how to look at mondrian


I recently came across a great article by James Elkins, entitled How to Look at Mondrian, which is less about art than it is about training your eyes to look more carefully and really notice the small details in everyday objects and images that pass in front of you. Being the art history nerd that I am, I love that Elkins uses Mondrian, known for his "basic" (which are, in fact, anything but basic) geometric compositions, to point out that even the most seemingly simple images contain vast amounts of revealing detail if we would only take a moment to stop and investigate.

Says Elkins: "What I have in mind is a series of lessons about how to use your eyes more concertedly, with more patience, than you might ordinarily do. It's about stopping, and taking the time to simply look, and keep looking, until the details of the world slowly reveal themselves. I especially love the strange feeling I get when I am staring at something, and suddenly I understand: the object has structure, it speaks to me. What was once a shimmer on the horizon becomes a specific kind of mirage, and it tells me about the shape of the air I am walking through. What was once a meaningless pattern on a moth's wing becomes a code, and it tells me how that moth looks to other moths. And paintings show me more each time I look; there is apparently no limit to what they can mean."

Here's to taking a pause every now and again to notice the little details.



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