A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Concerning The Spiritual In Art

The work of art is born of the artist in a mysterious and secret way. From him it gains life and being. Nor is its existence casual and inconsequent, but it has a definite and purposeful strength, alike in its material and spiritual life. It exists and has power to create spiritual atmosphere; and from this inner standpoint one judges whether it is a good work of art or a bad one. If its 'form' is bad it means that the form is too feeble in meaning to call forth corresponding vibrations of the soul. Therefore a picture is not necessarily 'well painted' if it possesses the 'values' of which the French so constantly speak. It is only well painted if its spiritual value is complete and satisfying. 'Good drawing' is drawing that cannot be altered without destruction of this inner value, quite irrespective of its correctness as anatomy, botany, or any other science. There is no question of a violation of natural form, but only of the need of the artist for such form. Similarly colours are used not because they are true to nature, but because they are necessary to the particular picture. In fact, the artist is not only justified in using, but it is his duty to use only those forms which fulfil his own need. Absolute freedom, whether from anatomy or anything of the kind, must be given the artist in his choice of material. Such spiritual freedom is as necessary in art as it is in life.

WASSILY KANDINSKY Concerning The Spiritual In Art

I suppose Kandinsky's manifesto does not sound quite so revolutionary today, and the argument for the spiritual and technical freedom of the artist has long since been won, but it's always good to be reminded of this influential treatise on modernism published early last century. It had a huge effect in its day, impacting decisively on the development of modern art.

Of course there are countries in the world (I'm thinking of China and its treatment of Ai Weiwei) where certain artistic freedoms are frowned on, even severely curtailed by the state - though no country or state will ever be able to restrict an artist's inner, spiritual freedom.


am said...

Thanks for this. Especially:

"... no country or state will ever be able to restrict an artist's inner, spiritual freedom."

George said...

One of the great pleasures of studying art is the discovery that one is simultaneously studying life, and this is captured beautifully in Kandinsky's observation that "spiritual freedom is as necessary in art as it is in life." The spirit, which by definition is formless, can never be fully discovered and expressed when we try to contain it within known conventional forms—whether the forms be conceptual or physical in nature. In art as in life, we must avoid being slaves to form if the spirit of the artist—or for that matter, any individual—is to find full expression, which one could argue is the very purpose of life.

This is so rich, Robert. One could spend days dwelling in the rooms of this this quote, just as one could spend days dwelling in the rooms of most Kandinsky paintings.

Alive said...

Many thanks. Hope both these shared sites connect with your post.
An Artist that has made a deep impact upon me.



KleinsteMotte said...

For sure the artist has a special way of shedding light on things we may not get. They are both blessed and trapped to some extent because they are not always popular.

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks as ever for all your wonderful comments - I do appreciate them.