Lozenge Composition with Four Yellow Lines, 1933, Oil on Canvas, Diagonal: cm. 112,9 Sidea: cm. 79,9 x 80,2

 

The choice of the lozenge format has been described as an implicit response to van Doesburg's "deviationist" reintroduction of the oblique line. While this may be true, it does not strike me as the most important reason. As Robert Welsh rightly points out, "in the lozenge Mondrian reaffirms the supremacy of the horizontal/vertical relationship by freeing the rectilinear elements inside from an overly close relationship with the sides of the painting's format." . The lozenge gives greater breadth to the composition. It makes it possible to use lines of various lengths. New relations of tension are established between the orthogonal surfaces and the diagonal sides of the painting. The four corners of the lozenge generate a centrifugal energy and seem to expand the surface of the canvas along its two median axes. The lozenge therefore already seems in itself a way to make the composition more dynamic without challenging the perpendicular axiom upon which Neoplastic space is grounded.

Lozenge Composition with Four Yellow Lines presents four yellow lines evoking a square area which has the same proportions of the canvas and expands beyond our field of vision. Where does this square come from? What is the meaning of it? Let us see.


 

1

2

3

4


Unlike what happens in the rectangular canvases, where one or two squares are counterbalanced by planes different in size and colors, the painter tends to concentrate solely on a large square form in the lozenge compositions.

 

Lozenge with Four Yellow Lines

Four uninterrupted lines cross the lozenge and continue toward an unforeseeable space beyond the canvas. For the first time in a Neoplastic composition the lines do not intersect visibly on the canvas; we can only presume they do and therefore we talk about a square which we do not actually see in full. Each individual line, which shape one side of the square, may well be part of an infinite space. By establishing a relation among four infinite lines, our mind generates a finite entity.

The four lines show a progressive increase in thickness as we move clockwise from the vertical on the right. The increase in the thickness can be seen as the vertical incorporating a slight horizontal expansion or conversely as the horizontal growing thicker in response to barely perceptible vertical pressure. For a fraction of a second, the space of each line is simultaneously vertical and horizontal, i.e. a unitary synthesis of the opposite directions.

The more important innovation is, however, obviously the fact that, for the first time, the lines are no longer black but yellow. The field is uniformly white and the yellow shape almost appears to be born out of the white rather than in opposition to it, as in the case of the black. Yellow is an intermediate value between black and white, sufficiently dark to be differentiated from white but, at the same time, not so radically opposite as black.



The opposite values now seem communicate and achieve unitary expression in terms both of form and of color, with horizontal and vertical simultaneously present for an instant in every line and the synthesis of black and white in an intermediate color, which yellow appears to constitute in this case.

On observing this square and contemplating the differing thickness of the lines, we are faced with a unity undergoing transformation from one side to the other. We see a unitary synthesis that already appears comparatively manifold in itself. We perceive a changing unity that tends to become rather than to be. It endures but changes at the same time. In Lozenge Composition with Four Yellow Line we encounter a square that is open, dynamic, asymmetric, and full of color.

Lozenge Composition with Four Yellow Line goes to the heart of the problem: to show the manifold in unitary form; to open up unity, i.e. the postulate of consciousness, to the changing aspect of the natural universe and existence in time but without losing sight of it. This is a fundamental issue. The one and the many appear as antithetical realities in the human dimension; in actual fact, they are the same thing.

With this lozenge of 1933, the artist appears to have given material expression to an idea that had guided him, canvas after canvas, for roughly twenty years of work, namely to express the multiple in unitary form and endow it with the stability required by consciousness without, however, causing it to atrophy in overly rigid and constant geometric forms. The artist felt for a moment that he had achieved his objective with a square undergoing transformation while remaining relatively stable.

As Seuphor puts it, "Sometimes he thinks he has found it. So he stops, observes the work, and says: It's done. But the clock of his life keeps on ticking and is already driving him forward. He soon realizes that nothing is done and everything has to start all over again."

 

5

1915

6

1916

7

1917

8

1919

If we compare Lozenge Composition with Four Yellow Lines with the previous works and in particular with those produced up to 1920, it appears immediately obvious that by 1933 the multiple aspect of Neoplastic space had been considerably reduced almost to the point of elimination.
Around 1930 Mondrian painted in black and white or with one or two colors inside predominantly white fields (9, 10, 11, 12 below).
In the span of a decade, the multiple space of the Pier and Ocean 5 (5) or the Checkerboard with Light Colors (8) appears to have been completely absorbed by the square, which was used around 1930 (2, 12) in an attempt to reformulate in conceptual synthesis a space that is in reality far more structured and complex.

The square of Lozenge Composition with Four Yellow Lines is a symbolic (mental) representation of real space that does not present all the variety we see around us.
With colored lines changing also in thickness, this square alludes to multiplicity without, however, showing it in all of its far greater breadth.
The variety found in the early Expressionist or Cubist works - an aspect to which the artist had always been very sensitive and which formed the starting point of his plastic explorations - was absent at the beginning of the 1930s.

 

9

10

11

12

Around 1930 the space of external reality had undergone marked internalization in the far more condensed forms of thought; the physical seemed to be expressed in excessively mental terms (9, 10, 11, 12). The painter was soon to realize that his canvases did not convey all of the variety perceived by the eye in nature or urban space, the rich and multiform aspect of color previously captured with his dunes and trees, his Cubist works, and his checkerboard compositions.
While Lozenge Composition with Four Yellow Lines can therefore be regarded as a point of arrival, at the same time, as in other moments of Mondrian's artistic development, the work also represents a new point of departure.

 

13

1933

14

1942

15

1942-43

16

1942-44 Unfinished

Starting 1933 Neoplastic space progressively opens up to an increasing number of elements and finally reaches a complexity (16) which is analogous to 5 and 6.

Talking about the progressive increase in thickness of the lines in Lozenge Composition with Four Yellow Lines we have said that for a fraction of a second the space of each line is simultaneously vertical and horizontal, i.e. a unitary synthesis of the opposite directions. A synthesis of horizontals and verticals becomes in fact a plane.
During the whole European Neoplastic phase the lines were black and the colors were exclusively expressed by planes.
Because of their yellow color and due to the simultaneous presence of opposite directions within each line, the lines of Lozenge Composition with Four Yellow Lines seem to become planes. Ten years later in Broadway and Victory Boogie Woogie colored lines become planes in a more evident way (15 , 16).
This evolution can be considered as a transition from drawing (5) to painting (16). "Only now I become conscious that my work in black, white and little color planes has been merely "drawing" in oil color. In drawing, the lines are the principal means of expression; in painting, the color planes". (Piet Mondrian)

 

copyright: michael (michele) sciam 1989-2019 all rights reserved

 

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