Dear Mr Mondrian, you better watch out, because children from the Wallenpaupack South Elementary School Kindergarten have been producing oil paintings that eerily look similar to your famous compositions. Are these little geniuses in their own right, or are they simply showing that your principles of Geometrical Abstraction are indeed true and universal? Whatever the results, we think their goal for a harmonious and universal art is probably beyond their five-year-old cognitive thinking skills. But it certainly wasn’t beyond yours.
The most important overarching thought when viewing Piet Mondrian oil paintings is to ask the question: how does this add to the higher purpose? Mondrian was a rare artist whose very existence sought a universal communicative genre. Artists such as Degas were fascinated with dancers and the nude; the Impressionists on how light played on nature and landscape scenes, while Surrealists were preoccupied with the workings of the subconscious. Mondrian was obsessed with finding a communication method, genre or style that could be understood by all humanity, regardless of race, creed or nationality. For Mondrian life was pure inner activity and fanciful interpretations of art destroyed the objective nature of world art; therefore, art had to be simplified to obtain a higher consciousness.
Thus the theme at the latest Piet Mondrian exhibition to take place from now until January 29, 2012, at the Vittoriano Complex in Rome, Italy. With more than 70 oil on canvas works by the Dutch maestro, the evolution of Mondrian’s career is succinctly and cleverly traced to show the viewer the various influences on and made by Mondrian paintings. To aid this process, more than 40 artworks from artists who significantly influenced Mondrian are also included. For example, do we know who was the premier artist to inspire him to abandon the idea of line, colour, surface and regular shape? It was Kandinsky – but far from embracing the comparatively wild nature of Kandinsky paintings, Mondrian instead opted for the composed grid lines that he has become so famous for.
As Mondrian wrote in 1914, “I build combinations of lines and colours on a flat surface, to express general beauty with a total consciousness. Nature (or what I see) inspires me, makes me, like any other artist, in an emotional state that causes me an urgency to do something, but I want to get as close to the truth and abstract everything from it, up to not reach the foundation (though only the outer foundations!) of things ... I think it's possible that, through horizontal and vertical lines constructed with awareness, but not with calculation, led by high intuition, and create with harmony and rhythm, these basic forms of beauty, aided if necessary by other lines or curves, can become a work of art, as strong as true.”
Mondrian’s hunch was right – his artwork in basic forms was true, and people from all around the world embraced it. The plain compositions appeal to a near state of blanket human consciousness, with its intuitive beauty, rhyme and rhythm speaking to all. No wonder even kindergarten children can appreciate the beauty of his work.