Monday, September 27, 2010

Op de pier, dicht bij de zee.

Mondrian Pier and Ocean 1915

Today’s art is Mondrain’s Ocean and Pier / Composition 10, one of many works that he did exploring this theme.  The jutting pier is represented by  the verticals at the lower center, while the texture of the water is implied by the contrasting reflections around it, receding to the horizon, with sky above.

altI visited the pier in Brighton today, taking time off after a visit to the microbiology labs at the University.   It’s a structure in the grand old style of boardwalks and dance halls, with  wooden slats and iron supports, the sea swaying and heaving green beneath the walkwayss.  The promenade is lined with shops selling sweets and trinkets, canvas and wood beach chairs, blue and white stripes mirroring the sky, for watching the ocean.  A radio station plays an rotation of memories from a DJ booth at the end of the pier, close by the thrill rides.  The pressure to visit MooMoo’s for a MilkShake is relentless..

It’s a relaxed, lazy place, similar to the ones vanishing from beaches around the world.  Navy Pier in Chicago (below, left) was rehabilitated, it’s now a vast family-safe pedestrian walkway.  Brighton was conserved, a modern day Vasa, still retaining it’s charms despite the age of the wood.

Chicago Navy pier  Scheveningen 13alt  alt

I was trying to remember any Dutch equivalents, then hit upon a sunny day spent at Scheveningen when I first came to the Netherlands.  A broad beach, a flat ocean, a long boardwalk stretching fingers towards the grey and yellow horizon.  Scheveningen is a bit between, glass enclosed and updated in spots, vestiges of the carnival heritage poking through.

I suspect there are, or once were, similar great piers extending into the sea all along the coasts of Europe.  Wikipedia keeps a list, but the sparseness suggests that, beyond a few in Belgium and the one in the Netherlands, these artifacts have all but vanished from the Continent. 

And there’s no hint of what pier inspired Mondrian, watching light flicker on water, fingers twitching over his canvas.  No clue if it was a sunny day or grey, observed from canvas chair or a lazy lean over a rail. ‘just a figurative sketch, ever in the present moment of people strolling the planks above the sea.

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