Out of Proportion
Sweep, jump, stop. As we learn to write, we compose lines into segmental signs, be it letters or ideographs. We rectify, refine, and repeat movements until they produce legible forms. Handwriting is not only an expression supposed to signify, but also the incorporation of signs, as the movement of writing passes through the body and, through repetition, enters its repertoire.
Drawing on the technique and materials used in calligraphy—the art of beautiful writing—Maria VMier’s ongoing Companion series moves beyond such codified sets of stroke patterns towards an unruly writing. In her vibrant, large-scale works with ink and pigment on paper, the gesture of writing appears without its usual written product; a writerly mark freed of constraints to produce legible signs. A gesture – Roland Barthes writes in an essay on Cy Twombly’s paintings – is “something like the supplement of the act.”(1) Whereas the act aims at a result, the gesture exceeds it as the sum of inexhaustible and indeterminate impulses and motives.
Rather than producing premeditated signs as in the act of writing, VMier’s gestural abstraction stages a material encounter between the bodily gesture, the pigments, the brushes, and the paper support. The writerly gesture responds to material resistances. Sweeping strokes flow over the paper plane like the pulsating veins of a body and intersect with punctuating, undulating marks. At times, the predominantly scarlet red and ultramarine blue pigments seem to hover over the surface. Elsewhere, thin strings of color blur into dissolving fields, as if to defy the borders that lines impose. The ink quickly seeps into the paper, a material condition which leaves traditional calligraphers no room for mistakes, hesitation, or doubt. The lines that compose VMier’s Companions appear more erratic than resolute. Strokes are overwritten and keep returning on themselves, forming a palimpsest in a monumental diary.
The writing body acts as a seismograph that records and reacts to quotidian events, experiences, and feelings. Produced in New York, this Companion transcribes what it is like to dwell in this tumultuous and tantalizing city, and the relentless confrontation of too-much in everything: from far distances to high prices to skyscraping architecture. In Out of Proportion, even gestures expand beyond their paper support, just as the panoramic paper struggles to fit in the exhibition space. Rather than representing the complexities of the present condition, VMier gestures towards it and translates it into a dynamic field of wander lines, “in order to make something other than a sign.”(2) And yet one cannot help but try to read it, following the lines like a map of underwater currents. These drawings are an invitation to drift in their writing which—instead of signifying the world trough codified and legible forms—traces the experience of moving through it.
– Johanna Thorell
(1) Roland Barthes (1979): “Non multa sed multum”, in: Cy Twombly. Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 2016, 41, my translation. The French original reads: “Quelque chose comme le supplément d’un acte.”
(2) Fernand Deligny: The Arachnean and Other Texts. Translated by Drew S. Burk & Catherine Porter. Minneapolis: Univocal Publishing, 2015, 149.
Maria VMier is an artist and publisher based in Munich, Germany. She studied painting at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna, Austria and sculpture at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich. Most recently, her work has been shown in solo presentations at Museum Brandhorst, Munich (2022) and BOAN Art Space, Seoul (2020). She has been awarded numerous prizes, including the Staatsförderpreis for visual arts of the State of Bavaria (2022) and the FLAT Prize–CRT Art Foundation (2017). In 2022 Maria received a post-graduate scholarship for New York by the DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service). She is co-director of Hammann von Mier Verlag, a self-organized publishing house for artists books, founded in 2013 and since 2017 co-organizer of the nomadic artist-run space Ruine München. From 2017-20 Maria was part of the jury of exhibitions of BBK Munich (artist union Munich) and from 2019-22 curator at FLORIDA Lothringer 13, a municipal Munich art space.
Johanna Thorell is an independent curator and art writer currently based in New York. She studied Philosophy at Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne and Universität Wien. Recent exhibition projects include Cartography of Memory (Pina, 2019), Failure to Function (VBKÖ, 2020), Haus 2020 and Haus 2021, all in Vienna. In 2022-2023, she is a Helena Rubinstein Fellow in Curatorial Studies at the Whitney Independent Study Program.