Sunday, 24 January 2010

TAKING THE MONDRIAN

In my last post, I showed the work of a NHS loo-tiler in the school of Dutch artist, Pieter Mondrian whose iconic grid paintings were part of an 'art-ism' that he termed Neo-Plasticism. If you've ever wondered what Mondrian was getting at with his abstract compositions, here's how he described his artistic aims in a letter from 1917:

I believe it is possible that, through horizontal and vertical lines constructed with awareness, but not with calculation, led by high intuition, and brought to harmony and rhythm, these basic forms of beauty, supplemented if necessary by other direct lines or curves, can become a work of art, as strong as it is true...

As with all great art, Mondrian's paintings have inspired a variety of pastiches and parodies of which the best is unquestionably Mick Haggerty's 1976 composition, Mickey Mondrian...


You can explore the amazing and diverting graphic worlds of Mick Haggerty here

9 comments:

Andy J. Latham said...

What's your opinion on that piece of art Brian? I'm referring to the original and not the Mickey spin-off. One of my aims at the moment is to be more open to forms of art that I would normally frown upon. This would be one such example. However, even with giving it a chance, I just cannot see anything of artistic worth there.

Brian Sibley said...

I am absolutely not an expert, but I have viewed a number of Mondrians 'in the flesh', as it were, and, doing so, gave me a new appreciation of the artist and his work: firstly the discipline of his abstract paintings, which are both precise in construction and yet unsymmetrical in composition and the fact - which cannot be appreciated from reproductions - that these pictures are, surprisingly, not 'flat'.

By this I mean that Mondrian paintings are full of textures: the black lines have the least depth, but the coloured areas reveal careful application of several layers of paint applied with brush strokes that, depending on the colour, are always laid on in the same direction.

This means that viewing an original Mondrian is like looking at a Turner, in that the play of light and the way in which the viewer moves in relation to the painting reveal great subtleties of texture.

I think it is also important to see Mondrian's abstracts as a stage in a journey which took the artist - across his career from naturalism via cubism (and one or two other 'isms') to his own very particular 'ism', Neo-Plasticism.

Mondrian's art is also an expression of his spiritual beliefs. He was a follower of Theosophy, a doctrine that holds that religion, philosophy, science, the arts, commerce, and philanthropy, along with other 'virtues', lead people ever closer to 'The Absolute'.

Aspects of his compositions have very specific meanings, for example: horizontal lines are 'feminine', vertical lines are 'masculine' and the aim of the whole is harmony.

You'll find an interesting introduction to Mondarin here.

Andy J. Latham said...

Thanks for that Brian, and thanks for the link too. It made interesting reading. I can appreciate Mondrian's journey away from the natural and towards the infinite, and how the image your post refers to plays a part in that.

I think what I find difficult with this kind of work though is that only by understanding something of the artist can you understand the meaning behind the painting. My personal preference is away from prerequisits. I like a piece of art to grab me under it's own merits without the need for supporting material.

:)

Brian Sibley said...

I understand that, completely.

I think our appreciation of art (even the most representational) can be expanded or deepened through knowing more about the artists and the time and circumstances in which they were working - Van Gogh's cornfield for example - but, like you, what I most readily respond to, when walking through an art gallery, is any image that arrests my progress and draws me to itself.

Good Dog said...

I have a feeling you’ll be off to Tate Modern next month to see the new exhibition by Theo Van Doesburg, a contemporary of Mondrian who took a more diagonal approach.

Brian Sibley said...

Fascinating article! Thanks, GD! I shall certainly give it go. Maybe I drag Andy along!

Andy J. Latham said...

Drag being the appropriate word! ;)

Brian Sibley said...

Personally, I don't mind what you wear! :0

Andy J. Latham said...

BAH-DUM-PSHHHH!

:P