Concerning the Spiritual in Art by Wassily Kandinsky
Translated by M.T.H. Sadler
Painting: Aglow byWassily Kandinsky
Part 1: The Movement of the Triangle
This section of Kandinsky's book is most difficult to navigate, and yesterday our good friend Wm. Cook correctly reminded us to view WK's words in light of the time and circumstances in which they were written: Here it is a hundred years later looking back on a guy who stood at the forefront of one of the main cultural shifts of human history. It was a left brain to right brain shift, and is still going on, thankfully. Indeed, this was a major shift in artistic expression. External sources of inspiration for the artist had been dominant (e.g. landscapes, portraits, physical objects, etc) and now artists like Kandinsky began to turn inward to find their inspiration. The psyche was the source of spiritual food for their work.
As I continued through this dense text and WK's elaborate explanation of the spiritual triangle I got bogged down. So, the scientist in me emerged to handle it and I drew a diagram of what I think Kandinsky means. Here it is, and here's my explanation:
The apex of this triangle represents the highest level of spiritual achievement for an artist and the base of it is the lowest. At each level, I've indicated three conditions:
1. the artist's source of inspiration (external or internal)
2. the artist's work on the basis of how much it's understood by others
3. acceptance by the viewers on the basis of popular opinion about the artist and his/her work.
On the lowermost level of this triangle resides the least spiritually developed artist whose works are inspired by external references that are easily recognizable to viewers and gain wide popular acceptance.
As the levels progress toward the apex, artists depart more and more from external references and become more inspired by internal ones (their thoughts and emotions). Progressively, the audience understands less about the work and so it's not as popular.
In the apex resides the most spiritually developed artist whose works are entirely inspired by internal references that are unrecognizable to viewers and unaccepted, even ridiculed. Only a few visionary prophets from lower levels can recognize the genius in these works.
As WK advances his philosophy, he writes of the "spiritual food" that sustains artists at each level. This food can act either to nourish or poison the artist. If the artist eats too little of it, he can sink to a lower level on the triangle. And, if he eats too much of it too quickly, he'll drop like a rock to the lowest level. My interpretation is that this food is introspection. If we tap into ourselves enough, we'll create unique and meaningful art. If we aren't introspective enough, our work will become shallow or vacuous. If we are too introspective we'll go nuts and our creativity will be destroyed. At least, that's my interpretation of all this.
Those of you who have read this book might want to offer another opinion. I'll digest this awhile before moving on to the next paragraph!
What are your thoughts?