Tuesday 15 November 2022

Adolescent decoration

At Sotheby's, one of those silly 'paintings' by Piet Mondriaan has been sold for a stunning $ 51 million.


What is it?

It is a reductio ad absurdum of the European art of painting to a collection of the most basic proportions and colours, without any reference to reality or the imagination. The information density is almost zero, while the level of visual imagination is far below zero. In short, there is nothing to see that would, in one way or another, offer something of interest to an intelligent and culturally-developed viewer - the level of visual and intellectual poverty is stunning and indicates a very primitive way of thinking about art. But, one could object, isn't the focus on such essential proportions, divorced from its manyfold associations from the world around us, an interesting thing to comtemplate? For any intelligent person with a minimum of cultural sensitivity, the answer can only be a distinct 'no'. The best such canvasses can aspire to, is a primitive, minimalist decoration in simple adolescent rooms.

How then, is it possible that in the world of adults such products are sold for hughe prices, take place of pride in public museums and have acquired a fame and respect far beyond their meaning? Here the answer is, that an age of intense propaganda and theorizing has blunted the perceptive faculties of many people curious enough to embark upon the cultural field but too underdeveloped to see through the nonsense. But 'underdeveloped' of what? It is the capacity to make comparisons and to assess the meaning and the effects of art works which creates insights. You have to forget millennia of art to be able to think that a Mondrian is a meaningful work, in the same way that ages of art music have to be ignored to be able to take people like John Cage seriously.

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