The lozenge compositions
Along with the rectangular canvases, throughout the 1920’s Mondrian worked also on a series of compositions developed on a lozenge format.
The choice of this format gives greater breadth to the composition. It makes it possible to use lines of various lengths.
New relations of tension are established between the orthogonal planes and the diagonal sides of the painting.
The four corners of the lozenge generate a centrifugal energy and seem to expand the plane of the canvas along its two median axes.
The lozenge therefore already seems in itself a way to make the equivalence of opposites, i.e. the square, more dynamic.
On observing the four lozenges we note how a closed area nearing the proportions of a square (first lozenge) opens up (second and third) while in the fourth one a closed square re-appears which consists of lines which assume variable thickness. On the one hand an open square area extends with the lines toward a virtually infinite space (the finite opens up to the infinite; the one opens up to the many) and on the other hand a renewed closed square is made of a relative multiplicity through lines varying in thickness. In both cases, the one interacts with the many. Once again, Mondrian seeks in these works to open and expand the square while maintaining its visibility at the same time.
A synthesis of all the lozenges
We shall now examine Lozenge with Yellow Lines which constitute a synthesis of all previous compositions of this type.
The more important innovation is obviously the fact that, for the first time, the lines are no longer black but yellow. The field is uniformly white and the yellow shape almost appears to be born out of the white rather than in opposition to it, as in the case of the black.
Yellow is an intermediate value between black and white, sufficiently dark to be differentiated from white but, at the same time, not so radically opposite as black. The opposite values now seem communicate and achieve unitary expression in terms both of form and of color, with horizontal and vertical simultaneously present for an instant in every line and the synthesis of black and white in an intermediate color, which yellow appears to constitute in this case. On observing this square and contemplating the differing thickness of the lines, we are faced with a unity undergoing transformation from one side to the other; a synthesis that already appears comparatively manifold in itself. We perceive a unity that tends to become rather than to be. It endures but changes at the same time; a square that is open, dynamic, asymmetric, and entirely expressed by color.
One and the same thing
This composition goes to the heart of the problem: to show the manifold in unitary form; to open up unity, i.e. the postulate of consciousness, to the changing aspect of the natural universe and existence in time but without losing sight of it. Once again we recall the fundamental issue: The one and the many appear as antithetical realities in the human dimension; in actual fact, they are one and the same “thing”.
The dialectic between unity and multiplicity continued throughout the 1920s and early 1930s. The single white square field (1920) took on color, underwent duplication while opening up on one or two sides (1930). A closed square developed out of the dynamic continuity of the lines around 1931: the square is sometimes more horizontal, sometimes more vertical; sometimes larger, sometimes smaller; sometimes blue, sometimes yellow. The single square of 1920 gradually gave way to a variety of probable square forms. Unity and multiplicity tended to interpenetrate.
In actual fact, the square opened up and interpenetrated with the variety of forms and colors in the rectangular canvases while seeking in the lozenge compositions to absorb that variety with no extensive change to itself. In the first case, the square opens up in the direction of multiplicity; in the second, the square absorbs multiplicity while remaining substantially one:
In this phase Mondrian is like a composer who gradually reduces the orchestra to a solo instrument, an almost imperceptible sound that can still be varied in an effort to express the whole. In a white field crossed by four black lines, the thickness of a line can also serve in a space moving toward ever-greater synthesis to calibrate the weights and influence the overall economy of the composition.
These lozenge compositions constitute the moment of greatest correspondence between the one and the many.
As Michel Seuphor puts it in his beautiful biography of Mondrian: “Sometimes he thinks he has found it. So he stops, observes the work, and says: It’s done. But the clock of his life keeps on ticking and is already driving him forward. He soon realizes that nothing is done and everything has to start all over again.”