Dóra Maurer (b.1937, Budapest) is one of the most important voices of the Hungarian avant-garde. In her eclectic practice, Dóra Maurer focuses on themes of transformation, movement and displacement. Maurer endorses a conceptual and abstract aesthetic, based on mathematical methodologies, temporal logics and musical rhythms. Her works, at once self-disciplined and playful, place emphasis on the experimental process over the the finished result. Never tied down to a medium, her practice spans across painting, drawing, printmaking, filmmaking and photography.
Born in Budapest in 1937, Dóra Maurer trained as a graphic artist in the 1950s. Her artistic practice matured at a time when Hungary was ruled by a socialist regime: “the state viewed works as either prohibited or tolerated”, she explains (in conversation with Juliet Bingham, Tate Modern, 2019). Maurer was part of an independent community of artists who worked outside the official system, setting up workshops and education programmes for young artists. Although Maurer does not perceive her works as overly political, her minimal aesthetic appears as a silent defiance of the figurative Socialist Realism.
Married with the Austro-Hungarian artist Tibor Gáyor, Maurer had the rare opportunity to hover between the east and the west of the iron curtain; nurturing a broader vision, her practice matured across two different systems and ways of living.
In the 1970s, Maurer started pushing her training in graphics and experimenting with the moving image through photography, printmaking, structural films and performative workshops. Picturing minimal movements of the human body, repetition was a seminal thread in her early practice.
The sheer paucity of materials adopted in her works shed lights onto the spareness of art materials behind the iron curtain at the time.
In Traces of a Circle (1974), Maurer pushes the paper onto a rusty coil of old wire, and shifts the ring along the surface to create displaced spirals. Exploring displacement and repetition through performative gestures, in Seven Turns (1977-1978) the artist photographs herself holding a piece of blank paper turned at a 45 degree angle, and repeats the process seven times with each image.
In the late 1970s, Dóra Maurer started creating increasingly geometric and abstract paintings, rooted in her observation of light and colours and the rigorous rendering of mathematical rules. Fascinated by the colour theory of Josef Albers, Maurer started overlapping two coloured elements on the canvas; the result was either the distortion of one colour or the emergence of what she calls an ‘imagined colour’.
Maurer conceived these chromatic ideas when creating one of her most celebrated works, a wall painting installed in an irregularly shaped tower room at Castle Buchberg am Kamp in Austria in 1982. The artist captured the process through filming and was deeply affected by the transformation of colours in accordance with the change of light throughout the day: “Filmmaking made me realise 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.”
In her recent paintings, Dóra Maurer further develops the concept of the ‘imagined colour’ by overlapping colours onto the canvas. Weightless and bright, the geometric shapes appear as dancing along the walls, straining against the bidimensional planes into an optical illusion of depth.
The ‘Stages’ (2016-2020) series is Maurer’s continuation of her playful yet precise investigation of colour and mathematical formulas at the age of 82. Maurer refers to these experiments as ‘form gymnastics’, deliberately envisaging these works as an abstract interpretation of the body moving in space. Crystallising on canvas her early film studies of methodical and repetitive movements, Maurer creates tension between the artwork’s formal elements and the viewer.
“Maurer’s pioneering work is characterised by both rigorous self-discipline and playful experimentation. Movement, displacement, perception and transformation have remained consistent threads in her work. Maurer remains a unique voice, constantly in motion – never tied down to one medium and constantly pushing her playful conceptual practice,” Juliet Bingham, Curator International Art, Tate Modern, 2019.
Dóra Maurer (b. 1937, Budapest) lives and works in Budapest, Hungary. Hailed as one of the most important figures of the Hungarian avant-garde, Maurer was also a teacher and has influenced younger generations of artists in Hungary and beyond.
Dóra Maurer had her first solo exhibition at Carl Kostyál Gallery, London in 2015. In 2016, Dóra Maurer was invited by the gallerist to curate an exhibition of her late husband and artist Tibor Gáyor, ‘Lares et Penates’ at Carl Kostyál Gallery, London. She has also participated in the group exhibition ‘For Pete’s Sake’, Carl Kostyál Stockholm, Sweden (2016) and the artist residency ‘Coccaro on Paper’, organised by the gallerist at Masseria Torre Coccaro, Puglia, Italy (2018)
Dóra Maurer has exhibited extensively, most recently at the White Cube, London; Tate Modern, London (2019); Museum of Modern Art, New York (2015, 1985); Whitechapel Gallery, London (2015); Museum Ritter, Germany (2014); The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas (2014); 12th International Biennial, Istanbul (2012); Ludwig Museum, Budapest (2012, 2008, 1997); and Centre Pompidou, Paris (2010).
Her work is held in collections across the world, including Museum of Modern Art, New York; Tate Modern, London; Art Institute of Chicago; Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest; Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin; and Victoria & Albert Museum, London. Recently, Dóra Maurer has donated her acclaimed film of the Space Painting at Castle Buchberg (1982–3) to the Moderna Museet in Stockholm, Sweden.