Posts Tagged ‘Mondrian’

Blackpaint 218

November 11, 2010

Richard Diebenkorn

I’m quite bemused at Diebenkorn’s career, really; for my money, the earlier abstracts from the 50s and 60s are very much better than those of his second abstract period.  If you look at the Albuquerque, or Berkeley paintings, you see a series of rich, textured colour patches and tracts, marked and scored with black paint and sometimes (like Roger Hilton’s) charcoal, scribbles, smears and thickly-painted squirls in desert-tawny, red, greys and whites, sometimes a lavender or mauve.  They are, unmistakeably, abstractions of aerial landscapes.  I’ve gone on about them before, somewhere.

The Ocean Park pictures, though interesting, are much less so.  The colours are more sickly, the reds, yellows and blues thinner and more acidic (many are acrylic on paper).  There are ruled lines, geometric shapes – many resemble shuttered windows.  They’re  dead, compared to the earlier stuff.  Jane Livingstone’s book cites the influence of Mondrian here, and quotes his dictum that “chance must be avoided, as much as calculation”.  What, you may ask, do you utilise, if not  chance or calculation?  Mondrian’s  answer is “intuition”.

If you avoid the intervention of chance, accident, whatever you call it, I think you lose the possibility of that “life” that sometimes  is caught in a picture, flickering across or against a smooth, uniform patch of colour.  Diebenkorn’s early abstracts  capture a lot of  those moments – just check  the series I have mentioned.  The Ocean Park pictures, sadly, never do.


Something that I did not previously know about the above was that one of his models, Renee Monchaty, commited suicide – in  her bath.  And Bonnard discovered the body.This was  in Rome, in 1923.  He subsequently (and famously) went on to do a number of  paintings of his wife Marthe getting in and out of the bath and in  two at least, lying full length  in the tub.  Surely, whenever he painted a bath scene, he would have been reminded…  Clearly, real artists are different to the rest of us; I’m reminded of  Bacon painting George Dyer with his new lover’s head  substituted (see Blackpaint 96), and Araki’s wife.


In whose work does a businessman sit in a bar with a chamber pot on  his head?

Millbank by Blackpaint


Blackpaint 61

February 7, 2010


Reading about the above after the Van Doesburg et al exhibition yesterday, I find that, for a period around 1929, he was cutting his black dividing lines off just before they reached the edge – so as not to foster the notion of their continuance into the Beyond (i.e. beyond the canvas).  Unfortunately, the illustration in the Taschen “Abstract Art”, of Mondrian’s “Composition No II.  Composition with Blue and Red”, must be badly cropped since the black lines definitely do reach the edges.  You would have thought they’d check – still the repros are beautiful for about seven quid.


I may have given the impression by my ceaseless and tiresome habit of irony that I disapprove of the sort of fanatical zeal shown by Mondrian in support of the four-square against the diagonal tilt.  This is not the case; art movements should be fanatical.  They should produce fierce manifestos, making grandiose and sweeping statements; they should have rows and splits, refuse to speak for years, occasionally, perhaps, visit violence upon one another.  They should be prepared to provoke  fury, ridicule and incomprehension.  That’s what moves art forward and that’s what provides the bedrock range of work that predatory individuals can sieze on and “adapt” (cannibalize) for their own ends – unlike myself, of course.

Last word on Mondrian and Van Doesburg – it should have been the absence of green, not the ubiquity of white, that I looked for yesterday.  Mondrian famously avoided using it because it wasn’t a primary colour – but, apart from the very earliest paintings, VD’s “Cow”, and the little collages of Rinsema and, I think, Schwitters – and the stained glass – not a lot of green about.

Listening to “Hey Hey”, by Big Bill Broonzy

“Hey hey, lost your good man now (*2)

You had me fooled but I found it out somehow”.

Rudimentary words, but the most driving guitar accompaniment in the history of recording (apart, maybe, from some Reinhardt).

Blackpaint 60

February 6, 2010

Van Doesburg and the International Avant-Garde

Got to this this afternoon at the Tate Modern.  It’s massive; 11 rooms, some subdivided into three sections – took about an hour to go round.  some highlights to look out for as follows: in room 2, little pictures by Marthe Donas, particularly “Child with Boat”. 

In room 3, what I call the “blip” paintings by Bart van der Leck – look like genetic coding to me – and VD’s cow; I thought it was a house at first.  Also Georges Vantongerloo, great squares, great name. 

Room 6 is the Dada/ Bonset room – definition on wall by VD: “Outlook on life opposed to anything we imagine to be of vital importance”.   A few beautiful, Picabia -like fantasy machines in singing blue and rhubarb colours by Jean Crotti; also in this room, some tiny, lovely collages in yellow and red by Thijs Rinsema.

In room 7a, the perfect  model “Kiosk” by the Hungarian artist  Lajos Kassak.  In 8, two lovely red based squares by Peter Keler called De Stijl Flat Compositions, I think, and a sharply defined yellow diamond shape by Karl Peter Rohl.

Then there’s room 9, architecture, with Rietveld’s great Schroder House – love to live in that – and the Sophie Tauber-Arp squares.  The last couple of rooms have several of VD’s diagonals as well as Mondrian’s squares – as if glaring at each other, shouting “Square!” “No, diagonal!” like Big Enders and Little Enders in Gulliver.

I got an idea that only VD did a squares painting with no white, looking at Counter Composition X (grey, red, dim glowing yellow), so went back through – there were actually only about four “squares” paintings with no white.  then of course, I discovered that one of Mondrian’s most famous paintings has no white, so another theory blown.

All in all, a brilliant exhibition; just, after an hour – too many squares and triangles!  wanted a nice, big, splatty, drippy CoBrA or Joan Mitchell or de Kooning to mess it up a little.

Listening to Dallas, by Johnny Winter –

“You know that I ain’t evil,

I’m  just having fun,

So much shit in Texas, Lord, bound to step in some –

Goin’ back to Dallas, take my razor and my gun;

Anybody lookin’ for trouble, oo-hoo,

Sure gonna give ’em some”.

I think he would be a diagonals man.



Blackpaint 51

January 28, 2010

Van Doesberg and Mondrian

The latter apparently fell out with Van Doesberg when he started tilting his squares onto the diagonal.  This meant that the squares (now squat diamonds) were not complete on the canvas but disappeared over the edge “into space”.  This was enough to make Mondrian leave De Stijl, and demonstrates a fanaticism that can only be admired.  “Please rejoin the movement, Mondrian; we need you.”  “I’m sorry-  you know that I can’t, unless you start painting your squares with their base on the horizontal again, so that the WHOLE square appears, and you stop fostering the absurd illusion that the rest of the square overlaps the edge of the canvas and exists somewhere beyond it.”  A principled stand.

Listened to The Old Triangle by Dominic Behan:

“In the women’s prison, there are 50 women,

And I wish it were there that I did dwell;

While the Old Triangle, she goes jingle – jangle,

All along the banks of the Royal Canal”.