Dóra Maurer

Displacements (System Drawing)


Not on display

Dóra Maurer born 1937
Ink, graphite and correction fluid on paper
Image: 570 × 452 mm
support: 654 × 509 mm
Presented by anonymous donors 2018


Displacement (System Drawing) 1972 is a geometric drawing in coloured ink on paper measuring seventy centimetres by fifty centimetres. A large rectangular grid has been drawn, with ten vertical columns and ten horizontal rows, creating one hundred individual rectangles. This grid has been further subdivided into four sections, each measuring five columns by five rows, with each section differentiated by diagonal coloured lines that bisect each individual rectangle. The diagonal lines in the top left section are red, in the top right grid reddish-brown, in the bottom left segment yellow and in the bottom right area orange. A central rectangular area, measuring six columns by six rows, is further demarcated with additional diagonal lines in colours including green, turquoise and violet, which overlap at points with the four larger diagonal sections, creating a denser area of colour in the central section of the drawing. The work is one of several ‘displacements’ pieces that the artist made in the 1970s. A similar grid arrangement with some of the sections split by diagonal lines can be seen in the later painting Displacements, Step 18 with Two Random-Quasi-Images 1976, also in Tate’s collection (Tate T15451).

Maurer uses the term displacement to refer to motion or shifts in position, what she has described as ‘a polysemantic but elementary process in time and space’ (quoted in Dieter and Beke 1994, p.62). Her interest lies in how something that is displaced appears in a new form or pattern and the transformation that necessarily takes place. Motion has always been linked in her practice with change (including existential change) – whether materials (drying), natural phenomena (wind), changes of place (falling, walking) or gestures (destruction) – and later with minimal displacements such as shifting a band of colour on a plane. The origin of the genre of displacements lay in her early experiments with printmaking, in which the processes of creasing, folding and distortion played a role (for a slightly later example, see Foldings 1975 [Tate P77124]). Then, between 1968 and 1970, Maurer created works in which one hundred different but identically organised units were aligned in a grid (for example organic-looking, crumpled paper balls). This developed in 1972 into an exploration of ‘displacement’ in terms of changes in the quantity of organic matter, such as piles of sticks or wheat on a grid, which Maurer referred to as ‘quantity boards’ (as in, for example, Quantity Board, 500 Values, Magic Square 1972). From this point, she divided a network into four equal parts, doubled the parts and shifted them horizontally, vertically and diagonally onto each other (Displacements diagrams), incorporating colour as part of the process.

In the 1970s Maurer’s visual language became more geometric and abstract. She began to work with simple forms and a process of systematic ‘shifting’. She began with coloured lines and by moving fields on a raster framework that she had previously developed. Working with eight colours to separate and magnify individual planes, she began to thicken the network of lines to make the interactions between them more visible. Maurer developed a complicated system of rules for her work, which was based on both mathematical and colours systems, in addition to a hierarchy of warm and cold colours. She has commented:

The Quasi-picture or image as a total environment was originally an idea about creating a psychedelic space. Five years passed before it could be implemented. I worked on it for a month while simultaneously taking photographs and recording the preparations on Super-8. It was interestingly the filming that opened my eyes to the true relationship of colours and light. Until then it has simply been frustrating how the constantly-changing colour temperature made black out of green, grey out of turquoise, and brown out of purple when I wanted to see the original colours in the film and photos; now the source of that frustration provided material for my work.
(Quoted in Ludwig Museum 2008, pp.9–10.)

Of her method of representing transformations in the Displacement series of system drawings and paintings, she noted:

The starting points and the rules are always the same. The scene of the displacements is a grid of 5:4 with 10 x 10 units, covered with fields of 25 x 25 units in one or more layers. These fields can be coloured, of plastic shape, transparent etc. They change their place after each other in horizontal, vertical or diagonal direction, walking always one unit. The Displacement-images concentrate on the transformations of two layers. The upper layer is contoured by warm colours (permanent red, English red, orange and yellow), while the lower colour colours (green, ultramarine, turquoise and violet). The colours do not fill out the fields, they only indicate their borders and their diagonals. In the first place the fields are indicated with complementary colour pairs (green-red) laid upon each other, then they walk one step after each other: those with warm colours in horizontal and vertical, those with cold ones in diagonal directions.
(Quoted in Dieter and Beke 1994, p.122.)

The effect of layering and shifting colours to create sparse or dense areas at times created unexpected effects with a spatial dimension. Maurer would in effect ‘magnify’ certain elements, which she refers to as ‘quasi-images’, as can be seen in Displacements, Step 18 with Two Random-Quasi-Images where some of the sections contain what look like zoomed-in details.

Further reading
Dieter Ronte and László Beke (eds.), Dóra Maurer, Works 1970–1993, Budapest 1994, reproduced pp.109, 121, 126–9.
Dóra Maurer, exhibition catalogue, Ludwig Museum, Budapest 2008, pp.9–10.
Dóra Maurer, Traces 1970–1980, exhibition catalogue, Bunkier Sztuki, Krákow 2011, reproduced pp.51, 57, 80–81.

Juliet Bingham
April 2018

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