Exhibition @ Tate Modern, London, UK from August 2019 until July 2020
“Generally I am not as interested in the finished work as I am in the way it comes about, which is to say the question of realising a task that I have set myself, the idea” – Dora Maurer
I went to Tate Modern recently to see an exhibition of the work of Hungarian artist Dora Maurer, which is on display until next summer. Maurer was born in Budapest in 1937, and the exhibition highlights work from the 1970s onwards. During the course of her long career she has made use of a wide variety of media, including photography, video, painting and sculpture.
Maurer emerged as an experimental, avant garde artist, whose work ran counter to that sanctioned by the state-sponsored socialist orthodoxy in place around her at the time. She trained as a graphic artist and printmaker, and also worked as a curator and teacher.
The early work demonstrates her enduring obsession with movement and geometric composition. I found the microscopic focus on mathematical precision, and the effect of minute tweaks to angles and poses a little challenging, and not easy to interpret. What comes out of this exhibition though is a real sense of enjoyment in the thrill of creation, and deep engagement in the process of making her art.
One room is dedicated to video work, including a hypnotic triptych of films, entitled Triolets. The spliced together videos move mechanically from side to side to a wordless female warble. This work demonstrates Maurer’s long-standing curiosity about the nature of repetition, movement, perspective and perception, and what she has termed ‘displacement’. It also exemplifies her interest in the effect of music on these processes in her art. (And caused two of my children separately to remark “why are you listening to cult music?” as I played the video back on my phone.)
My companion at the exhibition (let’s call her ‘the redhead’) noted similarities to Bridget Riley in Maurer’s later work, which was much more boldly coloured, as she moved away from black and white. She experimented with layering colour, watching it change in the light and, as ever, subverting perceptions, here through anamorphosis.
This work, using acrylics and titled Projected Quasi Images, was commissioned in the 1980s by collector Dieter Bogner for the walls of a Viennese castle, and it reminded me a little of the old Transport for London seat covers (though not in a bad way). However, if Maurer’s work sometimes has a familiar, even derivative feel, with a career dating back to the 1960s, it is quite likely that her ideas preceded or inspired those of others rather than vice versa.
Later her focus on colour became even more profound, as her interest grew in “the way colour behaves, its vibrations and imaginary movements” (art historian Dávid Fehér). The most recent series, developed during 2007-16, which explores colour and rhythmical, three-dimensional movement, has been described by Maurer as ‘form gymnastics’. The example below is one of her Overlappings paintings.
The exhibition does not seem to have been widely publicised, but is well worth a visit, and there is no charge for entry.