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Archive for September 25th, 2021

Kandinsky/ Composition

wassily_kandinsky-composition_5-1911-obelisk-art-history

Wassily KandinskyComposition 5, 1911



The word composition moved me spiritually and I made it my aim in life to paint a composition. It affected me like a prayer and filled me with awe.

-Wassily Kandinsky, Guggenheim Exhibit Catalog, 1945



Kandinsky is one of those artists whose words and images always seem to resonate for me, even when he’s talking about things in art that, in the writings of other artists, could quickly escalate into blathering, indecipherable artspeak.

I see it in this passage from his essay in the catalog for his 1945 retrospective at the Guggenheim Museum. The words we use to label and quantify our own work sometimes speak volumes. His use of composition signified an equivalency to a musical composition, complete and filled with movements.

More than a painting and certainly not a picture.

I seldom if ever use the term picture. It feels incomplete. Static and without flow or movement of any sort. I usually opt for painting or piece when referring to my work. I see piece in much the way Kandinsky saw composition. For me, it indicates a fullness in the work, that it contains the movement and emotional space of life.

More than a picture.

It’s a small thing and most likely of no importance to anyone but me. But the words used in referring to one’s work speaks loudly, revealing how the artist perceives and esteems their work. For example, using words like masterpiece or masterwork probably indicates a lack of self-awareness or an an excess of ego in the artist. I don’t think I’ve ever used those words when speaking about my work and would most likely cringe if I did.

I am more concerned with creating pieces or compositions that have their own fullness and reality. Work that doesn’t need me anymore and moves on its own once I have put my brush down.

The power of those simple words– pieces and compositions— is greater than one might think.

Sounds so easy and so difficult at once. But that’s art, folks.

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