Swallow draws its name from one of the most difficult movements to execute in gymnastics – where an athlete suspends their body lengthways from two metal rings in a demonstration of supreme balance and strength. ‘I had wanted to be a gymnast. But my parents took me to the swimming pool, and it’s as if it was meant to be. I was a professional swimmer from age four to eighteen. For fourteen years I went to the pool twice a day, before and after school.’
The series chronicles Ladocsi’s dedication to training. Tirelessly repeating lengths, rhythmic breathing and the steady motion of limbs became an act of mindfulness. ‘Like in yoga; you are alone for hours with just your brain. I loved it; I wanted to be the best.’ This balance of regimentation and tranquillity is central to his portraiture, where steely, sharp gazes are contrasted with neutral, soft focus backgrounds.
Growing up with an older sister who had down syndrome, communication at home was often centred around non-verbal, tactile exchanges. ‘I like to scan the connections, touches, movements between people.’ Drawing on this experience in his study of combat sports – wrestling, boxing and aikido – “touch” is transformed from an act of violence to a comforting gesture. Hands grasp together, skin brushes against skin. A self-portrait in Lili, Ladocsi’s nude body is twisted in a shotput throw. Modelling clay is utilised to capture the dynamism of his movements. An interest in ceramics, sculpture and painting has shaped these experiments with layers and texture. The tangibility of his work is furthered by a penchant for analogue cameras and handmade, photographic prints.
Ladocsi’s previous projects have focused on emerging identities and the restraints of society. His subjects are characterised by their androgynous appearances and ambiguous costumes, imparting his images with an alien quality that is at once incredibly peaceful and quietly disturbing. ‘I like to create puzzles in a series. My pieces fit together in a narrative which is up to the viewer to decide. Like the film Funny Games directed by Michael Haneke, I break the fourth wall, allowing for different endings and interpretations.’