Beauty of Relation, Beauty of Ambivalence

By Marc Ries

From Andrés Ramírez Gaviria, catalogue published by Metroverlag, Vienna, 2008


Mondrian’s familiar paintings, composed of color surfaces and vertical and horizontal lines, are an attempt at renewal. Such renewal originates from, and is inherent in, an anti-aesthetic impulse: delimitation is replaced by expansion, surface by form, and relationship by object.

The titles of the paintings: ‘Composition with …’ clearly show that “composition” is programmatic: the paintings illustrate positions relating to one another in terms of color and geometry, positional relations that produce an image space. There’s no illusion, no spatial image. Image space: composition with lines and color surfaces that develops a space which cannot be delimited by the frame of the actual picture; which expands with determination; which refers outward to the next relations and conditions. Mondrian himself suggested that, “in the future we turn the naturalistic paintings, turn them around, with the painted surface facing the wall, in order to simply use them as elements for segmenting the wall.” The rectangular shapes of the turned-over paintings transfer a composition to a wall’s surface, and thus into a relationship, in which the wall is the topology of a new image concept. The lines are space; the color surfaces the matter occupying this space − an iconoclasm that transfers the paintings into an aesthetic world orientation. Space becomes the medium of abstraction, which finds its authentication in segments of the real world, such as architecture. “We see how pure beauty emerges on its own in buildings designed just for necessity and appropriateness. But as soon as luxury is added, one begins to think of art and this pure beauty is destroyed.”

 Werner Hoffman spoke of Mondrian setting “the beauty of relation against the cult of the single article.” What is on display is an “anti-museum certainty of salvation postulating that art must be overcome by itself, that the creative act is to be expanded to all areas of life.”


Today the picture composed by Mondrian has changed as such, has become “something” different. The picture has transformed into a surface of information, a data field; it is visible as an interface or a display; it is less of an icon than a diagram. It is less the expression of “It is!” than of “It happens!”

Andrés Ramírez Gaviria has sketched a trajectory. Its dimensions are the sum of the width of the 17 paintings (the “Transatlantic Paintings”) Mondrian took with him when he emigrated from Europe to America. The trajectory projected on a wall is comparable to the system-space (Panofsky), which Edward Muybridge designed in Palo Alto in the early days of moving pictures: On a precisely segmented trajectory, the galloping horses are recorded as snapshots by photo cameras. Only this segmented space allows us to think of a cinematographic technology that creates moving serial images from motionless frames. Movement as mechanical animation. With Ramírez Gaviria, the structures of Mondrian’s paintings, which start from the left of the installation, into the field of view of the display inside, are now set in motion. It is only the geometrical arrangements we see, not the colored surfaces. This reduction allows us to return to our first consideration now: The geometrical structure of these new pictures is substantially tighter, more complex than the original one. Their program of relationals, of relations, which unfold in every direction, is spatially shortened in this composition. And: They move, the grid is animated, embedded in a horizontal motion, goes through the entire trajectory and, when it arrives at the right end, it knocks against it and bounces off because this system-space still has a border, the system’s delimitation of the data field. Now the impact changes the grid’s order, its composition; it is pushed back as something that has been changed – a different structure, a different composition. Then the grid knocks against other structures and changes again, as these also transform, change, and rearrange, decompose and recompose themselves. This process repeats itself continuously; new structures arise, knock against one another, change, and partly also lose their lines, which are floating independently and freely now. At some point, one does not see any coherent structures anymore but only random “merry” mutations. Then, after a phase of acceleration, the sequences, the collisions, calm down; the elements gradually disappear, until only the white trajectory remains, and the process can start all over again.

If Mondrian tried to conceive and paint equilibrium or beauty in relation to this equilibrium, then Andrés Ramírez Gaviria lets the beauty of imbalance develop in the data field of a display. One can also speak of the beauty of ambivalence, of the beauty arising from the fact that the automatic play of the decomposition and recomposition of the lines is unpredictable and cannot be scheduled; of the beauty in asymmetrical relationships being permanently on the move; on the move to a present in which dimensions, orders, and conditions are broken up. This movement presents a “reality of being-there,” a state which unconditionally manifests itself as the result of its totalitarian predictability.