mondrian and nicholson at the courtauld gallery

mondrian and nicholson at the courtauld gallery

Postby jasperjoffe » Sun Mar 04, 2012 3:56 pm

nice show. Nicholson pere was a better painter, his white reliefs (one made out of a table bought in camden market) have something essential about them, light and shade. Mondrian is a more interesting case, indisputably visually great. But why? these paintings are messy, dirty white paint cracking, applied too thickly perhaps, shiny black lines, brushy primaries, the little initialed signatures and dates. So for all precision of thought and simplicity of design, a great breakthrough of clarity, they are very physical paintings, an artist making them today would be much neater.

Does this matter? Is this essential, if the white was as bright as a word document on a computer screen, and the lines masked with kleenedge, and the paint from michael harding would they be ruined. Is it necessary that they are pained with Mondrian's hand, what if assistants created them to his blueprints?

Where does the greatness lie?
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Re: mondrian and nicholson at the courtauld gallery

Postby CAP » Tue Mar 06, 2012 5:36 am

Disagree about Mondrian - There is no way to make these paintings EXCEPT BY TRIAL AND ERROR!

Colour, width of line, size of shape - all are relative - all are constantly adjusted to each other as the artist goes about avoiding obvious system or pattern, or three-dimensional picture plane, yet constraining his repertoire to right angles, lines and black, white and the three primaries, although whatever configuration these might appear in, constantly influences our perception of them. That's essentially what Mondrian was about. People often see him as some kind of fanatical absolutist but as you quickly see the works are entrenched in a dogged and essentially clumsy practice. Straight lines may seem a given but how straight is straight? How precise do we ever get? What blue is ever pure, and where? Against what other colours or intervals, lines or shapes? These issues also arose for Malevich, until he became disillusioned with the whole project. Mondrian's solution is wholistic (or holistic) - settling on a scheme where colour, shape and line momentarily hold eachother to some kind of nominal balance. We get a rough hewn elegance at best, from what probably seemed a nugatory minimum of pictorial elements, and what must always appeal to surrounding influences - to architecture and decor firstly. This is why Mondrian was also fanatical about his studio space - about painting everything there so it wouldn't pervert his judgement of what was going on in the paintings, and at the same time, would permit the equations within the paintings to radiate their deft organisation outward, to the rest of the room, to the rest of the world. People thought like that then. They were utopian.

It's only when we get to a stunted little epigone like Stella that the whole thing becomes about a 'first touch' or 'one hit' execution - a neatness - true to even American slang where 'neat' is anything that is 'smart' or attractive. And in retrospect the whole edifice of Minimalism founders, right there. The Americans never came up with anything half as good as Mondrian, because they never had a painter with the intellectual ambition or the fanatical work ethic of Mondrian. They were into careers, where Mondrian was into the power of painting over life. People treat his abstraction as a mystical thing - vaguely derived from theosophy - but it's all there on the surface, you don't need some arcane initiation to work it out, sense the hard won equation.

Mondrian died in New York, ostensibly of pneumonia, but really from neglect. He contracted it in a shitty little unheated apartment which doubled as his studio. Rich art hags like Peggy Guggenheim might like to rub shoulders occasionally with Europe's hard core, but in the final call she was always out, looking for a good time. That in itself hangs over American painting like an angel of death.

:twisted:
Last edited by CAP on Tue Mar 06, 2012 12:57 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: mondrian and nicholson at the courtauld gallery

Postby CAP » Tue Mar 06, 2012 5:43 am

This post really belongs under Art Reviews ;)
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Re: mondrian and nicholson at the courtauld gallery

Postby jasperjoffe » Tue Mar 06, 2012 10:52 am

I know! randomly i put it in the wrong category. SORReee
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