WALTERS, Gordon;


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Acrylic on canvas
1020 x 770mm

First exhibited in 1995, Untitled is the largest work from Walters’ so-called ‘en abyme’ (literally ‘abyss’) series. 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 in Walters’ en abyme paintings the form of the total painting is ‘made to fall into the abyss of itself’. Similarly, Walters’ koru paintings destroy themselves in the perpetual dissolution of figure into ground.

In a number of the en abyme works (including the one reproduced on the cover of the 1989 festschrift Order and Intuition), Walter’s slightly varied the insert and the picture proper. Here, the symmetry is exact, as it is in two smaller but closely related works from the same year. These all mark a resolution in that symmetry is not denied but confirmed. The self-reflexiveness of Walters’ abstract art is underlined in all the en abyme paintings; they are auto-representative and self-referential, paintings within paintings that could conceivably continue into infinity.

The en abyme series clearly relates to Walters’ Transparency works, which date from the 1950s to the 1990s. In such works, a solid form is juxtaposed with a repetition of itself in a colour that has the effect of negating the original form. The structures are thus self-dissolving.

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Exhibition History

Walters: En Abyme, curated by Francis Pound, Gus Fisher Gallery, Tāmaki Makaurau, 12 June to 31 July 2004


Francis Pound, Gordon Walters (Tāmaki Makaurau: Auckland University Press, 2023), 208.

Francis Pound, Walters: En Abyme (Tāmaki Makaurau: Gus Fisher Gallery, 2004), plate 11 (here dated 1989).


Fletcher Trust Collection, purchased February 1996