“Color directly influences the soul. Color is the keyboard, the eyes are the hammers, the soul is the piano with many strings. The artist is the hand that plays touching one key or another purposively to cause vibrations in the soul”.
Kandinsky, the Russian born artist said that. He said a lot of profound, unique, soulful things he recorded in his book, “Concerning the Spiritual in Art.” If you haven’t read it, try it, you’ll like it!
It’s a literary dissection of his artistic philosophy which he translated in his paintings. Abstract, Bible based, humane qualities, intricate, color splashed, intensely provocative, Kandinsky painted straight from the soul, and had a deep spiritual relationship, a connection with the “Creator” and what we call HIS creations.
My first experience with Kandinsky, oddly enough, was a movie I saw in 1993, actor Will Smith’s first, called ” Six Degrees of Separation”. Smith’s character, perpetrates a fraud on a Park Avenue couple, who take him into their home, believing him to be a college friend of their son. Patrons of the arts, Kandinsky is their favorite painter, and two of his paintings become central points of interest in the movie. “Black Lines” and “Several Circles”, depicting the qualities of chaos and control. Chaos and Control. The yin and the yang. The high and the low. The plus and the minus. Smith charms his way into their lives by concocting a lie about his identity, which they swallow hook, line and sinker, fooled, and charmed by Smith’s charismatic personality, and their desperate need to inject excitement into their mundane, sterile, predictable, lives. Smith Reads them, Plays them, Robs them, and in so doing, causes the bipolar opposites of chaos and control, as symbolized in Kandinsky’s paintings. In their intellectual naivety, bounded by their social status and inflated egos, they become easy targets for Smith, and he preys on their vulnerabilities with the sharp sting of the subtle snake, who lies in wait, ready to pounce, and devour! The “War of Art” in action! The theory of “6 degrees”, is that everyone and everything is six steps away , so that there is a link, invisible, yet profound that connects any two people in six steps! Physically or spiritually this link creates a chain that leads to this connection. Six links is all, it takes!
When the film came out it helped push Will Smith into the movie star realm, from his TV fame, a major career leap for him at the time, taking him into the Hollywood stratosphere! It also raised the intriguing question of the of six degrees phenomenon. Kandinsky’s paintings highlight this question exposing his spiritual view, seen in his paintings, and posing spectacular questions of time and space. His “Compositions” were based on his “music is the ultimate teacher”, vision, displayed in his pre WW1 exhibit, “Degenerate Art” later destroyed. This was pre Nazi Russia in the 1930’s. A foreboding, dangerous time.
In his “Compositions”, he focuses on The Apocalypse. He describes the artist as “prophet” in his book, “Concerning the Spiritual”. He predicted that the coming war , would forever change society, and he painted what he felt, looking ahead, prophetic, seeing into the future, the chaos of war, the control of government dictators, the powers that ruled the times, the uncertainty of life as it had been leaping into life as it would be .
Bible stories, symbolizing the cycle of life, was an important resource for Kandinsky in his personal experience and he expressed it in his art. From Adam, to Moses to Noah, to Jonah, to the Apocalypse, he inhaled these Bible stories and exhaled them in his supreme abstract imagery , creating the masterpieces we see today! The war years also presented a huge moral and spiritual cataclysm for him, and as an artist that had to come out visually, and it did successfully!
The “internal necessity” is why the authentic artist creates. “This inhabits the top of an upward moving pyramid” looking into the future.
Gazing at a Kandinsky is an emotional experience. Color, shapes, his view becomes our view of feelings and events that only the painter can share through his work. The longer one looks the more one sees, and it’s not a brief encounter. This is NOT a fling, a one night stand, but a serious relationship, a commitment, a love affair!
Kandinsky at the MOMA. four large ones, kept in their own room, unshared by other artists, used to line the Park Avenue apt hallway , of the wealthy businessman Edwin Campbell, the CEO of Chevrolet, in 1913. Each one is a spectacular viewing experience! To imagine owning them and having them greet you whenever you entered or exited your home is a surreal fantasy one can only dream! My favorite is #1, found in Gallery 14 at MOMA. The minute you see it, you become transfixed by the multi facets of brilliance color spilling in an hypnotic swirl of hot and cold, posing questions, no answers, and emotions that freeze you in position, reveling in the power of Kandinsky’s artistry!
The pyramid effect he writes about is a natural component of his work engaging his spiritual devotion with his observations of society and humanity during an unsettled time in history. He was obsessed with the soul. The artist as prophet. The artist at the apex of the pyramid making new discoveries, the pioneer standing alone at mountain’ peak, looking out and taking in the inspiration that he absorbs and projects into his work! AGAIN – because I think it’s poetic, profound, passionate, and a perfect characterization of his thought process and his work.
“Color directly influences the soul. Color is the keyboard, the eyes are the hammers, the soul is the piano with many strings. The artist is the hand that plays, touching one key or another purposively, to cause vibrations in the soul.”
Artist as musician as painter as one entity working, united in harmony creating a composition transfixing the onlooker, the listener, in a symphonic experience of painting, musical harmony, opening up a new world!
This is Kandinsky’s mantra, his point of view. It speaks to anyone who is artistically inclined, whether the Park Avenue millionaire, or the everyday gallery goer, there is a message here that inspires, involves, and invigorates the mind, as we begin to comprehend the spiritual in art as he wished. We stand on the fifth floor, of MOMA, gaze at Kandinsky’s visions, and in so doing we affirm the reality that YES! We are all brought together by those “Six degrees of Separation ” where art brings us Together through the power of the Soul Spirit Kandinsky knew, lived, worshiped, practiced, and gave to us! This powerful ART magnet creates a togetherness where even 6 degrees becomes unnecessary! And That is VERY COOL!