Reflection on art by COO of AAMI Corporation, Head of event organization and customer communication of Institute, President / ART Expo Ljubljana commission, Nuša Smolič
It is actually not hard to answer the question of who painted the first abstract painting. Authors of most art history books agree that the first abstract painting was a work of the young Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky (1866 – 1944). What is more interesting, however, is the background that led to its creation. The experience of looking at Monets painting, Haystacks series, had a strong influence on Kandinsky, as he realized that the painting had awakened certain emotions and impulses in him only through the colour harmony Monet had created through a specific set of colour surfaces. The Impressionists made a significant turning point in the history of painting, one had that already began in romanticism. It was then when traditionalists began to newly awake and with that a new outlook on art emerged. It was no longer merely an imitation of nature, but also of an instantaneous feeling – impressions. Feelings, however, not only occur with the content of the image, but can also be evoked by coats of colour. Impressionists, however, advocated outdoor painting. They were interested in transcience, fleetingness and, above all, the light to which optical laws were applied. They changed the way colours were blended, so that they no longer combined colours on the pallet, but instead laid the spots of pure colour on the canvas – we are talking about optical colour blending. At that time, of course, such images were difficult to understand and decipher. “They seemed to have no drawing, no composition, nothing to suggest to a person what to admire, not even what to think. They seemed to be substanceless, contentless. “
Looking at Monets painting, Kandinsky experienced enjoyment on an abstract level and realisation of his own insignificance, as well as unimportance of discernible content of the painting, but what truly mattered were the shapes and colours that impress on a viewer. These touch his depths with the effect much like that of music on the listener. About ten years after visiting the museum and encountering Monets painting, however, Kandinsky experienced another thing that significantly influenced him and his work. One day after arriving at his painting studio, he saw a strange painting there. His gaze was attracted by a free and liberated rhythm of painting shapes. In the next moment, however, he recognized this unusual composition, as this painting was his work, but at first he was not aware of it, since it was turned upside down. Both of these experiences prompted Kandinsky to gradually leave the figurative world of painting motifs and begin to create paintings whose primary principle was the organization of free colours and forms that were no longer bound by subject matter. Thus began the path of Kandinsky to abstraction. Over the years, his works have become richer in colour palette and less accurate in depicting the subject world (landscape, human figures, buildings, horses, etc.). He was also increasingly aware of the connection and similarity between painting and music. It is worth mentioning here that he was very interested in music from the very beginning and that in fact this was his first artistic form he practiced. In his literary works, such as the book On the Spiritual in Art, he often made comparisons between painting and music. He wrote that painting can develop the same energy as music. “He sought resonance: shapes and colours were supposed to permeate the viewer, resonate within him and tap into his depths, much like music does.” He assumed that form and colour were in themselves elements of a language capable of expressing emotion, and that they act directly on the soul, just like music. “All it takes is for the artist to fold the form and colour into an image that adequately expresses the inner emotion and appropriately imparts it to the viewer.”
Kandinsky thus attributed colours and shapes traits that are associated with human emotions. According to him, everything has its own sound, so it can also be attributed to each colour in combination with different shapes. How the picture sounds, however, is left to the subjective perception of the viewer, so that the same shape can be both enjoyable and uncomfortable. Kandinsky understood painting as a musical composition.