Milan Maur


During the eighties Milan Maur was one of the leading representatives of conceptual art oriented on natural themes. He arrived at fine art as a genuine amateur. Along with other trained (Václav Malina) and untrained painters and theoreticians (Bronislav Losenický, Vladimír Venda), at the turn of the seventies and eighties he was a regular visitor to the artistic circle in Pilsen led in his retirement by Jiří Patera, Martin Salcmana's assistant for many years at the Prague Pedagogic Faculty. Participants at the circle adopted the foundations of pictorial composition based on surface painting feature expressive coloristic details.

At the beginning of the eighties Maur went on a number of trips to Bulgaria, and these were an important impulse behind his creative work. In several pictures the scene drops beneath the horizon, and it is only by comparing these pictures with others in the same cycle that we learn that an apparently abstract morphology is actually a transformed landscape motif. Maur experimented with pictures based on simply one colour. If an incandescent yellow dominates in these pictures, in the following cycle entitled Drying the Laundry it is a cold colour range which predominates. The exploration of compositional rules begins to take precedence over the need for en plein air spontaneity, and the artist eventually arrives at a terminal problem – the resolution of the relationship between two white surfaces. However, this does not involve a picture, but a collaged object, albeit with the same title.

Subsequently Maur turned to a purely conceptual problematic, though one always linked with a pictorial artefact which is the result of an event, or at least a textual and graphic rapport, which has its specific aesthetic. Using mathematical randomness simulated by the throw of a dice he explored the relationship between rules and chance in natural processes, and it was here that he found his most personal position. His characteristic work includes records of the gradual falling of leaves from a twig, which he first labelled with numbers in descending order (the result is a rapport with a numerical series), or linear records, in which he captured the movement of the shadows of trees or the fluctuations in the surface of a river. One exceptional and rare work is an event in which Maur took a walk in the open countryside along a trail decided upon by simply following the sun. In this case the rapport is a drawing of the route on a map. His latest work has involved the creation of gestural records of the movement of a small insect.

Maur's work with nature sometimes takes on a quasi-scientific character. On the other hand, the texts which become part of the resulting "picture" lend them a kind of lyrical quality (17 May 1993 – in my garden I traced the shadow of a thrown pear and took in the scent of the trees in blossom). In the eighties especially an ecological aspect is apparent (11 May 1983 – in the Krušné Mountains I touched the dying trees because I didn't know how else to help them.).

In the nineties Milan Maur gradually wound down his active creative work and began to devote himself to business activities involving the festive illumination of towns, an activity which corresponds to his original education. He is as successful in this branch as he was previously in art.

text: Marcel Fišer