In the very early 80's the government, in its infinite wisdom, decreed that every school in the land should receive a computer. Ours duly arrived, a pristine, cutting-edge BBC computer produced by Acorn to a BBC-determined, government backed specification as part of a much vaunted literacy project. Along with all the others in the land, our (Special Needs)pupils were to be whisked into the computer age. The aim was not just literacy, but computer literacy as well. All this with one computer between 130 children. And it might have happened - up to a point - had they thought to include some software in their generous package. Alas, suitable software was not available. It was in the pipeline - a rather long pipeline as it turned out. A few of us decided that we would learn a computer language and have a shot at producing some software for ourselves. (After all, computer languages couldn't be harder to learn than French or Spanish - could they?) Whatever. A combination of in-service training courses, self-help from books etc and weekend courses run by companies trying to get in on a government hand-out, resulted in a few of us becoming half-way proficient with Basic - BBC Basic to be exact.
One of the exercises I gave myself in an attempt to get to grips with graphics was to write a program that would produce Mondrians. It was primed with the few basic rules that Piet Mondrian had at one point set for himself (periodically he would modify his ules to extend what was allowed)and would either choose random values within those rules or could be controlled by the user. The rather sad, faded specimen that emerged from under that pile of magazines is probably the only original extant King-Mondrian. As a result of our efforts, we did manage to produce some programs with which to introduce our youngsters to the delights of computing whilst actually teaching them something at the same time. Very amateur they were, of course. Laughable by the standards that even very young children would come to expect in just a year or two's time, but it was - we kidded ourselves - a start. And then one wet playtime a teacher thought it a good idea to set up the computer with one of the - not very educational - games which by then had come our way. By mistake she loaded in the Mondrian. Surprisingly, they took to it, and even became very competitive in comparing their efforts. Even so, it took a new lease of life after it had been explained to them what the pattern things were. They immediately saw themselves as counterfeiters and enjoyed the feelings of doing something that could be seen as both adult and illegal. In no time at all there were Mondrians hanging on all the school walls.
Below, in fairness to Mondrian, I give you one of his.
And some of his thoughts:
Everything is composed by relation and reciprocity. Colour exists only through another colour, dimension is defined by another dimension, there is no position except in opposition to another position. Form and colour have found their proper use: From now on they will be nothing but plastic means of expression and will no longer dominate in the work as they did in the past.
Neutral line, colour and form, in other words, elements that have the appearance of something familiar, are established as a means of general expression. As these means represent the highest degree of simplification, young people are the ones who must preserve them, determine their composition, and establish them according to their nature.
In order to approach the spiritual in art, we will make as little use as possible of reality, because reality is opposed to the spiritual. Hence, there is a logical explanation for elementary forms. As these forms are abstract, we find ourselves in the presence of an abstract art.
The universal can be expressed in pure manner only when the particular does not obstruct our path.