Critics’ Picks

View of “Hilarie Mais,” 2017.

View of “Hilarie Mais,” 2017.


Hilarie Mais

Museum of Contemporary Art, Australia
140 George Street The Rocks
September 23–November 19, 2017

The work of Leeds-born, Sydney-based artist Hilarie Mais is minimal and meaningful. Since the 1970s, she has achieved renown both for creating painstakingly handcrafted abstract structures that study the aesthetic possibilities of geometrical shapes, and for embedding her work with autobiographical facts. Throughout history, circles and spirals have been related to life cycles and energies, just as grids have been linked to rationality. These connotations are present in “Tempus,” an ongoing series of monochromatic and multifocal constructions that the artist has created yearly since 2006. Particularly effective is Tempus 4, 2010, a palimpsest-like piece in which light and dark dots of different sizes form spiral and gridded patterns on a gray background.

Duality is also present in Mais’s “Mist,” 2010–12, a series of intricate grid constructions made of wooden sticks which are irregularly intersected by painted lines and patterns. There is a nuanced repetition in them that evokes perfection and predictability, but their organic construction leaves room for asymmetry and miscalculation. Every work pursues the beauty and mystery found in universal patterns, such as the Fibonacci sequence and the Golden Ratio. Indeed, the very essence of humanness is to err, and, in overcoming small failures, to create magnificent constellations—in this case, one built between the personal and the natural through a complex interplay of color, form, light, and shadows.