This article was written in 2015. It might or it might not be outdated. And it could be that the layout breaks. If that’s the case please let me know.

Question: what if Mondriaan used light, instead of paint.

Last week I showed my class a diagram that shows the difference between mixing colours with light, and mixing colours with paint. If you mix light, you work with red, blue and green, and when you mix them all together you get white. And of course, the absence of colour is black. Paint works differently. Here the primary colours are red, blue and yellow. And if you mix them, theoretically, you get black. And the absence of pigment results in white paint. This made me wonder, if Piet Mondriaan worked with light instead of with paint, what would his works look like?

Blue and red, two of the three colours he used, would stay the same. But instead of yellow he would have used green, since that’s one of the primary colours in light. Another, even more dramatic change has to do with black and white. Mondriaan used the mix of all three primary colours to paint the borders between the cells. And he used the absence of colour to fill the cells that are not coloured. In his paintings this means that the borders are black, and the cells are white. But on a computer, this should be reversed: white borders with black cells.

Here’s an example of what Mondriaan’s work would look like if he used HTML and CSS instead of a (physical) canvas and paint. I added a print stylesheet as well (which doesn’t work in Chrome, since Chrome doesn’t know how to print viewport relative units). And I think it should be accessible for people with screenreaders as well, but please let me know if it isn’t.