Tuesday, 8 January 2013


Piet Mondrian
Composition II in Red, Blue, and Yellow, 1930
From Wikipedia

"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."

A candidate for Pseud's Corner or Mondrian's mildly imaginative take on his art? Is it worth anything as a description and do his famous rectangular images add even a modicum of clarity to a rational life?

I don’t think so.

Or at the very least, I think Mondrian’s explanation won’t do. To my mind, art has no value when it requires more imagination to describe than is found in the work itself.

Certainly the lines and blocks of colour may trigger something in the mind of the observer, but I doubt if Mondrian had much idea what that might be. It is certainly not obvious from the work itself. In other words, the work does not communicate Mondrian's artistic conceptions without further explanation.

The trouble is, once that explanation is given, once it is set loose to mingle freely with our Mondrian-related thoughts, then it becomes impossible to disentangle image and explanation. We see the image through the explanation.

Of course, many would rather we did this – particularly the art market with its vested interest in Mondrian’s work and a much wider interest in abstract art as a whole.

As a person with no vested interest in these images or their wider rationale, it seems to me that they represent nothing worth the telling. Mondrian's explanation feels like pretentious drivel to me - apart from being a commentary on modernity I suppose.


Scrobs... said...

When I was a young schoolboy, the Headmaster put on an exhibition of Mondrians in the dining hall (this was in 1959).

As we were all sprogs then, they were accepted as a bit of colouring, rather like any child might do in one of those squared exercise books for maths, and after they were also sniffed at by a friendly French master, from then on in, Mondrian wasn't ever going to be much of a success.

Perhaps that was the correct age to try and understand his art!

Anonymous said...

I agree, if the picture is any good no words are needed. I slightly enjoy Mondrian - but not much.

What gets my goat is the 'Artist's Statement'. Are these some kind of punishment inflicted on grovelling artists by Sir Bufton Tufton types? If so they richly deserve the 'Artist's Statement Generator' web pages.

James Higham said...

I've seen that piece in the original but where? Can't recall.

Demetrius said...

The basic problem is that artists are asked to explain their art in terms understandable by others. In music, if this essentially just comes out of the brain trying to explain it in a limited verbal vocabulary may not work or may detract from the music. Maybe artists have this problem only more difficult in that very many people may expect something that just comes out of the head can be explained in verbal language. Must go, it is graffiti time.

Longrider said...

Mrs L has a top that uses this design. Worn over a black turtle-neck and black jeans, it looks pretty good.

Er... that's it, really, it's pleasing to the eye, nothing more.

A K Haart said...

Scrobs - you should have nicked a few!

Roger - I quite some of his other work, but not this stuff.

James - I saw it on the Web (:

Demetrius - is it as good as graffiti though?

Longrider - yes, its a pleasant enough abstract pattern of colours.

NNoN said...

Mondrian's work is a piece of decorative graphics, nothing more. But it does not convey any deeper meaning. This applies to most of the so called modern and contemporary art. Art connaisseur Kenneth Snowman described this quite well:

Sam Vega said...

i am reminded of Shostakovich. His music is apparently in need of explanation, and it hardly ever gets played on the radio without someone explaining the meaning; normally something to do with repression and irony and despair that isn't really despair, but defiance.

These little talks often have some literary merit, and bear the same relationship to the music as Mondrian's thoughts do to his art. I prefer them to what they refer to, which in both cases is hardly worth bothering with.

A K Haart said...

NNon - thanks for the link. Kenneth Snowman put it as well as it can be put didn't he?

Sam - I know what you mean, yet the bubble is never pricked.

Dan said...

This sort of thing has reached pretty much the logical end point with the Museum of Non-Visible Art. This consists of a series of small plaques bearing descriptions of the art works (in prose worthy of Pseuds' Corner), but no actual art work at all; the viewer is asked to use their imagination. Also on display are price tags for the art, which can be best described as "Think of a number, and add a lot of zeroes to it".

Quite frankly, I wish I'd though of this one myself! It is probably the most audacious art blag ever thought up, and quite leaves mere amateurs like Rothko in the dark. Just for the mere sight of assorted pretentious fuckwits wandering about, reading plaques and trying to look intelligent the thing is worth it; given the slim but non-zero chance that some stupid sod with more money than sense might actually buy one of the works (and in doing so help rectify their money:sense ratio) and make the "artist" rich this sort of spoof is definitely worthwhile.

A K Haart said...

Dan - I've not come across that one, but neither am I surprised. I doubt if the artists expect to be paid in non-visible money.