Carey Merten combines mathematics with art


Bold, obsessive and geometric. These are some of the words used to describe Carey Merten’s paintings. For over 25 years the artist has been interested in the intersection between mathematics, repetitive styles and contemporary art. Her latest exhibition, New Paintings, explores these ongoing themes.

Showing at Moonah Arts CentreNew Paintings features a series of geometric abstract works, all painted on wood panels. As a general rule, Merten’s solo shows are devoid of colour and New Paintings is no exception: the show is a display of black and white works, and the shades of grey in-between.

At the centre of Merten’s practice lies a keen attention to how mathematics and geometric forms can be represented through painting. “These interests in my work are always ongoing,” says Merten. “I’ve pursued various themes like the square, the circle and the cross for years and it’s very mathematically generated work.”

In this sense Merten’s paintings are characterised by geometric abstraction and highly controlled patterns. But what drew her to that particular style? “When I lived in Western Australia I was influenced by a lot of contemporary painters in the 1990s, such as Cathy Blanchflower and John Nixon,” explains the artist. “In the beginning I basically just wanted to paint stripes, but then I felt they weren’t enough and went into variations of the square and the cross.”

While Merten has always gained inspiration from abstractionist painters from the 1950s and 1960s, such as Bridget Riley and Frank Stella, she is also drawn towards the repetitive patterns of early Islamic art and Indigenous cave art. Merten calls into play the beauty and essential form of her influences, combining them in a Western abstract style.

Although the artist is not averse to colourful or figurative works, she does hope her exhibition excites curiosity about painting that isn’t traditionally realist. “I just hope that people will open their minds to abstraction,” says Merten. “I feel that attraction, pattern-making and illusion is what I’m drawn to and I find it more cerebrally interesting.”

New Paintings
Carey Merten
Moonah Arts Centre
3 May – 26 May

Preview Words by Tiarney Miekus