MUSIC in colour

Making impressions:Kandinsky’s ‘The Blue Rider’.
Making impressions:Kandinsky’s ‘The Blue Rider’.

Kandinsky’s choice of bright colours, hues and shapes gave identity to the abstract art movement.

Have you ever looked at a painting and not been sure of what it looked like? Chances are you are looking at a piece of abstract art. In this form of art, artists pay attention to colours, shapes and lines. They use these elements to express their feelings instead of painting objects, people or places that look real.

The abstract art movement began around 1910. Wassily Kandinsky is considered a founding father of this style of painting. He was born in Moscow, Russia, in 1886 and grew up in the Russian town of Odessa. When he was young, he studied drawing and music. He learned to play the piano and the cello. These early experiences with music played a big part in his paintings, in his later years.

At first, Wassily studied law and became a teacher at the Moscow University. When he was 30 years old, he decided he wanted to be an artist and moved to Munich, Germany. He went to art school and started by painting landscapes. He was influenced by the artwork of impressionist painters like Claude Monet and also by many music composers.

Exploring art

In Germany, Kandinsky and an artist friend, Franz Marc, founded a group called The Blue Rider ( Blaue Reiter in German). The group believed that art should explore spiritual ideas and published a magazine that explained their ideas. Kandinsky wrote a book about spirituality and art. One of his famous paintings is also called ‘The Blue Rider’.

Kandinsky’s paintings became gradually more and more abstract. He was interested in painting the feelings created by colours and shapes instead of how objects really looked. Colour was important to him and he felt that colours expressed emotions just like music did. He arranged certain colours next to each other on his paintings, much like a composer arranges notes to produce beautiful music. Many of his paintings were named like pieces of music. He called them Compositions and Improvisations. Some of his paintings were created after he listened to a piece of music. He called them Impressions.

Kandinsky began to teach art in Germany at a well-known school called the Bauhaus (pronounced Bow-House). Here, he sometimes conducted free painting classes where he and his friends taught and also created their own paintings. He lived in Germany until the rise of the Nazi movement. The Nazi leader, Adolf Hitler, was a failed artist and hated many forms of art, especially abstract art. The Nazis closed down the Bauhaus. They seized 57 of Kandinsky’s paintings, in 1937. The paintings were displayed in an exhibition with other paintings that Hitler disliked and called “degenerate art”. They were later destroyed.

Kandinsky left Germany and moved to France, at this time. He lived in France until the end of his life in 1944. During his life as an artist, Kandinsky wrote three books explaining his ideas about art. These ideas have influenced many artists and are as important as his paintings.

You can see Wassily Kandinsky’s paintings up close on Olga’s Kandinsky Gallery:

 by Yamini Pathak
Source: The Hindu


Paul Klee, Architecture of the Plain, 1923 Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Nationalgalerie, Museum Berggruen © bpk/Nationalgalerie, Museum Berggruen, SMB, Berlin


 OCTOBER 21, 2015 – JANUARY 24, 2016 AT KUNSTBAU

Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky: two names that have come to stand almost as synonyms for classical modernism. They are associated with fundamental avant-garde movements such as the “Blue Rider” and the Bauhaus, and regarded as founding fathers and pacesetters of abstract art. History also records their relationship as one of the great friendships in twentieth-century art.

Klee and Kandinsky were indeed close, though never uncritical, friends for almost three decades. Central to the rapport between them was a focused engagement with each other’s art sustained by many shared aspirations as well as differences on personal and artistic levels. Both artists strove to spiritualize art and explore the intrinsic laws of its visual means. Yet Klee’s ironically refracted realism was alien to Kandinsky’s idealism, and his protean individualism clashed with his friend’s pursuit of the autonomous laws of abstract art.

The exhibition is organized in cooperation with the Zentrum Paul Klee, Berne, and will focus on the years between 1922 and 1931, when both taught at the Bauhaus, worked in a close exchange of artistic ideas, and even lived door to door in one of the “Master Houses” designed by Walter Gropius. Yet their works from the “Blue Rider” period as well as the late oeuvres of the two artists, who died in 1940 and 1944, likewise reflect the bonds of friendship between them.

Wassily Kandinsky, In Blue, 1925 Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Dusseldorf Acquired by a donation of the Westdeutscher Rundfunk Photo: Walter Klein, Dusseldorf
Wassily Kandinsky, In Blue, 1925 Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Dusseldorf Acquired by a donation of the Westdeutscher Rundfunk Photo: Walter Klein, Dusseldorf

A collaboration between the Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus und Kunstbau, Munich and the Zentrum Paul Klee, Bern.

Source: Lenbachhaus


Colour extends to more than art

One critic says Red Peak marginalises the black colour. Gosh.

OPINION: Colour can be a very emotional quantity, so much so that some artists have almost made a fetish out of it. One famous group of early 20th-century German expressionists went so far as to name themselves by a colour. They were known as The Blue Rider movement, because the leader of the group (Kandinsky) loved the colour blue so much. For him it held spiritual significance, associated as it was with the abode of God in the azure heavens, and the colour connected with the Virgin Mary. He even wrote a book on the subject, where he outlined his symbolic colour coding system, which included musical notes that evoked different hues. The sound of a flute suggested a light blue shade, while an organ conjured images of the darkest cerulean. His paintings thus became musical symphonies.

When one learns that the man suffered from a mental condition known as synaesthesia, it explains a lot. But one doesn’t have to suffer from a perceptual aberration for colour to work in strange and sometimes dangerously absurd ways.

Gangs, for instance, have their colour identities. In some parts of this country, you could suffer serious harm for wearing the “wrong” colour, like the boy who was assaulted for wearing a red shirt, deemed hateful by the gang who “live, die and steal” for blue. A man innocently walking his dog was also accosted by a Black Power associate because the leash was red.

It gets worse. Schools in certain towns have to choose their house colours with care, apparently. It’s reached such farcical lengths that red and blue have had to be eliminated from school uniforms, such is the toxicity and violence surrounding the tints for those for whom it assumes irrational significance. Foetal alcohol syndrome has a lot to answer for.

Ironically, blue and red are the colours of the two main political parties. These particular gangs have visited, over the course of history, mayhem on a long-suffering populace.      

New Zealand’s favourite colour, of course, is black.  It began with the All Blacks and went from there, spreading to other sports: the Black caps, Black Sox, Tall Blacks, the Black Sticks. The black singlet is ubiquitous and our most famous artist, Colin McCahon, painted predominantly black abstract works.

Its symbolism ranges across everything from death to rebellion. Whether that reflects on us as a somewhat dour, Presbyterian and pessimistic species, or alternatively a bunch of hell raisers, is open for debate. Colour psychology is not an exact science. 

But its popularity here was reinforced recently when Mitre 10 polled customers asking suggestions for paint names with a Kiwi flavour. The most popular with punters were two shades of black, one called McCawesome, the other, Carter Mana. Enough said.     

But the most bizarre example of a colour reading came from Maori broadcaster Tu Harawira recently, when he revealed to the nation that the “Red Peak” flag option is racist because the white triangle pushes the other colours, black in particular, to the margins. What we have here is someone suffering from a mental condition known as paranoia. At this point, when you start seeing grievance everywhere, it’s time to call the men in white coats. Oh no, another racist insinuation. It’s obviously a Pakeha conspiracy. 

British Mersey poet Adrian Henri treated the subject comically in 1967, writing “White Americans will demonstrate for equal rights/in front of the Black House.”

Colour can be complicated, nuanced and fraught, particularly when it comes to identity issues; people are easily spooked and jump at shadows. Time to turn down the volume and take the tablets. Which might be good advice to some Toti members in this town, with their snipping about the proposed colourful sculpture to commemorate the fallen horses that served during the First World War?  

Colour can add vibrancy to a city and the recent Hamilton Street Art Festival did just that with many street artists making their rich multihued marks around the CBD. Over a dozen new murals now decorate huge wall spaces around the inner precincts. One of my favourites is the stylized dancers beside the pedestrian walkway on Claudelands Road painted by Eliza Webster. Check them out at Street Art.

The last word must go to American novelist William Gass, who wrote a 91-page philosophical inquiry on a single colour called On Being Blue, dedicated to “all those who live in the country of the blue”. Colour, he demonstrated, is a complex, polymorphous, joyous multitude.

by Peter Dornauf