wife and three cats. Our conversation took place days after her arrival.

Eszter Magyar

Georgina Buckle: Welcome to London! What are you hoping the city will bring for you?

Eszter Magyar: I feel like if there’s a place where people will appreciate my work, it’s London. The whole city is eclectic in every possible way - so brave and so different - it gives a lot of energy. I’m overly motivated at the moment to level-up, to dig deeper and produce even more conceptual works, to grow, to be bolder, louder, braver.

GB: Is there anyone you’d love to collaborate with?

EM: If I’m honest, I really enjoy working alone. Creating is such an intimate act. There was a time as a makeup artist when I felt I was on the bottom of the hierarchy, that my work wasn’t appreciated. Makeupbrutalism was a gasp fresh of air because I have all the control - it’s all about my creative vision. It would be hard to let anybody into this circle. But I would be more than happy to launch some makeup products, which would follow the grain of makeupbrutalism. Or even doing art exhibitions with painters or florists, based around how we mutually impact on each other - that could be interesting too.

GB: How do you feel about the creative direction you’re headed in?

EM: I really enjoy the path I stepped on. It was such a huge surprise for me that people are interested in what I do - it makes me wanna dig deeper. My main goal is to lose “makeup” from “makeup artist” and find my place in this world. I have so many dreams, plans and ideas - the only thing left is to make them come true! The idea is to become an artist, not only called one.

GB: Do you find that people in the creative industry treat you differently because your primary work involves makeup?

EM: I don’t think people in the creative industry find me important enough to care. In my mind “art scene” is an elitist concept that is not compatible with Instagram “fame” and/or doing makeup. But as an othersider I can only guess to be honest.

With Eszter’s prolific creations, a rapidly rising Instagram following and her work being increasingly picked up by magazines notorious within the arts industry (Dazed, i-D, Nylon, Coeval, to name but a few), it would be a huge mistake for anyone to deem her ‘unimportant’. Certainly, it’s impossible to ignore Eszter’s eye circles, a signature feature of @makeupbrutalism since its conception in 2018. Visualise an electrifying mix of colourful viscous gel spilling from lid to eyeball; food, fluff, plastic toys, and dried up contacts daubed casually onto the eye like eyeshadow; widened eyes photoshopped intimately onto other body parts - a gaping mouth, front teeth, a hand. It’s visually offensive and immensely attractive in equal measure. These tantalise you into eagerly scrolling through her page, but have also garnered mixed reactions.

Eszter Magyar
Eszter Magyar

GB: Part of what is so captivating about your close-up eye circles is that they are so isolated - a dissociation from the body: they hide as much as they reveal. Do you seek to reveal or conceal with your work?

EM: Reveal. Reveal everything. These little details can show even more than the greater whole, more than you would see if you would look at everything at once. That’s probably too much to handle anyways.

GB: For whom?

EM: For me. But maybe I’m just too in love with details.

GB: With regards to how you’ve described some of your work - like the eye circles - and your choice of words in naming @uglymakeuprevolution, why do you choose to embrace ‘ugly’?

EM: When I was naming @uglymakeuprevolution, it was gaslighting. An action-reaction to the haters. What I really meant was IRREGULAR but Ugly is a much stronger word, it makes people watch and listen. Sometimes I think people aren’t attached to their own taste, because it’s not truly theirs anymore. We are living in the crossfire of so many influences which try to operate us, lead us to certain directions, that makes it really hard to truly find ourselves and what we like or adore. I’m lucky, because from a very early age it was a priority for my family to show me the world, the most influential and important artworks, cities, places. Art became a part of me (as a receiver) pretty naturally, pretty soon. That was a good base to build my own aesthetic sense which shapes itself everyday still and probably will in the future too. I believe in Impact, not in the duality of beautiful and ugly. I believe in character, not in perfection.

GB: Is it then accurate to say that you are trying to rebel against the norm? Rebel against the popular “influences which try to operate us”?

Eszter Magyar

EM: That’s a good question. Sometimes I feel like I only want to create a safe space where there is room for everything, that options are great and I don’t want to force anyone to choose… Sometimes I think the word “rebelling” has such a harsh effect - like people rebel because of the act of rebelling, and I would rather make a stand on something than against something else… and there are days when I feel the norms of today are so unhealthy it would be better for humankind to try to just rid them all. I think I’m not agreeing with myself on this question.

We moved on to discuss Magyar’s other three Instagram accounts, which are her primary platforms for sharing and curating her work to an audience. This is how I encountered Eszter’s other art media, such as urban landscape photography which features heavily on her personal @magyareszter.

GB: Instagram is certainly heavily curated. Would you say you spotlight certain aspects of your persona and filter others?

EM: What you see there, those are only parts of me. Those are true but not the whole picture. Humans are such a greater package and you cannot limit anyone to short texts and pictures. Of course, it all speaks about us, what we choose to upload, what we find interesting. And I’m not afraid of being honest - even if it is a little bit dangerous. Words are dangerous especially when the giver and the taker, the two sides of the communication, were not raised in the same reality. Words have different meanings in different countries and it can lead to great misconceptions.

GB: Do you see yourself as an influencer?

EM: Even though I have 4 Instagrams and people know a lot about me, there are certain things which are hidden because these have nothing to do with how I present myself as an artist. No-one knows I’m messy, no-one knows I sing all the time, no-one knows about my love of water, and that I’m not forgiving, because these things do not add to my artistic views and are not in relation with the end product. That’s me as a person, and not me “as the makeupbrutalism concept”. Me, as a living person, is not important in this process - I’m not an influencer.

Eszter Magyar

GB: I’m intrigued by your previous mention of how the meaning of words “can lead to great misconceptions”. Could you elaborate?

EM: Without the ability of communication, you are not understandable. Without being understandable, I would be not here talking to you. I never learned English in school and maybe that’s why I feel so limited when I speak English. Sometimes I forget words, my brain freezes and I just stand there, without words, without a meaning, without anything. The same with German. These experiences caused a kind of language phobia in me. The next level is when your limited vocabulary is attacked by people telling you not to use certain words because these are inappropriate. I thought a lot about it - where are the boundaries with words? Who has the power to forbid words for others?

Eszter references a specific time on Instagram when she used a word that is commonplace in Hungarian. Unbeknownst to her, the same word is deemed offensive in the English language, and she consequently experienced a cutting backlash.

EM: 300 people unfollowed me and told me I’m the biggest disappointment ever. In their realities I said something unforgivable, but in my reality I just used a word. When the realities do not match, there will be miscommunication, misunderstandings. Languages are like loaded weapons.

Eszter Magyar

GB: Speaking of words, I noticed you create a lot of work that involves writing, either words written on the face, or superimposed graphic text.

EM: I’m a big fan of Hungarian poetry, and have always written a lot myself too. Out of all the things I enjoy doing writing is the most significant. That is the most comfortable one for my personality, the one that fits me the most. So I guess this is where the love for text art/conceptual text arts came from!

It’s evident from @makeupbrutalism that Eszter is a keen photographer: the visual composition of her work (and play with perception) suggests that it’s not just about what she creates, but how it is captured. But viewing her personal account, this avidness for photography becomes palpable.

GB: I find many echoes between your street photography on @magyareszter and the content on @makeupbrutalism. Your photos seem very much about finding fragments of shape and colour hidden in plain sight. Photographically isolating things that we see everyday, to reveal their beauty. Is that an accurate understanding of your photography?

EM: Absolutely. I love to capture the silent moments, it keeps me in balance, makes me feel calm. Organising and editing pictures is one of the most relaxing things to do, ever. It is really interesting how everything I love to do requires loneliness, my own uninterrupted space. These are all like therapy. And as with makeup or writing, it’s a cool journey to know and learn about ourselves more - what we love, what we find important. Even without inspiration I just sit down and do things, because I noticed my subconscious can reveal a lot about me unintentionally, which I can then use later in any field of my work.

Eszter Magyar

GB: What single image would you use to encapsulate what you do?

EM: “This is not makeup” eye close up. It summed up everything I found important. Makeup, concept, sarcasm, writing, text art, conceptualism, rebellion, inspiration, communication, photography.

GB: When you shut your eyes, what are you dreaming of?

EM: I have some cool ideas on my mind which are mostly installations and books. Another dream of mine is to spot one of the makeupbrutalism t-shirts on the streets somewhere. I think my heart would stop for a second.

And on that answer, I left Eszter to return to her creations. With her wired energy and visionary ambitions, I have the sense that Eszter will undoubtedly have all her dreams realised.