Vera Molnar is a pioneer of algorithmic art, whose work draws from constructivism and conceptual art, as well as cubism and other avant-garde movements, while developing her own form of geometric abstraction. She started developing combinatorial images in 1959 and began working with computers in 1968, using the programming languages Fortran and Basic to generate plotter drawings. She is the co-founder of artistic research groups GRAV and Art et Informatique.
Website of Vera Molnar:
A selection of Molnar’s latest work, which includes her five part series “9 double signes sans signification,” in which she examinated in a humorous way the geometrical forms of our most used signs like letters and numbers, inventing forms that refer to existing signs without having a significance.
“Gothique” is a series of plotter drawings created between 1988 and 1991 which evoke the structure of stained glass windows in Gothic architecture and show the artist’s interest in exploring geometrical shapes and the rhythms and interstitial spaces between them. The prints are characterized by an unusually slim portrait format.
They were presented for the first time as part of a group show at the old railway station Schöneberg in 1988. This series also marked the end of Molnar’s plotter drawings around 1991. After that she used laser prints and later on inkjet prints.
Vera Molnar has developed a particular relationship to the work of three artists: Albrecht Dürer, Paul Klee, and Paul Cézanne. In this series, she pays tribute to the latter, inspired by the sight of the Mont Sainte-Victoire, which Cézanne depicted in several of his works: “The first time I saw a Montagne Sainte-Victoire by Cézanne,” states Molnar, “it was as a reproduction in Budapest. Much later on, in the United States, I discovered in a book the curve described by Gauss, the famous German mathematician. I made a ton of drawings which were stolen from me. I was furious. I didn’t want to know anything else about Gauss. Ten or fifteen years later, I was in Aix one morning and when I opened the window, what did I see? The Gaussian curve: it was Mont Sainte-Victoire.”
This series is inspired by the magic square from the engraving “Melancholia” by Albrecht Dürer. Vera Molnar conntect the single numbers by one line in ascending order. The results are new geometric structures worked out in different materials such as drawings or an installation with nails and fibre.
This series belongs to a work group dealing with the structure of hand-writings. The artist recalls getting letters from her mother every week until her passing, and describes how the handwriting transformed over the years. She then evokes her mother’s handwriting, which she turns into computer drawings. Some of the plotter drawings are then covered by hand-drawn lines.
This series is dedicated to one of the three artists whom most inspired Molnars work: Claude Monet. The deconstructed the hypnotic effect of the small orange reflections of Monet’s Impression, Sunrise (1872) through a series of compositions in which the proportion and distribution of small colored rectangles were subjected by the computer to a combination of constraint and chance.
Vera Molnar creates compositions consisting of horizontal lines based on drawings elaborated in 1972. In the center of each composition, on a rectangular surface, the lines are interrupted more or less randomly on different lengths by a blank space. The linear order is therefore subject to breaks, “saccades”, the sum of which on each page provokes an ever-changing “plastic event.”
This work phase examines the effects of minor changes in parameters of the x- and y-axis to regular squares. The series is composed of four variations through which the artist generated plotter drawings measuring 20 x 20 cm.
In this series, Vera Molnar creates a pattern of concentric squares which is randomly disrupted in order to highlight the contrast between order and disorder and create tensions in the ortogonal structure, as if the squares were subject to a vibrating force. The title suggests a word play in French between two meanings: “désordres” (disorders) and “des ordres” (some orders), which implies that within the apparent dissarray one can find an underlying logic.
Part of her work in the “imaginary computer” phase, this series is comprised by several ink on paper compositions in which Vera Molnar explores a canvas by the Swiss-German artist Paul Klee (1879 – 1940), configuring a grid in which she develops a number of combinations and permutations of lines on the limited space of a square.
In this series, the artist starts with a grid covered with straight lines of the same length, and applies random rotation to each, generating a densely complex pattern that suggests the action if different forces that introduce chaos on a regular structure. To this, Molnar adds the “interruptions,” random sections in which certain lines are erased, thus creating voids shaped both by the missing elements and those nearby.
In 1968, Vera Molnar started working with a computer at the experimental psychology lab in Sorbonne, where she created her first plotter drawings, applying what she had been exploring in earlier years without using a machine.
First published in Vera Molnar. Lignes, Formes, Couleurs, cat. exhib. Vasarely Múzeum, Budapest 1990, p. 16 f.
In my search for a visual basis I started to design series. I applied very simple rules of combinatorial analysis and equally some very plain geometrical forms and step for step, introduced minor changes, either in the proportion of the basic element or in the way I joined them. My aim was not to create just any number of images; these series make sense as such that they provide me with the opportunity to juxtapose and test visual situations that are very similar. Friends of mine who are interested also perform such comparisons of my pictures with one another. The question is whether here and there, by placing them next to one another, one can produce a substantial change, a unique visual situation which could be called art. The underlying problem of my entire work is to capture this phenomenon, the ′epiphany′ of art. Working with series of pictures is like a visual dialogue between the painter and what has been painted. All stages of such a series naturally form small works of art in the traditional sense. They are samples, stages of painted research. I accept only a very small percentage of these visual possibilities. To me, my entire work has a hypothetical character.
To genuinely systematize my research series I initially used a technique which I called machine imaginaire. I imagined I had a computer. I designed a programme and then, step by step, I realized simple, limited series which were completed within, meaning they did not exclude a single possible combination of form. As soon as possible I replaced the imaginary computer, the makebelieve machine by a real one.
To avoid a false interpretation of my method I wish to emphasize that a large part of my work is designed and frequently carried out with the help of a computer; but whether these works have little value, if at all, is not the computer′s responsibility. This machine, as impressive as it may be, is after all merely a tool in the hand of the painter. I use the computer to combine forms, hoping that this tool will enable me to distance myself from what I have learned, from my cultural heritage and everything else that surrounds me; in brief, from the influences of civilization
that define us. Thanks to its many possibilities of combination the computer helps to systematically research the visual realm, helps the painter to free himself from cultural ′readymades′ and find combinations in forms never seen before, neither in nature nor at a museum: It helps to create inconceivable images. The computer helps, but it does not ′do′, does not ′design′ or ′invent′ anything. To avoid another misunderstanding I wish to underline something else: The fact that something is new and has not been seen before is no guarantee in any manner for its aesthetic quality. Was the portrayal of a young man with curly hair − Dürer′s self-portrait from around 1500 − new?
My works are always created from the simplest of geometrical forms. This choice has its actual cause in my personal taste: I like the formal rigidity and the parsimony of geometry, I like the rational purity of mathematics. ′Nature can afford to be extravagant with everything, the artist must be totally efficient′, said Paul Klee; and I would agree.
Budapest (Hungary), 1924
Vera Molnar studied at the Budapest College of Fine Arts, were she obtained her degree on art history and aesthetics. Here she also met François Molnar, with whom she moved to Paris in 1947. Since her arrival, she befriended many influential artists from the French art scene, such as Sonia Delaunay, who encouraged Vera to pursue her work, and François Morellet, with whom she shared a growing interest for minimalist, geometric forms, as well as the application of systematic processes of art making. Between 1946 and 1959, her work is focused on the mathematical laws of composition, partly influenced by the theories of Théo Van Doesburg and Georges Vantongerloo, and also by her friendship with Max Bill, whose focus on the relationship between art and mathematics suggested the idea of a quantifiable art. Between 1960 and 1968, she co-founds and actively participates in the artistic research groups GRAV (1960) and Art e Informatique (1967). During these years, she experiments with an “imaginary machine,” that is, a series of instructions that allowed her to develop variations of a visual composition following certain rules and self-imposed limitations. Since 1968, this method was continued with the aid of a real computer at the experimental psychology lab in Sorbonne. The computer becomes a tool that lets her quickly advance in her artistic research, but she stresses that it does not replace her role as creator. In 1974-76, she developed the “Molnart” software program along with her husband, aimed at facilitating a “systematic pictorial experimentation.” In 1980 she became a member of the Centre de Recherche Expérimentale et Informatique des Arts Visuels (CREIAV) at the Université de Paris I, Sorbonne, and has since progressively gained recognition with her participation in major exhibitions of abstract art and a number of shows devoted to her work. In 2005, she was the recipient of the first d.velop digital art award [ddaa] for her life’s work, organized annually by the Digital Art Museum [DAM] and honored with an individual exhibition by the Kunsthalle Bremen.
During her career, the artist has held numerous solo and group exhibitions at museums and art institutions such as the Fondation Vasarely (Aix-en-Provence, France), Musée de Grenoble (France), Wilhelm-Hack-Museum (Ludwigshafen, Germany), Kunsthalle Bremen (Germany), Musée des Beaux-Arts de Rouen (France), Musée Vasarely (Budapest), and Fondation Lius Moret (Martigny, Switzerland), as well as art galleries DAM (Berlin, Germany), Galerie La Ligne (Zurich, Switzerland), März Galerie (Mannheim, Germany), and Galerie Oniris (Rennes, France), among others.
Vera Molnar’s work is featured in prominent collections across Europe and other continents, such as the Centre Georges Pompidou (Paris & Metz, France), Staatliche Kunstsammlung (Dresden, Germany), Victoria and Albert Museum (London, UK), National Gallery and Fine Arts Museum (Budapest, Hungary), Bibliothèque Nationale (Paris, France), Fonds National d’Art Contemporain (Paris, France), Carré Estampes (Luxembourg), Stiftung für konkrete Kunst (Reutlingen, Germany), National Library (Tokyo, Japan), Hochschule für bildende Künste (Saarbrücken, Germany), « Sammlung E », Museum gegenstandsfreier Kunst (Otterndorf, Germany), Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts (Norwich, UK), Wilhelm-Hack-Museum (Ludwigshafen, Germany), Forum Konkrete Kunst (Erfurt, Germany), Mondriaanhuis (Amersfoort, Netherlands), Collection Ruppert (Würzburg, Germany), Collection Hoppe-Ritter, Waldenbuch, Germany, Collection Centre d’Art Bouvet-Ladubay, (Saumur, France), Collection Vass (Budapest, Hungary), Collection Matzon (Budapest, Hungary), Musée Sztuki (Lódz, Poland), Musée Kassak (Budapest, Hungary), Kunsthalle Bremen (Germany), Musée des Beaux-Arts de Rouen (France), Musée des Beaux-Arts de Brest (France), Arithmeum (Bonn, Germany), Stiftung für Konkrete Kunst (Ingolstadt, Germany), among others.
She is the 2005 recipient of the d.velop digital art award [ddaa] (later renamed DAM Digital Art Award), which honours the most important artists in the area of digital art for their life’s work or for an important group of works. Other recipients of the award are Lynn Hershman Leeson, Norman White, and Manfred Mohr.
Baby, V. (2012). Introduction. In: Vera Molnar. Une retrospective (1942-2012). Exhibition Catalogue. Paris: Bernard Chauveau Édition. [FR]
–– and Deiss, A. (2012). Entretien avec Véra Molnar. In: Vera Molnar. Une retrospective (1942-2012). Exhibition Catalogue. Paris: Bernard Chauveau Édition. [FR]
Franke, H. (1971). Computer Graphics. Computer Art. London: Phaidon. [EN].
Moles, A. (1971). Art et ordinateur. Paris: Blusson, 1990, p.148-149. [FR]
Molnar, V. (1976). Description du programme “Molnart”. [FR]
–– (1982). L’art et l’ordinateur. [FR]
–– (1984). Éloge de l’ordinateur dans les arts visuels. [FR]
Popper, F. (1993). L’art à l’âge electronique. Paris: Fernand Hazan, p.80-81. [FR]
Molnar, Vera: Questions, sans reponse, à propos de “arbres et collines”, in: Vera Molnar et Marta Pan. Thèmes et variations, cat. exhib. Brest 2005.
Molnar, Vera: Auf der Suche nach Paul Klee oder: Der Versuch einer Extrapolation (2001), in: Vera Molnar. Als das Quadrat noch ein Quadrat war … Eine Retrospektive zum 80. Geburtstag, cat. exhib. Ludwigshafen 2004, p. 114 f.
Molnar, Vera: Reise in die Farbe Rot (2000), in: Vera Molnar: inventory 1946-2003, publ. v. Linde Hollinger, Ladenburg 2004.
Molnar, Vera: Un cheveu gris sur un tricot gris, 1999, not published.
Molnar, Vera: Ich liebe mich (1995), in: Vera Molnar: inventory 1946-1999, publ. v. Linde Hollinger, Ladenburg 1999, p. 566 f.
Molnar, Vera: inventory (1994), re-printed in:Vera Molnar. Als das Quadrat noch ein Quadrat war … Eine Retrospektive zum 80. Geburtstag, cat. exhib. Ludwigshafen 2004, p. 24-29.
Molnar, Vera: Un patchwork électronique, Les Technimages, in: Revue d′Esthétique, No. 25, 1994, p. 778.
Molnar, Vera: Der Zyklus Hommage à Dürer (1948-1992), Vortrag 1992, wieder abgedruckt in: Vera Molnar. Als das Quadrat noch ein Quadrat war … Eine Retrospektive zum 80. Geburtstag, cat. exhib. Ludwigshafen 2004, p. 80-84.
Molnar, Vera: Mit dem Zufall zu verlernen lernen, in: Zufall als Prinzip, cat. exhib. Ludwigshafen 1992, p. 310.
Molnar, Vera: Neun Quadrate (1989), re-printed in:Vera Molnar. Als das Quadrat noch ein Quadrat war … Eine Retrospektive zum 80. Geburtstag, cat. exhib. Ludwigshafen 2004, p. 22 f.
Molnar, Vera: Regards sur mes Images, in: Revue d′Esthétique, No. 7, 1984, p. 116 f.
Molnar, Vera: Ein Prozent Unordnung, Bjerred 1980 [artist book].
Molnar, Vera: Transformations, in: Transformations, cat. exhib. London 1976, unpag.
Molnar, Vera: Das verletzte Quadrat (1975), in: Vera Molnar − Out of square, cat. exhib. Ludwigshafen, 1994, unpag.
Molnar, Vera: Cézanne et le cubisme, thèse de fin d′étude, [Masters Thesis] Budapest 1947.
Vera Molnar et Marta Pan. Thèmes et variations, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Brest 2005.
Vera Molnar. Als das Quadrat noch ein Quadrat war … Eine Retrospektive zum 80. Geburtstag, Wilhelm-HackMuseum, Ludwigshafen 2004.
ReConnaître. Vera Molnar, Musée de Grenoble 2001/2002.
Vera Molnar “Extraits de 100.000 milliards de lignes”, Centre de Recherche, d′échange et de Diffusion pour l′Art Contemporain (CRÉDAC), Ivry-sur-Seine 1999.
Histoires de blanc et noir, Musée de Grenoble.
Vera Molnar − Out of square, Wilhelm-Hack-Museum, Ludwigshafen 1994 [Künstlerbuch].
Vera Molnar. “Sommaire” 1992- 93, März Galerien, Mannheim und Ladenburg 1994.
Zufall als Prinzip, Wilhelm-Hack-Museum, Ludwigshafen.
Vera Molnar. Lignes, Formes, Couleurs, Vasarely Múzeum, Budapest.
Vera Molnar. Paris − Caen, L′Atelier de Recherche Estétique à Caen 1979.
Transformations, Polytechnic of Central London 1976.