This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
Marthe Wery (1930 - 2005) Gemeentemuseum in The Hague: the
silence between Lüpertz and Summer Expo.
October 5, 2011
Originally posted on August 3, 2011
In the twentieth-century art has always been a desire for formal purity
with a number of painters. Abstraction and the beauty of geometry, which
the rectangular cloth naturally invited, made this possible.
Someone like Mondrian was such a seeker after purity. And although it
reduced the composition to rectangles in white, gray and primary colors,
strictly framed by straight black lines, his works were expressly
paintings. Sure, everyone knows you do not expressionistic daubs,
retrieve and swipe right to expect at Mondrian, but his works are indeed
painted with feeling.
That can obviously see well in the large Mondrian collection of the Hague
Gemeentemuseum. The work of the Belgian Marthe Wery (1930 - 2005)
stands at the Mondrian tradition. In the Municipal Museum is currently the
retrospective exhibition "Power of Simplicity" to see her work.
The Mondrian tradition is still traceable in her early work from the
sixties. Wery also reduced the composition and she even showed off the
primary colors and black frame-income lines. Instead, she works with
subtle gray tones that the warmth of the light seem to bring that
Mondrian who had banished back.
Immediately in this early work is already on the layering of paint. And I
do not mean any intellectual stratification but purely the paint layers
overlap each other and influence each other. It is remarkable that they're
already in the sixties acrylic paint used for, hence the myth that oil
always gives more depth, discarding.
Was a lot of work from the sixties still almost square and still standing the
composition at a point of the square, in the seventies, the paintings again
"just" lying or standing rectangles and Wery focuses more on the
lines. Close together seem to flow, the light and dark of the lines together
it seems to move. Two things at play here: the power of the paint and the
understanding of the artist who sees that the paint does exactly the
But now comes something even play an increasingly important role in
Wery's work: spaciousness. Will you let the light from the paint breathe,
then necessary. Space That goes for all the paintings, but especially for
work that the extreme consequences of that fact seems to want to
draw. A work like "Ensemble ligne" from 1974, a small triptych but with
the power of peace, states emphatically demands on the space where it
hangs. It must not become mixed with other paintings or objects
nearby. That would be the light that is attempting to enter, through the
back gray and the three-unit of the whole lot of break through. In fact,
that for all composite works Wery and also for many single work applies.
That goes especially for a elfdelig polyptych from 1983 with its muted
tones. Now there is red in the composition is all the more dull the acrylic
paint. But interestingly enough, that dullness lead her own life. The trick
is to work with acrylics. Thin layers Certainly, with oil would go something
like rays but acrylic is clearly his own qualities.With acrylic 'brewing' color
more than he radiates.
More emphatic spaciousness is in a purplish triptych from 1985. The
spaciousness speaks not only from the placement of the left panel to the
floor but also from the jump of the undersides of the three parts to the
right. The left panel looks a foreground and a background for the right
panel the large center hatch. The outer panels thereby giving full space to
the warm purple in the middle panel.
"Composition bleu foncé" 1985 seems to go all the way across
space. Here Wery plays a more complex game with space and
perspective. And again with color. Note the intense blue hatch that is
closest to the wall. Blue is pretty much the hardest color palette because
it is highly transparent. So it needs a good foundation or a good mixture
with another pigment, or both, would come into its own. In this
composition does it all miraculously, color, space and perspective.
Also operates a wonderful composition from 1988 on wood and MDF . The
remarkably low placement alone gives it a complete diptych own
character and also gives character to the wall and the space itself.
Is the bare wood in the composition of 1988 already seen as a player
between the color planes in compositions from the early nineties, the
wood as it were detached from the painted panels. It is somewhat similar
to how color and flamed marble was and is used. In 1992 two four flaps
harmony is sought between the bare wood and the more and less radiant
panels painted. And in two of four parts, the panels seem therefore to
hear. Inseparably together
It is like the grain of the wood Wery rhythms rediscovered as two panels
from 1993. Simultaneously also be the natural properties of the diluted
paint here alive.
The latter also shows "Petite series bleue" from 1995. How do you stand
for this much hatch, you cannot avoid to see that the paint has leaked
down the sides of the wipes. The hand looks like a kind of confession:
look, this is simply done with liquid paint. But it also breaks the etheric,
which constantly lurks in this kind of work.
That trend seems to be more earthy when Wery not wood or canvas, but
aluminum as a support for her work area. Put through The smooth
recalcitrance of the material makes the fluidity of the paint extra
visible. Where wood still seems a bit to absorb aluminum does absolutely
not. In a work on aluminum in 1998, or the life that always has some
scalded behind the paint, suddenly comes out.
But not only aluminum, but also in a small drawing on panel, also from
1998. A striking drawing, despite its small size, because it seems that
rhythm, color, light and material to be compressed at one time
Nevertheless Wery seems late nineties aluminum as a carrier to have.
Really discovered for themselves This shows a different, fairly large plate
from 1998. A picture of this work is taking too short for more than 95
A true centerpiece of the exhibition is the "Mono Chrome Untitled" from
1998 - 2000. It's amazing how the aluminum plates complement each
other in this polyptych. More than in many older shutters disharmony is
used to achieve the opposite. On the whole, seems even some anecdotes
The work Wery was quite new for me. I had her name and work
sometimes overlooked flash without further consider. This retrospective
offers ample opportunity to bridge. Such a gap It is also a good
opportunity for reflection between the violence of Lüpertz and Summer
Expo in the same museum.
But I also had my reservations. Because what ends up an experiment to
be anonymous and characterless, and where it starts to become a talking
piece of art. The pursuit of minimalism on the one hand and the wonders
of pigment and light on aesthetic and almost lyrical way to show the other
hand, requires a strong balance. In her best works Wery achieved that
balance. There are no tests her works, but characters.
Age says: August 17, 2011
I've linked to your post and drawn out (if it is good, leads click on my
name to my posting) in my ongoing and incipient discussion with
minimalism and geometric abstraction. Contrary to this:
de-wand/ # more-11836
I see a certain analogy in our reactions, which, however, I'm on the
negative side (and respond sense) and you Wery opposite seems to be.
Much more sympathetic
Are you wondering if that analogy is so experienced or still more remote
feel to my cry for "reality" in art.
And as a trick question for you: as art as Wery not 'ethereal' may be, so
what does it: nice to the eye?
I assume that you will not claim as "such art keeps hope alive for a better
If that's true, what's stopping you then still outside, "decorative",
"beautiful to watch"? Sincerely, Age
Bertus Pieters says: August 18, 2011 at 16:17
1. I see no analogy in our response. You want something from the art. I
assume that the art requires something from me. What, moreover not
prevent me to be critical.
2. Who says there is no reality is in the art of Marthe Wery? It hangs in
the museum to be? Really there yet It presents itself as yet explicitly
exposed to light and space and do something with it?
3. I say that the work of Wery should not be. Ethereal nowhere I do think
that there is a balance to be to let take the job. Purpose found in work
that deals with very basic visual means, (The goal is always to look along
with the artist and hit by what the artist was fascinated. Artist who wants
to show that there is something special happening under his / her hands.
The finding that balance Wery has here and there clearly struggled. You
also see that her look in her work constantly moved over the years, and
again and again looking for that balance.
If that is the intention of this work, who am I to make something else out
4. "Such art keeps hope alive for a better world." For such a statement, I
could never be responsible; most "art keeps hope alive that there is a
world that is experienced" but even that's me too spacey.
5. Finally, if you want somewhere to walk quickly past, it makes little
sense to judge it. Sincerely, BP
Centered on monochrome, the work of Marthe Wery is experienced in
the most intimate frontal, in the interaction between painting and the
viewer's body. Evidence that the painting is not exhausted, and the
monochrome remains timely.
By Maxence Alcalde
We had already noticed the works of Wéry in the group
exhibition Pauseorganized by Eric de Chassey to Cent8 gallery last
spring. Today the entire space of the gallery is devoted to. The exhibition
of Mathe Wéry appears as a series of fragments, chromatic experiences
resonating with the architecture of the place. The work unfolds on the
walls of the gallery as much pictorial punctuation both autonomous and
logically linked. What is offered to our gaze oscillates between impeccably
uniform monochrome, the spread on the medium and diluted paint, dull
or sparkling colors. The visual excitement is similar to that caused by the
works of artists of choice Wéry - Rothko, Noland, Newman - or the
contemporary painter Bernard Frize with whom she repeatedly exposed
(in 1997 Parvis de Pau, and 2002 Micheline Szwajcer gallery in
Antwerp). most disturbing The entire exhibition is undoubtedly the red
paintings that oscillate between the evocation of the blood and the dark
tones of Rothko. Monochrome unfold into a sensual chromatic fugue in
alternating attraction and repulsion. The works of Marthes Wéry read as a
text, or rather as a series of texts to which the collection gives all their
magnitude. Wéry's work invokes a sense of strangeness, comparable to
what one can experience in the movie Videodrome David Cronenberg. A
man fascinated by the power of the media gradually discovers the
underground world of the small screen. His life then switches to the
anthology where it enters the viscera of the TV screen become living
stage; when the machine wakes up to snap the viewer and make him lose
all his marks in the "real world." It is this aesthetic that is both rigorous,
as can be monochrome, and organic, as can be painting, who brings
together the work of Marthe Wery and David Cronenberg. Dizziness
enjoyable that we would reasonable and beyond us, not in excess of the
monumental, but the loss of control in which we are immersed. Difficulty
circumscribe the work of Marthe Wery just what she s 'experiences above
all in the most intimate frontal, in the interaction between the painting
and the viewer's body. The experience offered by the artist is unique. It
certifies that the paint is not exhausted, it has not developed its full
potential, and the monochrome remains timely.
32.87" x 32.87" (83.50cm x 83.50cm), Created: 1998
29.53" x 35.24" (75cm x 89.50cm), Created: 2004
MARTHE WÉRY / CUR. BY ÉRIC DE CHASSEY
7 December 2007 - 19 January 2008
A work without closure
In her first in-depth retrospective interview, published in the catalogue of
the 1982 Venice Biennale, Marthe Wéry speaks of her "work" as a work
without closure, "unbounded", "in abeyance". Her passing in 2005 should
not prevent us from continuing to enquire to just what point the themes
of openness and aliveness so pervade her work. Each of her paintings is
in effect the result of and witness to a will to keep as close as possible to
the moment of creation, something that places her work at the heart of a
tradition that also finds echoes in Pollock, Newman, Sztreminski, Palermo.
She was never concerned with cornering the infinite, always rather
allowing the painting to remain open, in itself non-finished. She never
ceased creating works that welcomed and were receptive to the viewer.
Hers was not an art of imposition, offering instead a direction, an
orientation, a proposal singularly addressed to each individual.
For this exhibition in the gallery that has presented her paintings many
times in the past, I wanted to bring together works where this dimension
of openness was particularly visible, almost physically explicit - here also
raising the question of how we are now meant to present these
ensembles whose disposition the artist would previously herself arrange
for each showing (taking openness as a starting-point necessarily implies
the active engagement of those now showing them, in tension with
fidelity to what has been).
At the end of a period that began in 1982, where the color's opaque
covering of the surface guaranteed that the question of composition
would be laid to rest (composition that freezes by definition, that
establishes a harmony within which the viewer does not inevitably have a
place), the triptych shown for the first time at the Lyon Biennale of 1988,
Sans titre, 1988, frames the monochrome with a masonite border. But it
is only to better assure the color's diffusion, not vivid but profound in
itself (this depth already transforming the opacity), thus emphasizing the
passage to a space un-touched by the artist although affected by her
works. At the same time, the absence of a border at the upper end
engenders, literally, an escape route on high.
We would be wrong, however, to think that this openness might operate
only by way of and in the act of elevation. The works from 1990-1992
that mix acrylic paints and raw wood panels, like Sans titre, 1990-1992,
manifest an explicitly humble spatial arrangement, transposing a studio
setting. The painting is placed directly on the ground, simply supported by
the wall, in a disposition (deposition) of apparent provisionality. The
inclusion of ready-made panels – not panels of precious wood that would
carry an aesthetic of potential images, but everyday panels, meant to be
subsequently covered – brings us back to our usual world, without
creating a hierarchy between this world and the one modulated by the
presence of painted color.
The diptychs and triptychs from 1993, in grey or in red and orange, put
the painting in a quasi-architectural situation, inspired by the protruding
bays of some modernist buildings in Chicago that caught Wéry's eye.
Opaque panels, covered up to the edge with color, their tilt opens them to
the space in which they find themselves placed (like reliefs), as well as to
the surface that carries them (with the wall, then, glimpsed between the
Series are singularly the locus of the opening to and in color, conducing
us to perceive the infinite differences of color from one painting to the
other, simply in function of the way in which the paint is put down, never
entirely mechanically identical nor subjectively differentiated. In the
paintings Sans titre (Utrecht) from 1992, as well as in the series of 2004,
the opening shows itself all the more in that we are dealing here with a
false series, for the nuances of one sole color as well as the dimensions
are at once too close and too diverse to comprise a systematic entity.
In her paintings from the final years, where Marthe Wéry sometimes
made open compositions on the walls of her studio, the paintings'
realization is accomplished by immersion in successive color-baths, each
leaving its trace on the surface; a surface in motion, in no way enclosed
upon itself, and extraordinarily differentiated. The opening is here,
simultaneously, making for both approach and retreat, revealing itself in
the uncertainties and scoriae of the image and the process of creation,
but henceforth within the painting's field, concentrated.
Éric de Chassey
Untitled, 1993, acrylic on wood, 73 x 40 cm
Untitled, 1993, acrylic on aluminium, 150 x 106 cm
In the painter's workshop
'Matter is alive,' says Marthe Wéry. 'Colour is alive, paper is alive, canvas
and wood are alive.' When I call her attention to the fact that colour is an
industrially produced pigment enclosed in a tube, and that a virgin canvas
is an object that cannot be called alive except in a metaphorical way and
provided that incredible trust is invested in it, she goes through a split
second of disbelief: 'Yes, that's for sure, but you know what I mean.' I
know what she means. And I watch her at work. For some years her
support has been a sheet of multiplex plywood mounted on aluminium
angle fitments concealed behind the board. The plywood sheets are a
centimetre thick at most; their edges are slightly sanded or, rather,
'broken'; the aluminium fitments act as stiffeners and stop the surface
from warping; they also keep the picture away from the wall when it is
hung. Formats and dimensions are variable, always rectangular, and of
carefully chosen proportions. The two pictures Marthe Wéry is going to
work on today are imperfect squares measuring about 150 x 150 cm. I
wonder if it matters that the format is almost square, and raise the
question. 'Yes,' she answers, 'the imperfect square is more open.' The two
pictures are laid down flat, each one in a large plastic tray on trestles. The
trays look like photolab developing trays; they have a drainage hole with
a bucket waiting beneath it. Other buckets full of acrylic paint are within
easy reach. One of them is full of very watered-down green, another a
rather indefinable purple verging on amaranth. The two pictures have
already been given several coats of colour. One of them - green on green
- is flecked with darker spots which give an almost photographic effect,
like an obliquely lit moonscape. Yet the surface is quite even. The other
wine-coloured picture has a more worked surface. It has been lined, or
marouflaged, with four sheets of Japanese paper which overlap and
outline an irregular cross. 'It's to give it a structure.' A whole amorphous
and off-centre area of the picture shows a deep green which seems to rise
from beneath the purple. In places, the artist has added to her colour a
granular medium which holds the pigment. Beautiful as they are, both
pictures look finished to me. Marthe Wéry is going to destroy them.
To start with, she goes over them with an electric sander which gives the
surface a grip. The sanded effect on the purple picture is more visible.
She then takes a broad, flat brush and, in a corner of the green picture,
makes a swift wash with its very diluted pale green mix. This produces an
elegant stroke which she pays absolutely no attention to. All that matters
is the hue. And it is okay. Then things move very fast, but unhurriedly. In
two or three throws, she pours the entire contents of the bucket on to the
picture. The pool of colour spreads over the whole surface, banks up on
the side furthest from her, spares certain areas, and closes in around
small 'clearings', like one army encircling another. The paint is very liquid,
so you feel that as it dries it will leave no more than an almost
transparent film over the picture. But it is just viscous enough to creep
cautiously over the surface, illustrating that property of liquids that
physics calls surface tension. The pool of colour becomes rounded and
bulges at the edges. And when it encircles a dry area, it proceeds slowly,
making an 'eye' appear which then shrinks little by little. Marthe talks to
me while she works. 'You see,' she says, pointing to one edge of the
picture that the liquid pigment has not yet invaded, 'the colour doesn't
want to go there. It's seductive. But I'm not sure I can go along with it.'
Adding action to words, she dips her finger in the colour that has come to
a halt near the picture's edge, and, just like that, the colour covers up the
seductive - too seductive - uncovered area, where the picture
pronounced, as it were, its stratified history. I realize that, for Marthe,
colour must be allowed to speak freely, but not just any language. The
boudary between true beauty and seduction is a terribly fine line, as is
that between the freedom of the material and demonstrative process art.
Meanwhile, in the upper part of the picture, a deep pool of colour has built
up. Without a moment's hesitation, Marthe grabs the picture by the
opposite side tilts it upwards. The colour trickles and flows into the tray.
Then comes the moment to leave it to the vagaries of the way it dries.
Marthe fixes it in a not quite horizontal position using five or six small
wooden blocks, and takes one last look at it before turning to the purple
picture. I find myself thinking that her dialogue with her pictorial means is
definitly very prosaic. She is hoping for a surprise, but her hopes are not
set too high. She is wary, as if faced with too much romanticism. I also
find myself thinking that she is keeping her colour in a state of probation.
The way tradition keeps its painters.
Marthe plunges a mixer into the bucket of amaranth to stir her colour.
She pours a good dollop onto the second picture in a way that strikes me
as being extremely offhand. The green patch that once emerged from the
purple is engulfed, and I feel a pang of sadness. As if she were reading
my thoughts, she says to me, talking about the green: 'Right now, I miss
it, but I've got some water. We can get it back.' And she throws a whole
bucketful of water where the green was. It reappears. Not far from the
edge, a green 'eye' forms, growing more and more intense as the purple
surrounds it. It makes the whole picture 'stand up'. But the eye contracts.
'Mustn't get too attached,' Marthe says, as if she were talking about a
lover. 'There, it's gone.' The eye is reabsorbed. Because the picture is
lying in its tray, it is not clear which way it will be hung. We walk round it
to see if it will dictate which is its top and which its bottom. The
marouflage runs across the picture forming a central line which we both
feel has to be hung vertically. At the top, the purple mixed with water
runs slowly down over the green, clinging to a horizontal line at the very
top, likewise created by the marouflage, with the front of the wave
proceeding downwards like the arc of a circle. I can see the picture
assuming the symmetry of an abstract face and Marthe says: 'I like that a
lot. It's beginning to look like a... a Malevich? No, who do I mean?...' And
tries to remember the name that is on the tip of her tongue. I say: 'Like a
Jawlenksky face.' She replies: 'That's it. Exactly that.' We have just
provided ourselves with the perfect illustration of free association and
inner necessity, in painter and onlooker alike.
Aesthetic judgement is comparative but it is the picture that summons up
the comparable works. The verdict then decides whether Jawlensky is a
desirable reference. He is, and Marthe is happy about it, but the
Jawlensky is disappearing. The purple continues to run downwards and
the facial quality of the picture is falling away. Marthe gives up on
Jawlensky without any regrets, but she seems to be clinging to the
median line, as if to the apple of her eye, and this line also seems to be
about to become blurred. It is time to do something. Lift up the picture
this way and that, drain off the surplus colour, but leaving the mauve and
the green free to battle it out, and apart from that, touch nothing - such
are the watchwords she seems to be obeying. She sets up a rotating fan
which will speed up the drying process, and may - or may not - be
powerful enough to halt the inexorable advance of the mauve. The picture
seems to me not as good as it was when the session started, but this
doesn't bother Marthe. 'You have to go through stages that are less
satisfactory and less seductive. I allow myself the liberty of cheating with
the rules, but I don't often chip in. Only if the result is too anecdotal. I'm
afraid of being too much in charge, because then things become stuck,
and I don't want something that's the result of fixedness.' 'You'd be the
only one who knows,' I tell her. 'Yes, but I think amazement can be
'Marthe Wéry or Freedom in Painting', in Thierry de Duve, Denys Riout,
René Denizot, Christian Debuyst, Marthe Wéry, Un débat en Peinture - A
Debate in Painting, Ed. La Lettre Volée, Brussels, 1999, pp 48-51.
Translated from original French by Simon Pleasence
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue reading from where you left off, or restart the preview.