Dutch Painter, Pioneer of Geometric Abstraction, Leader of the De Stijl Art movement and proclaimed 'Neo Plasticism' as a new abstract art
"In past times when one lived in contact with nature, abstraction was easy; it was done unconsciously. Now in our denaturalized age abstraction becomes an effort."
"All painting – the painting of the past as well as of the present – shows us that its essential plastic means we are only line and color. "
"The emotion of beauty is always obscured by the appearance of the object. Therefore the object must be eliminated from the picture."
"The colored planes, as much by position and dimension as by the greater value given to color, plastically express only relationships and not forms. "
"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."
"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. "
"In art the search for a content which is collectively understandable is false; the content will always be individual. "
"Every true artist has been inspired more by the beauty of lines and color and the relationships between them than by the concrete subject of the picture. "
"Reality manifests itself as constant and objective – independent of us, but as changeable in space and time. Consequently, its reflection in us contains both properties. Mixed up in our mind, these properties are confused and we do not have a proper image of reality."
"To approach the spiritual in art, one will make as little use as possible of reality, because reality is opposed to the spiritual."
"The purer the artist's 'mirror' is, the more true reality reflects in it. Overseeing the historical culture of art, we must conclude that the mirror only slowly is purified. Time producing this purifying shows a gradual, more constant and objective image of reality. "
"Although Art is fundamentally everywhere and always the same, nevertheless two main human inclinations, diametrically opposed to each other, appear in its many and varied expressions. One aims at the direct creation of universal beauty, the other at the esthetic expression on oneself, in other words, of that which one thins and experiences. The first aims at representing reality objectively, the second subjectively. Thus we see in every work of figurative art the desire, objectively to represent beauty, solely through form and color, in mutually balanced relations, and, at the same time, an attempt to express that which these forms, colors, and relations arouse in us. The latter attempt must of necessity result in an individual expression which veils the pure representation of beauty."
"The laws which in the culture of art have become more and more determinate are the great hidden laws of nature which art establishes in its own fashion. It is necessary to stress the facts that these laws are more or less hidden behind the superficial aspects of nature. Abstract art is therefore opposed to a natural representation of things. But it is not opposed to nature as is generally thought. It is opposed to the raw primitive animal nature of man, but is one with true human nature. It is opposed to the conventional laws created during the culture of the particular form but it is one with the laws of the culture of pure relationships. First and foremost there is the fundamental law of dynamic equilibrium which is opposed to the static equilibrium necessitated by the particular form. The important task then of all art is to destroy the static equilibrium by establishing a dynamic one. Non-figurative art demands an attempt of what is a consequence of this task, the destruction of particular form and the construction of a rhythm of mutual relations, of mutual forms or free lines. We must bear in mind, however, a distinction between these two forms of equilibrium in order to avoid confusion; for when we speak of equilibrium pure and simple we may be for, and at the same time against, a balance in the work of art."
"In order that art may be really abstract, in other words, that it should not represent relations with the natural aspect of things, the law of the denaturalization of matter is of fundamental importance. In painting, the primary color that is as pure as possible realizes this abstraction of natural color. But color is, in the present state of technique, also the best means for denaturalizing matter in the realm of abstract constructions in three dimensions; technical means are as a rule insufficient."
"In general, people have not realized that one can express our very essence through neutral constructive elements; that is to say, we can express the essence of art. The essence of art of course in not often sought. As a rule, individualist human nature is so predominant, that the expression of the essence of art through a rhythm of lines, colors, and relationships appears insufficient. Recently, even a great artist has declared that ‘complete indifference to the subject leads to an incomplete form of art.’ But everybody agrees that art is only a problem of plastics. What good then is a subject? It is to be understand that one would need a subject to expound something named ‘Spiritual riches, human sentiments and thoughts.’ Obviously, all this is individual and needs particular forms. But at the root of these sentiments and thoughts there is one thought and one sentiment: those do not easily define themselves and have no need of analogous forms in which to express themselves. It is here that neutral plastic means are demanded. For pure art then, the subject can never be an additional value, it is the line, the color, and their relations which must ‘bring into play the whole sensual and intellectual register of the inner life…,’ not the subject. Both in abstract art and in naturalistic art color expresses itself ‘in accordance with the form by which it is determined,’ and in all art it is the artists task to make forms and colors living and capable of arousing emotion. If he makes art into an ‘algebraic equation’ that is no argument against the art, it only proves that he is not an artist."
"According to our laws, it is a great mistake to believe that one is practicing non-figurative art by merely achieving neutral forms or free lines and determinate relations. For in composing these forms one runs the risk of a figurative creation, that is to say one or more particular forms. Non-figurative art is created by establishing a dynamic rhythm of determinate mutual relations which excludes the formation of any particular form. We note thus, that to destroy particular form is only to do more consistently what all art has done."
"If the universal is the essential, then it is the basis of all life and art. Recognizing and uniting with universal therefore gives us the greatest aesthetic satisfaction, the greatest emotion of beauty. the more this union with the universal is felt, the more individual subjectivity declines."
"It is therefore a mistake to suppose that a non-figurative work comes out of the unconscious, which is a collection of individual and pre-natal memories. We repeat that it comes from pure intuition, which is at the basis of the subjective-objective dualism. It is, however, wrong to think that the non-figurative artist finds impressions and emotions received from the outside useless, and regards it even as necessary to fight against them. On the contrary, all that the non-figurative artist receives from the outside is not only useful but indispensable, because it arouses in him the desire to creative that which he only vaguely feels and which he could never represent in a true manner without the contact with visible reality and with the life which surrounds him."
"As you can see this is a composition of vertical and horizontal lines which will (in an abstract manner) have to express the idea of rising upwards, of magnitude. This is the same idea which used, for example, to be the guiding principle in the construction of cathedrals. Since only the manner of expression and not the representation has to express this general idea, I have not given any title. An abstract human mind will, of itself, receive the intended impression. I always confine myself to expressing the general."
"That which distinguishes him from the figurative artist is the fact that in his creations he frees himself from individual sentiments and from particular impressions which he receives from outside, and that he breaks loose from the domination of the individual inclination within him. It is therefore equally wrong to think that the non-figurative artist creates through ‘the pure intention of his mechanical process,’ that he makes ‘calculated abstractions,’ and that he wishes to ’suppress sentiment not only in himself but also in the spectator.’ It is a mistake to think that he retires completely into his system. That which is regarded as a system is nothing but constant obedience to the laws of pure plastics, to necessity, which art demands from him. It is thus clear that he has not become a mechanic, but that the progress of science, of technique, of machinery, of life as a whole, has only made him into a living machine, capable of realizing in a pure manner the essence of art. In this way, he is in his creation sufficiently neutral, that nothing of himself or outside of him can prevent him from establishing that which is universal. Certainly his art is art for art’s sake … for the sake of the art which is form and content at one and the same time."
"The cultivated man of today is gradually turning away from natural things, and his life is becoming more and more abstract. Natural (external) things become more and more automatic, and we observe that out vital attention fastens more and more on internal things.. ..Modern man –although a unity of body, mind and soul – exhibits a changed consciousness: every expression of his life has today a different aspect, that is, an aspect more positively abstract. It is the same with art. Art will become the product of another duality in man: the product of cultivated externality and of inwardness deepened and more conscious. As a pure representation of the human mind, art will express itself in an aesthetically purified, that is to say, abstract form."
"Neo-Plasticism has its roots in Cubism. It could just as easy be called the Painting of Real Abstraction. Since the abstract can be expressed by a plastic reality.. ..It achieves what all painting has tried to achieve but has been able to express only in a veiled manner. By their position and their dimension as well as by the importance of given to colour, the coloured planes express in a plastic way only relations and not forms. Neo-Plasticism imparts to these relations an aesthetic balance and thereby expresses universal harmony.. ..For the moment what art had discovered must still be limited to art itself. Our environment cannot yet be realized as a creation of pure harmony. Art today is at the very point formerly occupied by religion. In its deepest meaning art was the transposition of the natural (to another plane); in practice it always sought to achieve harmony between man and untransposed nature. Generally speaking, so do Theosophy and Anthroposophy, although these already possessed the original symbol of balance. And this is why they never were able to achieve equivalent relations, that is to say true harmony."
"Art on the contrary sought this harmony in practice (of art itself). More and more in its creations it has given inwardness to that what surrounds us in nature, until, in Neo-Plasticism, nature is no longer dominant. This achievement of balance may prepare the way for the fulfilment of man and signal the end of (what we call) art. "
"Vertical and horizontal lines are the expression of two opposing forces; they exist everywhere and dominate everything; their reciprocal action constitutes ‘life’. I recognized that the equilibrium of any particular aspect of nature rests on the equivalence of its opposites."
"Cubism did not accept the logical consequences of its own discoveries; it was not developing abstraction towards its own goal, the expression of pure reality."
"By the unification of architecture, sculpture and painting a new plastic reality will be created."
"Observing sea, sky and stars, I sought to indicate their plastic function through a multiplicity of crossing verticals and horizontals. Impressed by the vastness of Nature, I was trying to express its expansion, rest and unity."