Well-known internationally for pliage—his tie-dye-related method of constructing paintings in which folded, scrunched-up bundles of canvas are splashed with colour and then unravelled before stretching—Simon Hantaї was a reclusive figure who did not enjoy being in the spotlight. Studying art initially in the School of Fine Art in Budapest, Hantaï moved to Paris in 1948, where he befriended the Surrealists, including André Breton. However, Hantaї fell out with Breton when Hantaї showed enthusiasm for the work of Jackson Pollock and claimed it had connections with automatic writing. Becoming an abstractionist and exhibiting at Galerie Kleber in Paris in 1956, Hantaї was influenced by and became friends with George Mathieu. He also became interested in philosophy and Christian mysticism, becoming friends with Jacques Derrida and Gilles Deleuze. In some works Hantaї transcribed texts onto the canvases.
Hantaї developed his method of holistically and decoratively exploring landscape (Etude) and then the individual human figure (Meun) in the mid-1960s, and the white negative spaces became more compositionally dominant when he realised their importance. In the 1970s he then began working with a repetitive grid formation (Tabula), applied to very large sheets of canvas and resulting in rows and rows of splintery squares. In 1982 Hantaї represented France in the Venice Biennale, but in the following 16 years—apart from showing some white-on-white works with his Parisian dealer Jean Fournier—he stopped exhibiting. Hantai has had a large number of retrospectives: Centre Pompidou (1976, 2013); Simon Hantaï 1960–76, CAPC musée d'art contemporain de Bordeaux (1981); Simon Hantaï: Retrospective, Musée d'Art et d'Industrie, Saint-Etienne, France (1973); Simon Hantaї from 1960 to 1995: Retrospective, Westfälisches Landesmuseum Für Kunst Und Kulturgeschichte, Münster (1999).
His works are held at: Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris; Musée d'Art moderne de la Ville de Paris; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC; and Ludwig Museum of Contemporary Art, Budapest.
The Blancs, a series of paintings that Simon Hantaï (1922-2008) created in the early 1970s, have shards of transparent color that are arrayed over expanses of white space. These delicate large-scale works vary in the intensity of their tonalities, but all have a kind of wind-blown unpredictability, so that we are not exactly sure of how the pieces...