Where I live there was a bit of a Kandinsky craze in the late 80s to mid-90s. Suddenly all the coffee table books featured his work. Well, not all but if you walked into a bookstore or art gallery his work would be prominently displayed, whereas in other eras it might have been, I don’t know… Henry Moore or Toulouse-Lautrec.
I wasn’t a huge Kandinsky fan at first. I made the mistake of comparing Kandinsky to Picasso, which really wasn’t fair. I pretty much like anything Picasso did, while I like about three-quarters to four-fifths of what I have seen of Kandinsky. That remaining quarter or fifth just doesn’t seem too remarkable to me.
Perhaps I did the same thing – and felt the same – with Miro and to some extent Klimt. Can’t remember for sure. Age has a way of blurring the past.
Tonight I checked out Marina Kanavaki’s outstanding presentation of Kandinsky and my respect for and knowledge of him has deepened.
Marina has a talent for digging deeper than most and she links to this fascinating 1910 treatise “Concerning the Spiritual in Art.”
It’s long and I just skimmed over it but I have a talent for quickly getting to the heart of the matter. Or so I like to think.🤓
The above passage stood out for me. I think many seekers will be able to relate. When I was about 19 – 28 yrs. painting watercolors and drawing with pastels was an important means for expressing all the new things I was experiencing inside. I am not particularly gifted in the visual arts, so my watercolors and pastels have that rough, sometimes unfinished look that you find in some depth psychology books… you know analysands expressing their “archetypal” experiences along the path to “individuation,” and so on.
I’m no longer a Jungian because I found that too limiting when I moved to India. But the Jungian ethos is a part of my past, for sure.
So to get back to the quote I’ve highlighted above, another point that came to mind is that Kandinsky, like not a few others, might be romanticizing the idea of “the primitive.” I mean, he might be. Or he might not be. But my guess is that – just like us – some so-called primitives leaned more toward introspection while others were primarily extroverted. I don’t know if we can generalize and say that, unlike modern mankind, all primitives were close to the proverbial “spark” of the soul. Some primitives may have enjoyed active, worldly pastimes like hunting (which was pretty important to survival) while others may have just preferred staying at home to cuddle. Who knows… 🙂
I also don’t agree if Kandinsky indeed implies that philosophers are sort of behind the game. Thinking and spirituality need not be mutually exclusive. But it seems – from my quick glance at his work – that Kandinsky falls into another pretty common bias among some artists, namely that they are more spiritual than the rest of the world… those horrid philistines who just don’t see.
Correct me if I’m wrong on this. But I have encountered some artists who assume their work is the ‘be all and end all’ of spirituality. Whereas to me, these arrogant self-promoters seem more like spiritual newborns or even fetuses just waiting to see the true light.
One artist in India once condescendingly said (when I accidentally interrupted him) that painting wasn’t just like “opening a book.” And I have met others who take a similar, elitist kind of stance as if they are in some special place that the rest of us can only dream of.
I merely present my honest reflections hoping they will assist some artists and non-artists in their search for meaning and truth.
We’re all in this together. Different, but together.