Inspiration: Why Mondrian is the one for me

For our Inspiration series, staff at The Modern House were asked to list a location, film, painting, building, book or piece of music that inspired their interest in Modernism.

Our Appraisals Specialist, Hannah, explains how American rock band The White Stripes led her to the abstract paintings of Piet Mondrian.

“Being a teenager in the early noughties with an insatiable appetite for music unsurprisingly brought me to The White Stripes, a deep love of whom has stayed with me since.

“Defined by a strict visual language of red, white and black that was juxtaposed with a raw energy in their sound and presence, the White Stripes embodied both the primitive and refined. The combination spoke so eloquently about human nature. They had a desire to pare everything back to its essence, a sensibility that mostly remained throughout their fourteen-year career together and that resonated strongly with me. It flooded out of their second album titled ‘De Stijl’, dedicated to furniture designer and architect Gerrit Rietveld. It captured my imagination and set me on a path to discovering and devouring twentieth century art history, specifically Modernism and Abstraction. Piet Mondrian, it turned out, was the one for me.

“De Stijl (Dutch for ‘The Style’) or Neo-Plasticism, formed in 1917, was made up of artists, architects and designers that were isolated from the rest of the world by the Netherlands’ neutrality in WW1. The group was concerned with minimalist and deconstructionist philosophies; they attempted to go beyond the organic aesthetic of the natural world and extract and express its underlying elemental spirit and universal truth. Symmetry was rare in the work that came out of De Stijl as it is in nature, instead equilibrium was sought in the use of oppositions. Systems of straight black lines, space, crossing joints and primary colours were employed to succinctly convey pure energy, refining light and natural shapes to their descriptive and practical minimum.

“The moments of absolute and arresting clarity found in their output still stop me in my tracks, feel distinctly modern and continue to influence the evolution of my taste in fine art, architecture and design.”