Original Creators: Wassily Kandinsky
Red Spot II
Each week we pay homage to a select “Original Creator”—an iconic artist from days gone by whose work influences and informs today’s creators. These are artists who were innovative and revolutionary in their fields. Bold visionaries and radicals, groundbreaking frontiersmen and women who inspired and informed culture as we know it today. This week: Wassily Kandinsky .
When photography emerged early in the 19th century, many thought that they were witnessing the death of painting. When it came to representation, whose brush could compete with the realistic precision of light and chemicals? Fortunately, in this case, death equalled freedom. Freed from the need to capture the outer world faithfully, painters could add their own subjective impressions and expressions onto the canvas (ahem, Impressionism, Abstract Expressionism), painting was primed to follow music into the space between sensory worlds.
“And so at different points along the road are the different arts, saying what they are best able to say, and in the language which is peculiarly their own…They are finding in Music the best teacher.” – Kandinsky, Concerning the Spiritual in Art (1912)
Before the enraptured bewilderment of stoner kids discovering their iTunes visualizers, or even before their hippie parents discovered the Joshua Light Shows of Fillmore East, Wassily Kandinsky sat immersed in the musicality of a Moscow sunset.
"The sun dissolves the whole of Moscow into a single spot, which like a wild tuba, sets all one’s soul vibrating… It is only the final chord of the symphony, which brings every color vividly to life, which allows and forces the whole of Moscow to resound like the fff of a giant orchestra. Pink, lilac, yellow, white, blue, pistachio green, flame red houses, churches, each an independent song—the garish greens of the grass, the deeper tremelo of the trees, the singing snow with its thousand voices… To paint this hour, I thought, must be for the artist the most impossible, the greatest joy.” – Kandinsky, Reminiscences (1913)
Kandinsky, who would have celebrated his 145th birthday this coming Friday, December 16 was a Russian-born painter, aesthetic theorist, and teacher. While he is well known for his time at the Bauhaus with Josef Albers and Paul Klee, he is perhaps most famous for his role as the father of abstract art. Kandinsky was looking to paint beyond objects, he was looking to paint colors that played the human soul like an instrument. He found his muse in music.
For many of us, the connection between sight and sound is metaphorical, we poetically understand the connection between our senses: colors are loud, music is soft, etc. Literary history is overflowing with these types of multi-sensory descriptions. Kandinsky was different, he was a synesthetic, meaning his understanding was visceral and experiential. It was out of this experience of a unity of our senses that he described his pursuit of a “monumental” art form of intertwined music and art, joined in three-dimensional space.
In many ways this leap of thought from painting objects to painting music serves as an ancient and powerful foundation for many of the discussions within our modern tech/arts community. The Bauhaus famously coalesced a multidisciplinary collection of artists, designers and thinkers to bring about a “New Unity of Art and Technology” and you could say The Creators Project serves as the post-modern platform for the same conversation. Thanks to technological and intellectual advancements in neuroscience, we are beginning to understand Synesthesia.
Because of visionaries like Kandinsky, we have experiential reference points for interacting around the entanglement of sensation, perception, emotion, and meaning. It is in that very web of entanglement that we get a glimpse into the mystery of existence and consciousness. Those connections give rise to a deeper level of understanding, appreciation, and humanity. Now, riding this digital platform on a different type of connected web, we sail our stories, our images, our sounds, our insights, and our inspirations across space and time. In this way, true art is a bridge—and Kandinsky is a master bridge builder.
“And so the arts are encroaching one upon another, and from a proper use of this encroachment will rise the art that is truly monumental.” – Kandinsky, Concerning the Spiritual in Art (1912)