During this graphic period (1929-1946), Vasarely laid the foundations of his aesthetic and plastic art research as well as the “basic repertoire of (his) abstract kinetic period". He explored all the topics that he would subsequently reclaim : lines, the effects of materials, shadows and light… he has already developed a certain taste for perspective. These constants are observed in his two-dimensional graphic works such as “Zèbres” (1938), "l’Echiquier” (1935), and "Fille-fleur” (1934) in which the shapes are not defined by lines but they emerge from deformed grids or juxtaposed contrasts.
Between 1935 and 1947, Vasarely rediscovered painting. During this period which he would later refer to as one of “false routes", Vasarely was influenced by the pictorial movements of the time, and especially by cubist and surrealist movements. He focused on still lifes, landscapes and portraits. Although figurative, paintings done during this period such as “Autoportrait” (1941) and “l’Aveugle” (1946) show an evolution towards the simplification and schematization of objects.
Vasarely experienced a true
revelation in the idea that “pure
form and pure color can define the world".
Trips made to Belle Isle and Gordes were of paramount importance to the artist’s evolution.
“Belle Isle, summer 1947. Pebbles, sea shells, waves, the hovering fog, the sun, the sky... In the stones and fragments of broken bottles, polished by the rhythmic to and fro of the waves, I am aware of the inner geometry of nature.”
The works of the Belle-Isle period (1947-1958) marked the true beginning of abstraction for Vasarely. One key idea surfaces : the transformation of a raw natural material into an abstract material. It also marks a return to nature by using the geometric form, particularly the oval shape which symbolizes “the ocean feeling.”
Between 1948 and 1951, two new periods emerge to further develop the ideas that emerged in Belle Isle. From the Denfert period (1951-1958) arose the curious designs inspired by the cracked white tiled walls of the Denfert-Rochereau subway station in Paris. The alternation of substance and form, the entangling of sun-splashed walls or walls drowned in shadows and the spaces between these walls constitute the origins of the Cristal period (1948-1958). In studies from these periods, shapes are juxtaposed with ranges of contrasting colors on a flat surface. Vasarely rediscovers the contradictory perspectives of axonometry, the strength of pure composition. The most representative work of this period is “l’Hommage à Malevitch” (1952-1958) which marks a new turn towards kinetics. In this painting, a square pivots on its axis and becomes diamond-shaped, creating a visual principle which is to become the focus of the artist’s kinetic research. In 1954, Vasarely realized his first architectural installations on the University campus of Caracas, Venezuela, jointly with the architect Carlos Villanueva.