10 Philosophical Lessons Piet Mondrian Has Taught Me About Art

Piet Mondrian is one of my favorite artists and thinkers/philosophers.

1. Art as higher than reality

The purpose of art — to be different from reality.

Art is higher than reality and has no direct relation to reality. To approach the spiritual in art, one will make as little use as possible of reality, because reality is opposed to the spiritual. We find ourselves in the presence of an abstract art. Art should be above reality, otherwise it would have no value for man.

2. Artwork to express rising upwards (optimism)

As you can see this is a composition of vertical and horizontal lines which will (in an abstract manner) have to express the idea of rising upwards, of magnitude. This is the same idea which used, for example, to be the guiding principle in the construction of cathedrals. Since only the manner of expression and not the representation has to express this general idea, I have not given any title. An abstract human mind will, of itself, receive the intended impression. I always confine myself to expressing the general.

3. Modern mans life is becoming more abstract

The cultivated man of today is gradually turning away from natural things, and his life is becoming more and more abstract. Natural (external) things become more and more automatic, and we observe that our vital attention fastens more and more on internal things.

4. Composition is freedom

Composition allows the artist the greatest possible freedom, so that his subjectivity can express itself, to a certain degree, for as long as needed.

Composition and art is about subjectivity.

The rhythm of relations of color and size makes the absolute appear in the relativity of time and space.

Also — think about the relationship and rhythm of colors and proportions in your compositions. 

5. Express your own artistic subjectivity

In terms of composition the new plasticism is dualistic. Through the exact reconstruction of cosmic relations it is a direct expression of the universal; by its rhythm, by the material reality of its plastic form, it expresses the artist’s individual subjectivity.

6. Reveal beauty

Humanity + the abstract = a deeper universal beauty.

It thus unfolds before us a whole world of universal beauty without thereby renouncing the human element.

7. Artwork should move us

The artist make things move, and is moved. He is policeman, motor car, everything at once. He who makes things move also creates rest. That which aesthetically is brought to rest is art.

As an artist, make art works which literally move or motivate others to move. Also as we make art works, we are both physically and metaphorically moves.

8. Don’t belong to a group

My observation:

Individual artists live on, and “art movements” (groups/collectives) seem to die off.

For example Piet Mondrian lives on, yet the “De Stijl” movement died.

Picasso lives on, but “cubism” as a movement has pretty much died.

Piet Mondrian says in a letter:

Though I do, of course agree with the principles you have mentioned, I am returning the paper unsigned, as I do not want to belong to a group. A group of people with one aim is not as yet a single-minded group and as this does not exist, a consistent group remains impossible. And a larger group only makes sense for joint exhibitions and for spreading ideas. I will therefore not participate in the other group either, but I have promised my collaboration in this respect. If you definitely want to form a group, you can always invite myself and others who are proved to be suitable. Only on such a basis I will collaborate with the other group as well.

It seems as an individual artist, collaborations are good, but belonging to a group is a distraction. When you’re in a group, you’re weighed down and distracted by group politics. Also, you have less freedom and independence to create your own art works, vision, and to create your own personal movement.

9. Dynamic equilibrium as better than static equilibrium

The important task of all art is to destroy the static equilibrium by establishing a dynamic one. Non-figurative art demands an attempt of what is a consequence of this task, the destruction of particular form and the construction of a rhythm of mutual relations, of mutual forms, or free lines.. ..the law of the denaturalization of matter is of fundamental importance. In painting, the primary color that is as pure as possible realizes this abstraction of natural color.

Dynamism as preferable to static.

10. Unify all the arts!

Art will not only continue but will realise itself more and more. By the unification of architecture, sculpture and painting a new plastic reality will be created.

Don’t be stuck in one art form. Combine and express yourself in all shapes and forms!