Piet’s Neoplastic Journey

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Material: Mixed media on paper (42 x 59.4 cm, landscape)

Theme

The significance of the central tree running through this piece comes from the trees and orchards Piet Mondrian painted during his period in Paris (1911-1914). It links both to those Mondrian painted, and the tree Vincent van Gogh and his brother Theo planted in the garden of their uncle in the village of Princenhage. The reference to Mondrian commemorates the 100-year anniversary of De Stijl (The Style), a Dutch art movement from 1917 to 1931, which Mondrian and fellow neoplastic artists, architects and writers were active.

At first, he painted these realistically, and then began simplifying their main lines. This eventually led to a distilled, abstract subject using only complementary colors and neutrals of white, grey and black. This was the start of his signature style, as one of the main members of De Stijl. Together with well-known artists Van Doesburg, Van der Leck and Huszár, he further developed his abstract technique and co-founded the ‘Conscious Abstracts’ group in 1916. They became known for neoplasticism, which sought to bring subjects back to their basic elemental shapes, using only the most basic complementary colors and lines.

The tree in this work is depicted using rounded stylized forms against the more abstract shapes of the streets and housing patterns surrounding it. The tree and the branches have similar neoplastic patterns and colors used during The Style. The silhouette of Mondrian’s face (characterized by the high forehead and the round glasses) is visible in between the branches of the tree. The sharp contrast between the tree and the street patterns also refers to the contrast between the painting techniques of Van Gogh (rounded) and Mondrian (abstract).

Locations

The patterns of houses and streets are the places Mondrian lived during his lifetime. In chronological order: Amersfoort (place of birth, 1872-1880 at Kortegracht 11), Winterswijk (1880-1892 at Zonnebrink 4), Amsterdam (1892-1911 at Kalverstraat 154), Uden (1904-1905 at Sint Janstraat 27), Paris (1911-1914 & 1919-1938 at Rue du Départ 26, 5 Rue du Coulmier, 278 Boulevard Raspail), Laren/ Blaricum (1914-1919 at Eemnesserweg 30b), London (1938-1940 at Ormonde Hotel on Belsize Grove & 60 Parkhill Road, NW3) and New York (1940-1944 at 353 East 56th Street & 15 East 59th Street).

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Work Process

The original idea was to use all natural materials (charcoal, wood and colored red, yellow, blue feathers) to create a ‘natural’ contrast between the abstract patterns of the streets and the wooden tree. This idea changed because of the complexity recreating the city maps where Mondrian lived. Tjaard collaborated with his twin brother Rik on this art piece because of the strong connection between the van Gogh brothers, and the symbolic tree planting in Uncle Cent’s garden. Tjaard created the design with mapping and design software, and Rik produced the transparent acrylic light display, to be further finalized in bronze.

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