1992
Acrylic on canvas
1020 x 770mm

This painting, first exhibited in 1995, is the largest work from Walters’ en abyme (literally “abyss”) series in which a painting can be said to contain a mirror image of itself. The French phrase derives from a heraldic term used to describe the image of a shield containing in its centre a miniature reflection of itself. Francis Pound has pointed out that just as Gordon Walters’ koru paintings destroy themselves in the perpetual dissolution of figure into ground, in the en abyme paintings the form of the total painting is “made to fall into the abyss of itself.” This 1992 painting is the artist’s final statement on a subject which occupied him since 1959 and thus for most of his career as a painter. In a number of these works (including an en abyme Untitled 1989 reproduced on the cover of Order and Intuition) he slightly varied the insert picture and the picture proper.

In a large 1992 version, the symmetry is exact, as it is in two smaller 1992 works which relate closely to this 1995 painting. These all mark the resolution of the problem in that symmetry is not denied but confirmed. The self reflexiveness of Walters’ abstract art is underlined in all of these en abyme paintings; they are auto-representative and self referential, paintings within a painting which could conceivably, if mirrored, continue into infinity. As such they clearly relate to Walters’ Transparency series which, like the en abyme paintings, date from the 1950s to the 1990s. In these works a solid form is juxtaposed with a repetition of itself in a colour which has the effect of negating the original form. The structures are thus self dissolving.