1.9 x 18 x 18 cm
Relief, paint on wood
Collection Museum Haus Konstruktiv
Donated by Benjamin Kaufmann, Wettswil am Albis
While Jo Niemeyer (born 1946 in Alf, Germany) is a systematic artist through and through, his paintings and objects, which are organized according to strict rules, are closely related to nature. His works consist of only a few basic elements – lines, squares, and rectangles; the primary colors of red, blue, and yellow; and the non-colors of black and white – and yet they continue to highlight just how many variations can be generated from a programmatically reduced canon of colors and forms.
Niemeyer’s canon clearly follows in the tradition of the early Constructivists, especially Piet Mondrian. However, his consistently mathematical approach presents a significant difference. The golden section and the logical contingency of individual elements (sometimes across many pictures and objects) characterize his works. It is in this application and visualization of a classical system of proportions that the afore-mentioned reference to nature lies.
The golden section, as we know, describes the ratio between two segments of a distance (or a plane in a painting). The ratio of the shorter segment as compared to the longer one is the same as the longer one to the entire distance.
Although this mathematical principle has existed since antiquity, it did not receive its current name until the 19th century. It is both a mathematical construct as well as a natural phenomenon. Not only can it be found in the growth patterns of plants, animals, and humans, it is also related to another mathematical derivation: the Fibonacci sequence, in which each number is based on the sum of the two previous numbers (1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, and so forth). When translated into the segmentation of a plane, the result is a spiral – another pictorial motif that often appears in Niemeyer’s body of work.
The golden section and the Fibonacci sequence stand for harmonic proportions and for the aesthetic principle of equality and unity. Niemeyer’s systematics, which he has continued to pursue since the early 1970s, is by no means merely an end in itself; it is the foundation for carefully constructed compositions, some of which can be found in many important collections, such as the Mondriaanhuis in Amersfoort, the Netherlands.