Coinciding with her year-long display at Tate Modern, London, Maurer’s second exhibition with the gallery focuses on paintings from three distinct series produced during the past 30 years: ‘Overlappings’, ‘Quod Libet’ and ‘IXEK’.
Maurer’s rigorous conceptual practice, which encompasses painting, drawing, printmaking, photography and filmmaking, is rooted in a sense of movement and indeterminacy. Focusing on the grammar of geometrical forms and using systematic analyses and mathematical methodologies, her approach can alternate between process-based experiment and formal investigations of rule-based compositional logic. Originally trained as a graphic artist during the late 1950s, traces of the printmaking process – its methods of distortion, duplication and reversal – are evident in her paintings. This idea of ‘shifting’ is manifest through the repetition of singular forms, displacement, transformation whilst exploring the potential for colour to influence spatial perception. As Maurer says: ‘[...] my whole way of thinking comes less from painting; my approach is much more influenced by my long years of conceptual and conceptional activity.’
The paintings in this exhibition, which date from the late 1990s to 2013, explore geometry and perspective using shaped canvases with overlapping planes of colour to create a distinctly three-dimensional presence. Deeply engaged with the colour theory of Josef Albers, whose 1963 book Interaction of Color Maurer has translated into Hungarian, she explores in her work transformation through superimposition, whereby the pairing of two coloured elements can result in the distortion of one or equally, the emergence of a new form. Highlighting Maurer’s interest in what she has previously described as ‘the tense relationship between squares and rectangles’, the work also foregrounds the mathematical concept of the magic square, a recurring form enclosing a static value that can be variously combined to create a dynamic entity and is here used as a basis for pictorial abstraction.
The earliest works in the exhibition, from the ‘Overlappings’ series, feature two planes of colour in the form of distorted squares, curved or foreshortened as if stretched onto spherical surfaces. Elegant and fluid, they have a semblance of plasticity, appearing to hover in space like pieces of paper or fabric in motion. In fact they exist on a single plane, using colour alone to create the illusion of layering and transparency, as if one colour is seen through another. By contrast, the recent ‘Quod Libet’ series employs more linear forms: rectangular or square frames of colour, overlaid and set at an angle. At once diagrammatic and volumetric, they effect a total abstraction of the visual field, both in terms of their image and their comprehensible reality as a flat, two-dimensional object. In Quod Libet 47 (1998/2000), for example, or Quod Libet 46 (1991/2003), where both horizontal and vertically arranged rectangular shapes intersect, the solid areas of white between each frame of colour seem to simultaneously appear and recede, as if borne into view only by chromatic delineation.
In the current ‘IXEK’ series, whose title refers to the word in Hungarian for the plural of the letter x, two (IXEK 6 (2010) and IXEK 7 (2011)) or three (IXEK 10(2013)) fields of colour intersect, their formation loosely referencing the axes of a letter x. Using a palette of only eight colours, mixed afresh each time and hence variable in tone from work to work, they focus on the reciprocity of colour and form and the way they connect and interact. Maurer has commented that the exploration of colour and light and its effect on perception has evolved from her filmmaking practice: ‘Filmmaking made me realize the actual relationship between colour and light [...] It was at this point that colour became my work material and the backbone of my painting concept for the last 30 years.’
Image caption: Dóra Maurer, Quod Libet 47, 1998/2000, Acrylic on canvas and wood, 119 x 105 cm © the artist. Courtesy White Cube