Léon Wuidar at the MACS

Assiduously developing—not without a few touches of humour—a so-called “geometric” abstract art (to distinguish it from its lyrical extreme), since the mid-1960s the Liège painter Léon Wuidar has produced a body of work that is both coherent and surprising in equal measure. After the Museum Haus Konstruktiv in Zurich, the MACS is dedicating a major retrospective to the artist’s work, bringing together for the first time in a museum in Belgium a vast collection of paintings, collages and sketchbooks. Through a selection of works produced between 1962 and today, À perte de vue highlights the constant evolution of an artist who has gradually established himself, on the fringes of artistic trends or schools, as one of the most free and delicate artists of his generation.

Born in Liège in 1938, Léon Wuidar began as a self-taught painter in 1955, seeking his way among the multiple paths that figurative painting still offered at that time. After a period of research in all directions to find his artistic identity, he abandoned figuration in 1963 in favour of abstraction, perfectly aware that he did not belong to the generation of its pioneers, but determined to continue its adventure and above all to perfect its aesthetics. Historically, his work is thus set apart by the meticulous detail that he adds to the relatively “elementary” style of the paintings in this register, which was revealed to him by the reproductions of two paintings by Ben Nicholson that he discovered in a magazine while searching through the cart of a second-hand bookseller. When some fifteen years later, he began such paintings as À perte de vue (1968) in the same “neo-plastic” style, Léon Wuidar aimed to make them evolve towards a ‘smooth, clear’ painting, in which the color radiates, inhabited by a certain “voluptuousness”. As he confided to Ben Durant: “Being an attentive gallery visitor, I contemplated these abstract paintings with a recurrent reflection: what I am looking at has a primitive quality, in its spontaneity, the simplicity of the means and in the best examples, the freshness of the colours. I imagined an evolution in abstract painting: the creation of a more profound, balanced body of work, which could be defined as classical art. Of course, I had in mind the evolution of Greek art; we clearly see the changes from the Archaic Kouros and Core, to the balance of the 4th century period.”

The painting Anamorphose (1968), which represents a character in front of a distorting mirror, appears in historical hindsight as the emblem of this passage towards abstraction through a pictorial frame, where the classical, linear perspective is no longer required. Departing from modernist dogma and its cold objectivity, Léon Wuidar thus brought a personal touch to his first geometric compositions in which humour, cultural references, ornamental motifs and even ambiguous signs emerge. Simple in structure yet complex in their maze, his compositions invite the viewer to explore a network of signs that they have to “learn to interpret”, in the same way that the pictorial language of rebuses and ideograms is deciphered. This interest in coded or even encrypted images is evident on reading his sketchbooks, where ingenious graphic discoveries are reflected in his research into ornamental patterns, typographies, pictograms and calligrams. Without speaking of esotericism, it should nevertheless be emphasized that the semantic pleasure generally found in Léon Wuidar’s iconic language is not far removed from the practice of blazoning in Medieval heraldry. As in the allegories of olden times, these assemblages of signs present themselves to us as a kind of figurative writing that we could easily qualify as postmodern. In the paintings where glyphs and cartouches appear as the remains of ancient, notably Egyptian or pre-Columbian civilisations, the brushstrokes clearly form a primitive, inextricable union between drawing and writing, engraving and architecture, the image and the word.

Léon Wuidar
À perte de vue
26.09.21 - 30.01.22
Site du Grand-Hornu
Rue Sainte-Louise, 82
B-7301 Hornu

Exhibition Catalogue

Léon Wuidar. À perte de vue

  • Editor: MACS/Musée des Arts Contemporains au Grand-Hornu
  • Authors: Denis Gielen and Hans Ulrich Obrist
  • Languages: French - English
  • Pages: 232 pages
  • Illustrations / Documents: numerous colour illustrations 
  • Format: 25 x 21 cm
  • ISBN: 9782930368795
  • Price: €39

Press release

DP - EN - MACS - Léon Wuidar MD.pdf

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