Komposition no. 163

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'Komposition no. 163' is a bluish-grey painting with four painted lines: three white and one black line. There is a relatively broad white line which runs from the top edge, slightly diagonally down to the left, while a much thinner and longer white line runs not quite parallel to the broad line; the third white line begins in the middle of the canvas, runs slightly diagonally to the bottom right and crosses the thin white line so that it seems to hang on it. The white lines evoke the idea of a floating construction. The black horizontal line serves as a counterweight: as regards its direction, colour and length, it contrasts strongly with the white lines. The bluish-grey colour of the background contributes to the sense of lightness and an ethereal quality which is already produced by the pattern of lines.

Vordemberge-Gildewart constructed his paintings with enormous precision and concentration. He tried to achieve maximum tension with as few means as possible. His ideas about art corresponded to those of fellow artists who made abstract work with a strong sense of construction at the beginning of the 20th century, such as Van Doesburg, Lissitzky, Moholy-Nagy and Mondrian. Vordemberge-Gildewart’s friend and fellow artist Hans Arp used the term “Oases of purity in the chaos of our time” for his work. In Vordemberge-Gildewart’s vision a work of art should not be an expression of bravura or virtuosity but a carefully constructed image in which there is a subtle tension between the elements of which it is composed.

Vordemberge-Gildewart preferred not to use the term “abstract art” with regard to his own work, because this literally means that the painted forms were derived (abstracted) from the forms of reality. From 1930, Van Doesburg used the term “concrete” instead of “abstract” to indicate that this art was composed of concrete forms that did not refer to anything. However, Vordemberge did not consider this term suitable for art which is no longer about forms but about “the design of the pure elementary relationships evoked and determined solely by the relationship and tension of the colours, the absolute colour construction.” This absolute art was separate from any reference to reality, separate from the tangible form but reflected the “rhythm of a higher reality.”

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