Artwork Details

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abstract, formal, geometric, graphic, painting, shape, untitled

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Untitled

ArtistGordon Walters
Production Date1989
Mediumacrylic on canvas
Size1020 x 762 x 34 mm
ClassificationPainting
DepartmentNew Zealand Art
Accession Date26 Apr 2011
Accession NoC2011/1/10/2
Credit LineChartwell Collection, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, purchased 2011

Chartwell Notes

Despite being recognized, entirely by most, as the painter of the ‘koru’, Gordon Walters completed considerably more paintings which bear no obvious correlation to Māori design or motifs. By the early 1980s the artist was increasingly working with new motifs and not with the koru form. This was not a result of the simmering debates around cultural appropriation which increasingly began to surround the artist’s work but, rather, through the realization that he had “developed the work to the point where there were no longer any real discoveries for me to make in deploying the image…”.

The gradual abandonment of the koru motif resulted in a body of work which, up until his passing in 1995, become increasingly reduced; focused on fewer and simpler motifs but which, paradoxically, is more complex and ultimately to those whom grant them the time, more rewarding than anything he produced previously.

Untitled (1989) is a beautiful and beguiling painting. Consisting of only two elements (the rectangle and triangle) and three colours (or non-colours) in black, grey and white, Untitled gains much of its visual heft through the manner in which the shapes and colour jostle for visual predominance. Hard-edged and bearing no mark of the artist’s hand, Untitled is composed of a centralized vertical rectangle bisected internally by two diagonal lines, encased within a larger rectangle. It appears as serenely balanced, ordered and rhythmic as any painting produced throughout the artist’s lengthy but measured career. Formally simplistic when compared to many of Walters’ compositions en abyme (art or literature which contains a reflection of itself within itself), much of which date from the same period as this work, it is a painting for which aesthetic reward will only arise from sustained contemplation.

Unlike the koru paintings which ultimately had their formal concerns overridden by their cultural reception, there is nothing here to divert the audience’s attention from the essentials of abstract painting and from what Walters spent a lifetime investigating; namely, the formal potentials of given shapes and colours on a two dimensional surface and the resultant harmonies and tensions which derive from the experience of viewing abstract art.
Ben Plumbly
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