Sometimes people ask why there are pictures of the works of Rietveld and Mondrian in my workshop. After all I make historical, often ornamented instruments, which have nothing to do with that “modernist crap”…
The works of Rietveld and Mondrian intrigue and inspire me. They were born in two cities near here. Both broke out of the dullness of Dutch society and pushed the boundaries of their craft.
But another thing that appeals to me is the way use space in their work. They shaped the space within the object, rather than the object itself. Both far ahead of their time. Even hundred years later their work still looks fresh and modern and their ideas live on.
Gerrit Rietveld was born and lived near in the city of Utrecht. He was trained as a furniture maker, but took design lessons with architect Klaarhamer. He slowly started to remove all unnecessary frills of his furniture.
There are many false assumptions surrounding these artists. One is that Rietveld’s famous red-blue chair is quite uncomfortable to sit in. I have made several copies and tried some made by others, and can assure you that they are very ergonomically. In fact, they are more comfortable than most contemporary lounge chairs.
Another one I often hear is: “My 3 y.o. niece can make that too…” Well, congratulations, you have a very talented niece… Sorry, but NO, your niece probably can’t. The mistake often make in looking at Mondrian’s work is that we judge it by its simplicity. Some straight black lines and colored squares on a white background. Any fool can do that. Indeed, but not every fool does. And it will be hard to find a fool that started out painting figurative and slowly progressing to a new form. Making it more abstract as he goes along.
There is a careful balancing act in Mondrian’s work. He experimented a lot, going down one path, coming up another. In his last painting, he tried to catch the rhythm and sound of boogie woogie.
The works of Rietveld and Mondrian bring my mind at ease. Their sophistication lies beyond the sheer simplicity. It reminds me of how important it is to keep things simple and bring them back to their essential form.