February - Why Did Kandinsky Paint?

"What do I want to express?" and "Why do I want to express it?"

In my previous post I mentioned that these questions have been plaguing me as I fight the battle to find my creative voice.

I'm essentially asking myself why do I paint? I've already touched on why the physical act of painting is important to me - but here the question extends to include the message I want to express in my work.  

I'm currently reading Will Gompertz AMAZING book "What Are You Looking At? 150 Years of Modern Art in the blink of an eye" (From Penguin books). A quote on the cover says "Gompertz is the best teacher you never had" and I totally agree! If you yearn to feel less like a fish out of water wandering around a modern art gallery, then I thoroughly recommend this book.  

Gompertz explains to us the importance of seeing, especially for the artist.  I particularly love this quote:

"If ten people were to stand on a hill and take a photograph of the view, using the same camera, the results would be near identical. If the same ten people sat down for a few days and painted that view, the results would be markedly different. Not because one individual might be a more accomplished artist than another, but owing to the nature of humans: we can look at the same view, but we don't see quite the same thing. We bring our own unique mix of prejudices, experiences, tastes and knowledge to any given situation, informing how we interpret what is before us."

Pre-Impressionist, art was representation of real life; it was the photography of its day. When photography was invented, artists discovered a freedom not permitted before. How did they really see the world?

The Impressionists painted light and explored how colour truly exists in nature; the Post-Impressionists, Fauvists and Cubists rebelled against those restraints and played with perspective and challenged how we really saw objects and interacted with the world; the Futurists were interested in capturing the passing of time etc etc... I could go on. Throughout these movements art was becoming more abstract as artists explored expression.

One of the art movements Gompertz introduced me to is Orphism.  Quite. It was new to me too. They were only a handful of artists and the movement was short lived, but they were a branch of Cubists who were completely abstract, concerned primarily with colour. They likened themselves to musicians; their work to a musical score.  [I ADORE this idea, so will be returning to it later]

Russian artist Wassily Kandinsky's quest was to find a universal means of communication apart from nature, based on colour perception and sensation. As art departed from "object based" work and into new subject matter, Kandinsky was keen to explore the "inner need of the artist".  [This too is very exciting to me and will explore this further]  

He argued that colour can express the inner need of the soul more accurately than words. He studied the effect of colour tones (darkness and light) and colour intensity and he too, likened them to the sound of musical instruments. How a particular note played on the violin can touch your soul, so can a particular shade of blue. 

I agree that some colours have direct links to clear emotions: yellow - joy, red - danger or passion. I also see colour linked to memory, in the same way a certain smell or taste can whisk you back to an experience, be it good or bad. 

I have a curious affinity with a certain palette of grey and yellow as it reminds me of a fashion collection I drew as a teenager. Those colours give me a strong sense of hope for the future as I had big dreams of becoming a fashion designer. I have often found those particular shades creeping into my artwork. 

This brings me to the question: How do I see the world?

I know I have a strong sense of history; when I visit a new place I'm curious about who has been there before, what they did and how they felt. Those histories matter; those narratives have shaped the present.

It occurs to me as I write this: Maybe I'm more concerned with the things I'm NOT able to see. 

As a screenwriter, I was obsessed with subtext and the hidden world going on inside a character.  I yearned to successfully translate these two layers: action and thought, into drama, but never quite achieved it. 

I have more tools to work with here on the canvas: colour, composition, line and tone - learning from the masters mentioned above.

If you read my last post, you'll have seen the beginnings of a canvas I was painting, that I'd intended to be a portrait of my childhood home. 

With my answers to the above questions in mind, I finished the piece:  

'Childhood home' acrylic, graphite, photo transfer on canvas 16"X20"