Chroma, Ecstasy, Teleology:
Uncensored Thoughts on Mirana Zuger’s Abstracts
“Colour is the place where our brain and the universe meet.”
-- Maurice Merleau-Ponty, quoting Paul Cézanne (1)
Mirana Zuger’s exuberant abstractions are remarkable for their cohesiveness and incessant internal flux. They bridge Lascaux cave walls and the restless paintings of Lee Krasner, Barthes’s sign fever and Banksy’s feverish graffiti. In effect, they are limpid constellation maps of desire and ecstatic phenomena – buoyant integers of pure joy in oil paint on canvas. Zuger captures with enviable immediacy all the sensuous presence of the lived world and offers us, above all else, an unalloyed experience of colour freed from any and all forms of mediation.
Colour is Zuger’s personal way of celebrating life. If her fields constitute a primal index of a life lived, their inherent gestures lend them a sense of seeming preternaturally alert. Chroma, like amber sap from the Tree of Life, entraps memory and experience while her sign language ensures that no vitrification takes place.
Zuger’s signature luminosity trickles down from above just as it surges up and through from below. Like a vegetal resin, the light and the colour enable a tiered archaeology of colour - an accretion over time that must be peeled away like an onion’s layers and revealed. Her palette is radiant, even incandescent in its mien. It is as though she offers us a vision of the terrestrial paradise in the light of a first day. There is spirituality at work and play here, and an acknowledgement that sensation is or can be ecstatic.
French philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty once held that our first response to color is pure and unadulterated. He argued that our primary perception of color is unmediated by extant knowledge or culture. If we respond to a certain hue of pink in one way, and a certain blue in another, it is because those colours hold that response. Color affords us direct access to the truth of the world. As Merleau-Ponty quoted Paul Klee: “Turning back to colour has the advantage of bringing us closer to ‘the heart of things.’ ” (2) Working chroma as a way of unveiling perceptual truth and building signs as excavating instruments in order to reach unmediated meanings, Zuger insists on the sensuous response to colour and seeks the fabled “heart of things”.
Mirana Zuger puts paid to the notion that painting is somehow governed by a Greenbergian teleology, which really means the ‘end-of-the-line’ pursuit of absolute purity of medium and form. She is a resolutely abstract painter yet one wed at the hip to the life-world. And her pursuit is different in kind. She embraces the sensuousness of pure chroma. She shows us that the real teleology is in the chroma itself, that it has a voice that expresses itself through colour, and one that might well show us all the way out of darkness.
James D. Campbell
November 23, 2010
1. Maurice Merleau-Ponty, The Primacy of Perception, edited by James M. Edie and William Cobb (Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press, 1964), p. 180.
2. Maurice Merleau-Ponty, The Merleau-Ponty Aesthetics Reader:
Aesthetics and Painting, edited with an introduction by Galen A. Johnson, translation editor Michael B. Smith (Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University, 1993), p. 41.