Beauty of math in art

By Lee Woo-young

Bernar Venet talks about artistic inspiration from mathematics at his solo exhibition in Seoul

  • Published : May 8, 2014 - 20:52
  • Updated : May 8, 2014 - 21:57
“GRIB 4” (Bernar Venet Studio)
Mathematics and art may seem irrelevant in the world of contemporary art, in which artistic creativity takes precedence over the aesthetic ideals pursued by Renaissance artists.

But French artist Bernar Venet said mathematics has inspired his works since the early 1960s, when he started his career as an artist. The first painting Venet created was a mathematical painting that resembles functional graphs consisting of symmetrical curves on a y-axis.

“I painted a line that looks like a functional graph ― y equals x squared. It set the direction for my future works,” said the artist during the press preview for his solo exhibition at Gallery Hyundai in Seoul. 
Bernar Venet poses for a photo in front a steel sculpture. ( Bernar Venet Studio)

Venet, 73, is showcasing his latest series of works, “GRIB,” at this exhibition following his retrospectives at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea in 2009 and the Seoul Museum of Art in 2011.

The “GRIB” series, which started in 2011, is more spontaneous in its expression than his previous series. The sculptures and drawings are based on scribbles the artist drew on pieces of paper. He then magnified the scribbles and used them as the forms for steel sculptures. His drawings of lines no longer feature mathematical graphs and diagrams. They consist of different configurations of lines, such as half circles, arcs and broken arcs.

“Instead of being faithful to a certain style, I prefer to create a conceptual matrix or a basic concept from which many things can be created afterwards,” he said.

Venet is more well-known for steel sculptures than drawings. His sculptures are part of collections of major museums around the world including the Museum of Modern Art and Guggenheim Museum in New York and Centre Pompidou in Paris.

But his pastel drawings on paper, displayed for the first time at this exhibition, feature the spontaneous gestures of scribbling.

Venet explains that all his attempts to evolve his style based on mathematical lines have to do with his earlier belief that an “artist should extend the field of art.”

“True artists are not painters whose paintings are hung to decorate gardens and apartments. They are ... concerned with the idea of creativity and extending the field of art that was never conceived before,” said the artist.

The artist seemed tireless in his endeavor to create new works and starting a new art foundation.

Venet is expected to open his art foundation in July this year in Le Muy, France, a place close to his birthplace. The Venet Foundation will display Venet’s major works as well as Venet’s lifetime art collection.

“This place is intended more for a specialized audience (students, art lovers, etc.) who will come and discover a generation of artists that has been called heroic by many historians who discovered an exceptional radicalization of the function of art thanks to them,” he said.

The exhibition continues through June 15 at Gallery Hyundai at Samcheong-ro 14, Jongno-gu, Seoul.

For more information, call (02) 2287-3500.

By Lee Woo-young (wylee@heraldcorp.com)