Organised by Mathieu Paris
White Cube Bermondsey presents an exhibition of paintings by Belgian artist Léon Wuidar. Born in Belgium in 1938, Wuidar has exhibited extensively in Europe. This is his first solo presentation in the UK and focuses on paintings from the late 1960s to the late 1980s.
Wuidar cites the ruined bridges from his childhood in postwar Belgium as a formative memory, and his paintings, which were initially figurative before moving into abstraction, are charged with the sensory associations of architecture. Loosely affiliated with Concrete Art, Wuidar’s particular exploration of form and colour can be traced back to his works from the early 1960s.
His practice is marked by collaborations with architects, especially Belgian architect Charles Vandenhove, resulting in numerous architectural interventions, public sculptures and designs for elements such as panels, cladding and windows. During the 1980s and 1990s, his interest in typographic forms and the rhythm of language fed into works featuring colourful abstract forms, akin to a personal alphabet. These can also be seen in Wuidar’s numerous sketch or notebooks, several of which are included in the exhibition. Used almost daily, they depict successions of small-scale drawings which are often re-used in his larger-scale paintings. Featuring sequential declensions of geometric forms, like ladders of primary coloured blocks, they suggest the beginnings of a unique, personal alphabet.
The paintings in this exhibition contain polygons, squares, rectangles and tubular forms which are framed by bands of colour and often crossed by straight white lines. Wuidar employs symmetry and repetition to create compositions that hint at enigmatic three-dimensional structures. In the painting Echelle (1980), for example, a series of kaleidoscopic blocks, each a stack of three coloured segments, is set against a solid blue background and punctuated by horizontal white bands, which seem to mount a ladder across the picture plane. Elsewhere, forms suggestive of architectural features, such as windows, arches or doors evoke the built world. In Vers le Haut, Vers le Bas (1982), a dark blue rectangular composition is divided in half horizontally with a small pale blue triangle in the top half pointing upwards, in the bottom, downwards, creating a sense of tension as if the image is being pulled in both directions at once.
Harmony, precision and discipline are visible in Wuidar’s balanced colour palette and compositional precision. Through repetition and seriality, his paintings play on symmetry, mirror imaging and two and three-dimensionality. Most works are titled simply with a date, such as 18 juin, 1989 (1989) or 26 janvier 1986 (1986), hinting at personal experience or the memory of light and shadow on the landscape at particular moments in time.
Léon Wuidar was born in 1938 in Liège and lives and works in Esneux, Belgium. Recent solo exhibitions include Bibliotheca Wittockiana, Brussels (2010); L’Espace du Dedans, Lille (2009) and Gesellschaft für Kunst und Gestaltung, Bonn, Germany (2007). His work was also included in numerous group exhibitions including ‘L’abstraction géométrique belge’, Mouans-Sartoux, France (2015); ‘Abstractions géométriques belges’, BAM, Mons, Belgium (2014); ‘Un siècle d’art abstrait’, Musée René Magritte, Brussels (2010); ‘François Jacqmin‘, Musée d’Art Moderne et d’Art Contemporain, Liège (2005); ‘Meditazione, Uno sguardo su alcuni artisti belgi’, Ville Ponti, Ricerca, Italy (2001) and Pure Abstract Art, Mondriaanhuis, Amersfoort, Netherlands (1999).
His work is held in international public collections including Musée des Beaux-Arts, Brussels; Bibliothèque Albertine, Brussels; Fernmeldetechnisches Zentralamt, Darmstadt, Germany; Dorstener Maschinenfabrik, Dorsten, Germany; and Fondation IDAC, Mondriaanhuis, Amersfoort, The Netherlands; Musée d’Art Wallon, Liège; Cabinet des Estampes, Liège; Musée en plein air du Sart Tilman, Liège; Centre de la Gravure et de l’image imprimée, La Louvière, Belgium; Fondation Meeus, Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium; Musée de Mariemont, Morlanwelz, Belgium; Musée des Beaux-Arts, Verviers, Belgium.