Light on Water V ©John O’Grady
8″ x 12″ x 1″, oil on deep edge panel, ready to hang.
Light beams filtering through the clouds onto water is one of those sights I never tire of.
The west of Ireland is one of those places where patterns of dark and light move and shift across the water in rhythm with the weather fronts coming off the Atlantic. It’s nature’s free light show and worth stopping by to experience it.
The process of making this painting was not unusual. Balancing dark against light, warm against cool shapes against negative space,…All these things came into play but in addition I found myself working in a series of vertical and horizontal bands.
The movement of clouds shifting across the picture plain from right to left were counterbalanced with the vertical bands of light from top to bottom.
I kept shifting these rows and columns until they were arranged in a way that pleased my eye.
While doing this, I thought about Piet Mondrian’s work and how he evolved from a wonderful landscape painter into what appears to be an ‘abstract’ painter who worked with vertical and horizontal lines to express a spiritual dimension.
In 1914, he wrote in a letter to H.P. Bremmer:
“I construct lines and color combinations on a flat surface, in order to express general beauty with the utmost awareness. 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, but I want to come as close as possible to the truth and abstract everything from that, until I reach the foundation (still just an external foundation!) of things…
I believe it is possible that, through horizontal and vertical lines constructed with awareness, but not with calculation, led by high intuition, and brought to harmony and rhythm, these basic forms of beauty, supplemented if necessary by other direct lines or curves, can become a work of art, as strong as it is true.”
When we look at the beautiful ‘Evening Red Tree'(1908), we can see how he was shifting towards the grid of patterns.
The early part of 20th Century art was moving towards modernism, abstraction and exploration and Mondrian was part of this milieu but what underlined his work was looking for some theosophical truth and underlying divine structure as evidenced in and through nature.
In his painting, ‘Victory Boogie Woogie’ (1942), his grid pattern has reached full maturity.
What’s interesting and arresting about Mondrian is that his work has an unbroken continuity. He retains his fascination and preoccupation with the grid and its underlying perfection is his goal.
Along with these musings, I recalled William Blake’s final two lines from the poem ‘The Tyger’ (1794, published as part of the Songs of Experience collection):
“What immortal hand or eye,
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?”
I’d love to hear what you think on these musings.