ABSTRACT ART — THE INNER LIFE OF ABSTRACT ART
Abstract art is often and commonly misunderstood by the general public. This can be due to a general lack of understanding of and/or empathy for the purpose of abstraction in art. Figurative, representational art, pictures of people and things, need no such instruction manual or translation key. One sees a table, a bowl, some items of fruit, and one gets it. The abstract work of art, on the other hand, asks all kinds of questions of the viewer, challenges the viewer with a plethora of conundrums. What is it? What does it mean? How am I supposed to interpret this? How do I know if it’s any good? Why does it look like my five year-old could do it?
Then, one encounters a work of abstract art which puts those last two questions completely to rest. Those of us who are fond of visiting galleries and museums have experienced this phenomenon: you see a work of abstract art, and you just know it’s good, because it stops you, grabs your attention, and speaks to you. Thus it is a form of communication which is utterly unique to abstract art, and it is the reason for abstract art’s existence and proliferation: It is a form of spiritual communication, a stimulatingly interpretive one, in a language invented by the artist. Instead of illustrating the visible world and our visible lives, abstract art illustrates what the Russian artist Wasily Kandinsky called “the invisible life,” offering a window into the soul and spirit and emotions of the artist, and therefore into our own inner lives. But its abstractness was not a form of artistic communication which was completely without precedence…
Wasily Kandinsky (1866–1944) was one of the earliest and probably the most noted progenitor of this new approach to painting known as abstract art. What’s interesting, is that he was inspired to embark upon it by an art form of a similarly nonrepresentational nature: music. Kandinsky, you see, was also a musician. Music, at its very essence, is pure form, wholly abstract by nature. Its melodies and harmonies and rhythms only have lines and colors, and meanings, in our imaginations. So Kandinsky, being a musician but also a painter, was keen to the possibilities of abstract art, but also the debt art owes to music as a spiritual foundation. So it is prismatic that Kandinsky cites Goethe in that regard, in Kandinsky’s 1914 book Concerning the Spiritual in Art. Indeed, at the concluding chapter of that book, Kandinsky drew a most direct connection, noting simple composition painting to be considered Melodic, and complex composition painting be considered Symphonic. He went on to write: “Between the two lie various transitional forms, in which the melodic principle predominates. The history of the development is closely parallel to that of music.” It is important to note that Kandinsky was not referring there necessarily to abstract art, but to all art. He thusly elaborates: “Complex rhythmic composition, with a strong flavor of the symphonic, is seen in numerous pictures and woodcuts of the past. One might mention the work of old German masters, of the Persians, of the Japanese, the Russian icons, etc.” Yes, Kandinsky was quite the art theorist, one who was unusually articulate about the motivations and inspirations of his evolution as a painter, and most articulate for an artist who was also both so masterful and so prolific. It is apropos that such a highly evolved intellect would provide an embryonic foundation to a whole new movement in art, one which today continues to delight us, to stymie us, to inspire us and sometimes frustrate us, but always there to teach us something about our inner selves.
Article by artmobia