mondrian

Everyone is Mondrian. Nobody is Mondrian. Your Computer Is Mondrian.

In his serialized treatise The New Plastic in Painting, the Dutch painter Piet Mondrian wrote: “Nature (or, that which I see) inspires me, puts me, as with any painter, in an emotional state so that an urge comes about to make something.” Sure, Mondrian’s paintings were composed of abstract boxes–either in white or primary colors–separated by black lines, but, at least in his mind, they came from somewhere. They were rooted in nature.

How, then, might Mondrian feel if he were alive to learn that his works can be copied and imitated using Javascript? A year ago, in an attempt to learn and teach about art, Jenn Schiffer wrote some code that does just that. She started with a Mondrian generator and moved on to René Magritte, Henri Matisse, and Mary Cassatt. Her generators and writings about are collected on vart.institute. “Var t;” she writes, is “pronounced “vart,” which rhymes with “fart” because I am 12.” 

Schiffer’s computer-generated Mondrians, to this untrained eye, look a fair bit like the real things. Sure, the magic is ruined if you run the generator 20 times. But that’s the same reason why the order in which paintings are displayed in an art gallery matter. The technology’s drawbacks are shared with its analog equivalent. 

“We tend to forget that our brain is basically a computer.” 

The question that remains, however, is whether there is any meaning hiding in these scripted grids. Schiffer makes a good case for taking computer-generated art seriously. “We tend to forget that our brain is basically a computer – it too uses/generates electricity,” she writes. Mondrian took influences from the world around him and turned them into something else. Is that not also what Schiffer has done? Or what Twitter’s @lowpolybot did when reinterpreting a Mondrian? Thus, Schiffer concludes, “Mondrian kind of had a computer all along, he just didn’t have to deal with Firefox Aurora crashing because there were too many IRCCloud tabs open.”

H/T Studio360