Grids in Visual Art and Painting
The grid is among the oldest formal devices in the history of visual art. After making a successful sketch, the Old Masters would draw a squared grid over their image in order to facilitate scaling it up, square by square, into a painting or a fresco. In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the development of perspective by pioneers such as Paolo Uccello led artists to routinely employ grids in their images to correctly mark out the recession of space. As such, the squared-off picture plane was essential to the development of pictorial illusion. However, it was not until the twentieth century that the grid moved from the background to the foreground in works of art. (The Design and The Grid, Lucienne Roberts and Julia Thrift)
When it did so, the reasons were surprisingly mystical, given the rigorously scientific order that grids would seem to represent. The grid made its return in various responses to the early twentieth-century art movement in Cubism, whose exponents, Pablo Piscasso and Georges Braque, had conceived of an aesthetic that fragmented and abstracted reality into angles planes in order to more closely approximate the way we look at things. Inspired by Cubism during a stay in Paris before the First World War, the Dutch artist Piet Mondrian wanted to create an art that was even more ‘realistic’, though paradoxically the works he came up with – in a style he labeled ‘plastic art; - were increasingly abstract. (The Design and The Grid, Lucienne Roberts and Julia Thrift)
‘True Reality,’ wrote Mondrian, ‘is attained through dynamic movement in equilibrium. Plastic art affirms that equilibrium can only be established through the balance of unequal but equivalent oppositions.’ Mondrian described this balance as bring ‘of great importance to humanity’, and set about presenting it using paintings in which a heavy grid of black lines on white created squares that he filled in using primary colors. The effect, something...