Esteemed thinker: Vasily Kandinsky

In a most literal term abstraction is an idea that is unrealistic, visionary, and impractical. We know it in the form of mathematics and more readily engage it in art. Abstract art is often either liked or disliked, for there seems to be very little middle ground. Rarely does a viewer walk past an abstract painting without giving it some sort of critique; sometimes positive and sometimes not.

How challenging it must have been or continues to be for those artists who claim they have created an “abstract painting” for actually, the mind does not wish to permit such an event to exist. For no matter how hard one tries, the mind wishes to make order out of what it sees. When we come upon an abstract painting hanging on the museum wall we seem always to attempt to make a comparison of the content to something else that makes “sense”. For no matter how hard we try, there is something or other that the mind equates it to… “it looks like a sunset,” “it looks like a man”… Those wiggly lines, unbalanced figures, and simple canvases are no challenge for our mind rearranges them, looking in its files under similarities until it comes upon one that conjures up its “concrete mate”.

And so we must wonder if there really is anything that is purely abstract … for our minds will not rest until it finds some structure and balance to this thing we call abstraction…

Wassily_Kandinsky-ca_1913Today’s post brings us the esteemed thinker: Vasily Kandinsky (b. Moscow 1866–1944) painter, printmaker, stage designer, artist and theorist. His name in the art world brought to the 20th century a transition of representational art into abstract expressionism. Kandinsky attracted anything intellectual, restless, striving, which was in the world of art of that time. In 1901 he founded Phalanx, an art group, in Munich and started a school, in which he taught himself.

In 1913, Kandinsky coined the expression “nonobjective painting” to refer to a painting that depicted no recognizable objects. Considered one of the most influential artists Kandinsky is often credited with creating the first purely non-objective painting.

I now bring to you to you a most famous work, Panel for Edwin R. Campbell No. 4 (1914), one of four in a series of canvasses commissioned by Edwin R. Campbell, founder of Chevrolet Motor Company. Take some time to ponder this extraordinary work, and I wonder where your mind sends you!

Kandinsky painting 1914 panel

Vincent van Gogh and his thoughts on art

van gogh museumMuseums are the windows to the past. They house treasures that have been unearthed, borrowed from other civilizations, reassembled from a time long ago, or displayed for the very first time. They are a wonderland of things that allow each of us admission to a time, place, or experience where we can become intimate with another. Museums come in many forms, some are for objects such as furniture, some are for prehistoric relics like dinosaur bones and fossils, some are for paintings and sculpture, and there are even museums for the news. Whatever the pleasures of men and women there is likely to be a collection somewhere displayed in some building…and fortunately saved for posterity.

Let’s look more closely at the fine art museum, a place where differing sets of values have decidedly created the spaces for viewing. There is modern art, classical art, ancient art, abstract art, and so on and so forth…and with each generation that visits and for each group of curators that have established the exhibitions, so has the appreciation for what we determine as “art” run the gambit. If we were to examine works through the ages we would find that a vast number of contemporaries often yearned for what came before. Many who lived during the age of “modern art” in the 1960s either liked the “new” works or scorned it… many longing for the look, feel, and style of “the past”. So it is with so many things, we often desire a return for what came before… and the appreciation for art is no different.

flower buds van gogh Today’s blog revisits the words of our esteemed thinker: Vincent van Gogh, a Dutch artist that hardly needs any introduction. A kind and troubled man who graced us with his gifts…where his paintings will forever be noted as “a Van Gogh” and we will all understand what that means…. although he lived a pauper’s existence he never extinguished his calling, art…

Let us now take a few minutes to look over his shoulder and read the words from a letter (1883) to his brother Theo …and we reaffirm that time stands still and often things we feel today have really not changed….

“… It makes me more nervous than is good for me to try to talk with people about my work. And what is the result? A refusal or being put off with fair promises. I assure you that I feel less energy for my work when I have been among people. …….I do not doubt that my wok has fault, but neither do I doubt that I am not quite wrong, and that I shall succeed, be it only after long seeking. And I do believe that it is dangerous to look for success elsewhere.
I think there is a difference between art appreciation today and that of earlier years. There used to be more passion both in the making and in the judging of works of art. This or that work was chosen deliberately; one side or the other was energetically taken. There was more animation. Now I think there is a spirit of capriciousness and satiety; people are in general more lax. Some time ago I wrote that I had noticed there was since Millet* a marked decline, as though the summit had been reached and decadence had begun. This has its influence on everybody and everything. …”

*Jean-Francois Millet (1814 – 1875) French realist painter and one of the founders of the Barbizon school in rural France; best known for his paintings of peasants.