I think that my painting is not much different from contemporary music research in terms of the elimination of a motif or theme—that is, a painting or music that is really based on rhythmic progression.
— Guido Molinari
“Our perception of the Quantificateurs is slow, intense, and demanding, as their chromatic values are sometimes so closely related and subtle that they verge on the invisible.” From the outset, the Quantificateur paintings invite the naked eye into an interior, intimate, contemplative space, far from “the world’s great public stage.” Moreover, the gaze is impelled to decipher forms, colours, and the pictorial structure itself, while attempting to grasp the painting’s meaning by scanning it from left to right, top to bottom. With each glance, in every kind of light and shadow, an answer suddenly appears. Thus, the painting takes on an entirely different meaning viewed in half-light than when bathed in daylight. This indicator of shadow and light, anchored in time, forms part of the meditative space that Molinari cherished. In addition to theory, there is mysticism: “The dark Quantificateurs and the series of red and blue monochromes (‘my mystical period’) ... helped build a slow, meditative space that reaches the deepest crevices of the body.” In these works, an optical and subjective “complementary dualism” (Mondrian) is used in an attempt to establish—from mind to matter and from matter to mind—a new basis for abstraction, as if the artist is making a request of painting, an invocation, a litany for the self. Molinari often referred to contemporary music to define the idea of a harmonic, spatial “rhythmic progression” in his paintings, which can be read as musical scores, from one band to another, from one tone to another.
Molinari’s series of vertical stripe paintings ended around 1969 with the simple binary system of Dyades, and his continued research led to his Quantificateur paintings in the mid-1970s. This new theme would occupy him for the next twenty years. Writing on this enduring series, art historian Roald Nasgaard noted, “The Quantificateurs have a characteristic dual aspect: a near-vertical and near-monochromatic organization of colour. To begin to describe their formal effectiveness, one should proceed as follows: the near-vertical division of two, sometimes barely perceptible, masses of colour.” The work presented here, Quantificateur rouge (1987), illustrates this point well. Molinari divides rectangles into two trapezoids, to which he adds a fifth, orphan element on the extreme right. The whole becomes a kind of subterfuge of barely discernible hues. “The effect of this diagonal thrust,” Nasgaard continues, “is to emphasize the corners while reinvesting the form with movement.” The gaze can never quite stray from this magnetic piece, as if hypnotized by its “pendulum motion” and intense vibration.