Helena Tarn Art

Art As An Emotional Response: Wassily Kandinsky

Lend your ears to music, open your eyes to painting, and… stop thinking! Just ask yourself whether the work has enabled you to ‘walk about’ into a hitherto unknown world. If the answer is yes, what more do you want?

Wassily Kandinsky

I thought it might be nice to have a series of posts about some of the artists and paintings that inspire me. I love so many different artists, that this needs to be a series of posts, rather than just the one, otherwise you might be reading a very, very, very long time… Disclaimer – I am not an art historian, just an art lover. The views here are my own. I am simply relating how I see the art/artist and how it relates to my own work and experiences. Hopefully it will help you get to know me a bit better and see how these artworks have impacted me over the years.

Composition VI – 1913

I’m going to start with Kandinsky. While many teenagers had Backstreet Boys and Take That posters in their room (am I giving away my age??!) I had artworks by Kandinsky plastered on my walls. Is that weird? Please comment below.. on second thoughts, maybe don’t! Ha.

Wassily Kandinsky was a Russian artist born in Moscow in 1866. He is often referred to as the first ever true abstract artist. Like me, he was a late art bloomer and didn’t enrol in art school in Munich until he was 30, having previously practised law. He spent his life moving back and forth between Russia and Germany, navigating world wars, Communist and Nazi regimes, until finally settling in France, where he remained until his death in 1944.

There are several reasons why I love Kandinsky’s work but I’m going to briefly touch on the three things that I personally relate the most to; colour, music and geometry.

In Blue – 1925

Kandinsky was deeply spiritual and art, for him, was inner necessity and should convey emotion and ideas. He believed that artistic expression and experiences were all about feeling and that emotional responses could be deeply affected colour and shapes. Like me, he had a thing for blue. For Kandinsky, blue was an incredibly calming colour, it awakened a spiritual response and was incredibly peaceful. Yellow on the other hand was a disturbing, luminous even psychotic colour. He viewed colour as an independent form, a unique sensory experience.

Moscow Red Square – 1916

Amazingly, it is said that Kandinsky had synaesthesia, a neurological phenomenon in which you see a colour when a musical note is played. Kandinsky literally saw colours when he heard music and he painted what he heard! As a result, through exploring this concept in his paintings, he called many of his works ‘improvisations’ or ‘compositions’. Rather than depict realistic or recognisable objects, he painted graphic shapes, lines and colour to create a visual experience and an emotional response. He believed painting should be intuitive and spontaneous and incredibly moving, just like a beautiful symphony, harmonising perfectly and unconstrained by a realistic, exterior world.

Yellow Red Blue – 1925

Particularly in his later years, Kandinsky used free geometric forms in his paintings, in particular circles. The interaction between the shapes and colours harmonised to form a constructional element to the composition. For me these strong, bold and vibrant shapes give an almost 3D, floating nature to the paintings and your eye is led around the canvas from shape to shape. Kandinsky is like a conductor, leading the viewer through his visual composition. I absolutely love this effect and creating a strong visual focal point is something that I have been trying to achieve in my latest series. In addition, I have been experimenting with geometry, not circles or triangles like Kandinsky, but hexagons. The strong, graphic lines, juxtaposed with a soft and loose background give a superb energy and a strong composition. Thanks for the tip Wassily!!

Several Circles – 1926

Kandinsky himself was heavily inspired by Russian folk art, the works of Claude Monet and Paul Cezanne, as well as the composer Wagner. As for his influence, he is said to have pioneered modern abstract art and without a doubt he altered the artistic landscape of the early 20th century.

Composition VIII – 1923

I really hope you enjoyed learning a bit more about one of my favourite artists and what I love about his work. Have you come across any of his work before? What do you think?

All images in this post have been taken from public domain records.

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