Post World War I:
Neo-Plasticism: De Stijl (The Style) – Mondrian
Suprematism: Russian – Malevich
Constructivism: Maun Gabo, Antoine Pevsner
Formal Art is the production of art in technique and skill rather than as an expressive message, with interest in the formal rather than the personal, religious, or symbolic context. Formal Art was seen in ancient times, through Greek, Roman, Medieval times using symbols (halo, blue robe, etc) to make it understood by the illiterate viewers. In Oriental works, art was used for ideology (third eye, many arms, blue face, etc), which created symbolic laws of art. Formal Art manifests itself as theoretical, tending to be well pre-planned, and well thought out. It’s very objective in its approach to subject matter – it’s more between the artist and his thoughts than to do with the actual subject. In Visual Art, Classic means classical Greek – well thought out, very proper and correct. 20th Century classic art emboied perfection of aesthetic – that is producing Image as an ideal.
Evening; Red Tree – Mondrian
FORMAL ABSTRACTION may appear very precise, impersonal, hard edged, non-figurative, often geometric, but mostly devoid of other aesthetics. The artist abbreviates the content, and depends on the control of the elements of form. The art should be viewed for colour, line, and shape in relationship with the world. The artists were concerned with actual structure, more than with impact. This can be traced back to Cezanne, and to Analytical and Synthetic Cubism.
Neo-Plasticism 1912 – De Stijl (The Style)
Gray Tree – Mondrian – 1911
Piet Mondrian: wanted to produce a new type of beauty. War was reflected in most art of that time. He wanted to produce a beauty independent of emotion, that was universal, with no subject matter. Beauty of the intellect with no individuality. He was influenced by things beyond the art world. He came from a Calvanist tradition of simplicity and austerity. He used economy of line, geometry of laying out towns, dykes, and roads. Very puritanical, austere, and strict, Calvanism shows in the art of the Protestant revolution in their revolt against the opulence of the Catholic church.
The Apple Tree – Mondrian
So Calvanism had an affect on Mondrian’s art – other influences being a philosophy called Theosophy which dealt with metaphysics and mysticism, and into the nature of God. The artistic influences were Cubism and the Divisionalism of Seurat, with their new theories of colour, line, ambiguous space, and no subject matter – their independence of art and its elements. Mondrian used art to communicate with God.
Pier and Ocean – Mondrian – Composition 1916
He was free as an artist to search for purity in art, regularity of nature in art (e.g. seasons), and for the essence of the relationships of elements (e.g. the meeting of horizontal and vertical lines, and of simple primary colours.) He created harmony, intensity, and precision by total equilibrium – he wanted to restore balance to a suffering world. He wanted to create a universal art form to exist for and by itself – to transcend all social, political, and religious boundaries. The German Expressionists and Cubists were working at this time, and Mondrian felt that they led art astray, and he wanted to bring it back to purity, to a universal aesthetic. He wrote a magazine on De Stijl, and his designs were used in the Baahaus, and in clothing, architecture and flooring.
Line over Form – Modrian
Suprematism 1915 – Russia
A couple of years prior to the Russian Revolution chaos ruled the country, with the rural sector sending food to the black market, and with an incompetent government. Russian art was affected by this turmoil.
Kasimir Malevich was an active revolutionary, whose art was a derivation of Gris’ Cubism. He concentrated on geometric shapes – triangles, circles, and rectangles. He was aware of Kandinsky’s work, the German Expressionists and the Parisian art of the time. Malevich and Vladimir Tatlin sought supreme priority of form – a visual mantra, for visual meditation. They used a theoretical and technical approach to make it formal going back to basics, removing all superfluous elements, eliminating, and abbreviating. The result was dynamic art that suggested space and movement, with spacial references created by scale and position, and the movement by diagonal lines. It was non-figurative abstraction about movement. Reality in art was the sensational affect of colour – cool white on warm white as a pure abstraction. Art aiming at non-objectivity by eliminating emotions.
Suprematist Composition 1916 – Malevich – White on White 1918
Constructivism – from Suprematism
Vladimir Tatlin didn’t like the idea of producing art outside of life. He wanted a more functional purpose for art, rather than mere aesthetics. he wanted to produced useful constructions that had a purpose. Naum Gabo and Antoine Pevsner disagreed with the ideals of Suprematism having individual value – art should be for the government and society. they wrote a manifesto – and their art grew out of Cubist collages, into the assemblage of 3D works, which added to the ideas of interest in space, the concept of time and maths analysis.
Counter Relief 1914-15 – Tatlin – Monument to the Third International 1919-20
They wanted art to reflect time and space, which they considered essential factors of life. So they applied industrial engineering and maths concepts to create non-figurative art works from modern materials – nylons, plastics; works with voids giving interior volume of space, which in sculpture was part of the form. They drew on man-made machines rather than nature as their source, turning to Science rather than intuition. They had non-emotional concepts as their base – emotions only resulted in wars. They wanted to reflect the character of industrial society – Socialist Art, for the people.
Linear Construction in Space No. 3 with Red – Gabo;
Projection in Space – Pevsner
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(C) Jud House 22/09/2016
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