Friday 31 January 2020

Dora Maurer

Dora Maurer

at Tate Modern.

Born in Budapest in 1937, Maurer belongs to a generation of experimental Hungarian artists who refused to follow the cultural policy of the socialist regime. Instead of working within the 'official' art system, they created their own informal networks. They exhibited their art in private flats, cultural centres and student clubs. A curator and teacher as well as an artist, Mauer helped to promote this vibrant unofficial scene around the world.

Seven Foldings, 1975, (drypoint on paper)

In the 1970s Maurer's approach to printmaking sometimes involved the destruction or distortion of the printing plate. 'The graphic plate should no longer carry the image on its surface passively... but should be the object of actions in continuous change', she said. In this work, Maurer records the process of change. She roughened the surface of an aluminium printing plate by rubbing it with emery paper. She then systematically folded it diagonally seven times. The resulting print shows how the original rectangular shape of the plate has, in the artist's words, been 'displaced'.

Seven Twists I-VI, 1979, (6 photographs, gelatin silver prints on paper)

Schautafel 4, (acrylic paint, ink, wood and graphite on board)

Working in Germany in 1972, Maurer made a series of Quantity Boards (using the German title Schautafel). Each one contained different quantities of natural materials, such as wood or straw, placed systematically into a grid. This work relates to the 'magic square', a mathematical game in which numbers are arranged so that they add up in every direction to reach the same total. Maurer uses painted twigs to represent the numbers, with different values assigned to different colours. The irregular form of the twigs contrasts with the ordered symmetry of the grid and the mathematical system.

Displacements, Step 18 with Two Random-Quasi-Images, 1976, (acrylic on canvas, wood)

The Displacements series are based on a mathematical and geometric system to analyse motion and change. Each work is based on a rectangular 10x10 grid. Within the grid Maurer outlines a series of 5x5 rectangles, each identified with coloured diagonal lines. When the rectangles overlap, layers of colour build up. Maurer consistently uses the same eight colours, contrasting warm and cold: permanent red, English red, orange and yellow, or green, ultramarine, turquoise and violet. Within the layers a process of displacement seems to take place. The warm colours change their position in horizontal and vertical directions, the cold colours in diagonal directions. Maurer enlarges randomly chosen details from these works to create what she calls Quasi images.

Since early in her career, Maurer has been interested in the idea of 'displacement'. She associates the word with processes of movement, rearrangement and change. These concerns sometimes reflect the influence of music on her work, particularly the ways in which a composition can be developed through repeated variations on a theme.

4 out of 3, 1976, (wood, mirror)

This work plays with perception in a number of ways. The viewer shifts their perspective between two different geometric forms: the square and the rectangle. The mirrored surfaces also reflect the surrounding environment, adding another layer of dynamic movement and shifting perspectives.

5 out of 4, 1979, (acrylic paint on wood)

This painting consists of three rows of painted squares, divided into rectangular panels. The space between the panels changes in each row. In the first row, the gaps are equal. In the second row, Maurer uses her own mathematical pattern to establish the spaces. The gaps in the third row are based on the Fibonacci sequence, in which each successive number is obtained by adding together the two previous numbers, (0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, etc.)  The work plays with perception as the viewer shifts their perspective between the painted squares and rectangular panels.

Relative Quasi Images, 1996, (5 paintings, acrylic paint on canvas, wood)

The five paintings comprising Relative Quasi Images are based on the same Quasi image, each very slightly shifted in its position on the canvas. The canvas above is painted according to Maurer's eight-colour system. However, the remaining canvases each deviated from this palette. These variations suggest our changing perception of colours under different light conditions at different times of the day.

In this group of paintings, made from 2007 to 2016, areas of bold colour seem to be layered on top of each other. Using perspective to create the illusion that some details are closer or further away, Maurer conveys the impression that the paintings have been projected onto curved surfaces. The colours float, taking on a life of their own.

Finally, in these two paintings, coloured shapes seem to move on the wall like figures dancing. The different colours and positions create a sense of rhythmic three-dimensional movement. Maurer describes this series as 'form gymnastics'.

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