ART – Lessons We Can Learn from Kandinsky

As a new gallery of Kandinsky’s work opens in New York, we examine key lessons that can be learned from the legendary painter and art theorist – which is perfect for what MATTERS for life in general.

Improvisation 28 (second version) (Improvisation 28 [zweite Fassung]) by Vasily Kandinsky, 1912 Courtesy of Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Founding Collection
Improvisation 28 (second version) by Vasily Kandinsky, 1912 Courtesy of Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Founding Collection.
The career of Wassily Kandinsky ranged from theorising colour and geometric forms in completely new ways to painting some of the first abstract paintings as well as writing books on completely new concepts in art. Simply put, Kandinsky was ground breaking in the ways he divorced himself from typical norms of old school fine art and broke new ground by taking inspiration from everything to music and human emotion, reinterpreting these topics into colourful artworks and brilliant theoretical books.

Blue Mountain (Der blaue Berg) by Vasily Kandinsky, 1908–09 Courtesy of Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Founding Collection
Blue Mountain (Der blaue Berg) by Vasily Kandinsky, 1908–09 Courtesy of Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Founding Collection.

The latest gallery of 150 Kandinsky works at The Guggenheim in New York traces the artist’s aesthetic evolution and contribution to the abstract art movement, from his early days working as a painter in Munich to the last era of his career in Paris. Here, we look at what we can learn from the storied artist, from living a colourful life to knowing the value of contrast.

Black Lines (Schwarze Linien) by Vasily Kandinsky, December 1913Courtesy of Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Founding Collection
Black Lines (Schwarze Linien) by Vasily Kandinsky, December 1913 Courtesy of Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Founding Collection.
  1. Let your STYLE evolve
    Kandinksy knew the true value of having confidence to move from one aesthetic to another. Though primarily known as an abstract artist, he often experimented with different forms of abstraction with much success. During his Blue Rider period, his paintings were large and expressive, with markings that varied in shape and size. But his Bauhaus period saw paintings that were centered on controlled geometrics and sharp lines. He turned the classic saying of “Do one thing and do it well,” on its head – and that lesson can be used for fashion advice or life in general.
  2. LIVE a colourful life
    His paintings offer the anecdote that living a colourful life is always better than living a dreary one in only black and white. As a highly spiritual artist, Kandinsky saw colour as emotional therapy and injected much of it into his paintings. In his book, Concerning the Spiritual in Art, he wrote, “Colours on the painter’s palette evoke a double effect: a purely physical effect on the eye which is charmed by the beauty of colours, similar to the joyful impression when we eat a delicacy. This effect can be much deeper, however, causing a vibration of the soul or an “inner resonance” – a spiritual effect in which the colour touches the soul itself.” On an off day, we can always imagine ourselves living inside a Kandinsky painting.
  3. KNOW when to take a break
    There’s no doubt Kandinsky was a hard worker. He produced hundreds of works and painted until the last few years of his life. But he also knew when to take a break from his work. One day, an exhausted Kandinksy decided to take a walk. When he returned to his studio, one of his paintings had been accidentally turned upside down by friend and fellow artist Gabriele Münter. Without recognising it as his own, he proclaimed it was “of extraordinary beauty, glowing with inner radiance.” This moment was said to change his ideas about painting and open his eyes to abstraction. Taking a break or stepping back from a big project can make one see things in a different light – especially if someone else gets involved in the most unexpected ways.
  4. BELIEVE in the power of contrast
    There’s a reason why black and white striped tops forever remain a wardrobe staple. Kandinsky recognized the power of contrasting colours and shapes early, assigning hues emotional qualities and using them to balance each other out. “White and black form the second great contrast, which is static. White is a deep, absolute silence, full of possibility. Black is nothingness without possibility, an eternal silence without hope, and corresponds with death,” he wrote in Concerning the Spiritual Art. Similarly, Kandinsky’s paintings often play with contrasting shapes: long, sharp lines juxtapose soft orb-like spheres and curves. Life wouldn’t be as beautiful without the best of both worlds.
  5. The INNER self matters
    If all of Kandinsky’s beliefs could be condensed into one, his biggest theory would probably be what he called “internal necessity.” His paintings were colourfully stunning but they weren’t just based on pure aesthetics. As well as believing in a form of communication between the artist and the viewer, Kandinsky believed in total self-awareness. He committed to his feelings and senses and often theorised that shapes and colours were attached to his own emotional feelings. For example, he felt the circle was the most peaceful symbol – so he used it to create his own codes throughout his work. He also considered black as the colour of closure. And with this system, he created not just beautiful work, but his own language that was completely one of a kind and representative of a singular person.

Love his theory

The Kandinsky gallery is at The Guggenheim, New York until Spring 2016.

Source: Kristen Bateman for

ART/Abstract Attraction

ABSTRACT ART Does anyone know enough about it – are we supposed to?

Hans Hofmann
Painting: Hans Hofmann

 My appreciation for abstract has grown through the years.  I certainly do not confess to know anything about it other than a strange attraction to its form, colour and content even though it appears to be convoluted to some degree.  It makes you question what it means and wonder just what the artist’s intentions were.  After all, a tree is a tree for all to see.  Abstractally speaking, do you see something totally different to what the artist intended you to.  Does it matter?  What if we just admire the piece for what it is…whatever it is.  Which brings me once more to a former question – what makes good art?

I can only surmise that if it moves you then it must be good art.  Abstract art is sometimes misunderstood, but that, ironically, is what makes it beautiful. Abstract art is art in its purest form. Below is a brief history of abstract art and an easy-to-understand, layman’s introduction to the term. And a beautiful way of expressing the form.

“Experiencing Life Through Painting”

Courtesy, Art by Mona.

Most art produced today can be said to be abstract art and, in fact, that has been the case for more than 100 years. The development of photography in the late 19th century and its evolution today have freed artists from the obligation to recreate “picture perfect” paintings that reflected reality precisely. And that has given birth to the everlasting abstract art revolution. Artists today are no longer expected, nor do most even desire, to simply paint what their eyes see. Instead, they paint their interpretations of what they see, and that is abstract art. This lack of objectivity means that today’s art is often complicated and easily misunderstood. But, for the art lover willing to spend time studying paintings for their subtle merits and messages, abstract art is endlessly exciting.

Abstract art is best compared to poetry or literature. Rather than to simply report the facts, the way a piece of non-fiction does, a good poem gives much more: it reveals the writers attitudes and feelings towards what he is writing. Abstract art does much the same. By experimenting with shades of colors that would not necessarily be found together in nature, an abstract art painter can portray moods that would not be seen in a painting that attempted to create a scene realistically. Just the way, say, the legendary writer Edgar Allan Poe took great care to choose every word of his poems and stories to evoke a constant feeling of horror, a good abstract art painter can choose every brush stroke and every color to conjure a specific emotion. This is what makes abstract art, perhaps, the purest form of art. It captures, as many scholars and critics have noted, all that it means to be human.

Art by MonaAbstract art, despite its beauty and excitement, can be difficult to interpret (just as some poems are), and that leads to frustration among many viewers. Often, for example, novice viewers will stroll through a museum filled with abstract art and marvel at what appears to be paint simply splashed thoughtlessly on canvas after canvas. “Gee, I can do that,” the uninitiated might be heard to mumble under their breath.

Eventually, though, the novice art lover will come to understand that, even the most amateurish looking of masterpieces, are, underneath the service, elaborate, master-crafted works of art. The artist has carefully chosen every drop of paint to evoke a certain feeling and express a certain attitude. Sometimes the feelings and attitudes can be directed toward a specific thing, but often, they are simply evoked for their own sake. Only abstract art, for example, can make a viewer feel happy (or sad or frightened or angry) without providing anything concrete to be happy (or sad or frightened or angry) about. A bright yellow painting with plenty of pink, green and light blue brush strokes strategically arranged can brighten up anyone’s day – even if those brush strokes represent nothing in particular.

Abstract art, like nothing else, helps us all to experience everything that it means to be alive.

So, do you agree with Mona?  I do.  Except for the part about amateurish looking paintings which are not master-crafted works at all.  Remember what Matisse said: “everybody is sensitive to art, but that doesn’t mean that they are capable of making it.”

Source: German born Monika Heckenbach (known best simply as Mona) has created hundreds of inspiring paintings that are on display in private residences and galleries across the globe.


Art/Fashion – Reyle Love

Fashion and Art have always been inextricably intertwined.  dior4Think Yves Saint Laurent’s 1965 Mondrian Dress or the designs Elsa Schiaparelli conjured in the 1930’s from sketches and photos by Salvador Dali.

Looking back to Berlin-based Anselme Reyle’s limited edition collaboration for Christian Dior’s most fabulous accessories.dior5Known for his large scale abstract paintings and found object sculptures, Reyle delved deep into the label’s DNA, pinpointing such iconic pieces as the Lady Dior bag and infusing them with boldly toned twists or camouflage prints and just a splash of top-stitching on an ankle-strap wedge.dior5 (2)

Reyle shot to fame in late 2007, when his stripe paintings sold for six figure sums, even as works by Andy Warhol and Damien Hirst remained unsold. Earlier that year, the artist’s profile received a boost when a purple foil-in-Plexiglas box sold for $192,000 at auction in London.dior3

Reyle, whose works are characterized by bold brushwork, neon paint, 80s kitsch and silver foil,  has also showcased his work at the ARKEN Museum of Modern Art in Copenhagen, the Gagosian in New York, Tate Modern in London and also showcased his abstract work in Mumbai.

Art, Fashion – bring it on!

ART – Phantom Inspiration

“Energy and motion made visible – memories arrested in space” – Jackson Pollock

Patrice LesickSometimes a painting does not need an introduction. Such is the case with this stimulating “Phantom” abstract by Patrice Lesick (Acrylic on Canvas 77 x 64 inches – 1990).  Elan Fine Art – Vancouver.

Abstraction allows man to see with his mind what he cannot see physically with his eyes.…Abstract art enables the artist to perceive beyond the tangible, to extract the infinite out of the finite. It is the emancipation of the mind. It is an exploration into unknown areas.” – Arshile Gorky (Armenian-American painter).

Do you GET abstract ART?

Art/Abstract – a look at Joan Miró

Joan Miró (1893-1983)

Ballerina II, 1925
Ballerina II, 1925

High up on my trippy wish list is Barcelona.  Not only for fun but to pay a visit to the Fundació Joan Miró and be reminded that life is filled with colour and shape and that the small things in the world are worth noticing and celebrating.

Playful, joyful, energetic and colourful, Joan Miró’s paint language appears very simple – bird, star, sun, moon, figure, colour, surface, and so on. But like the best poets, the artist’s juggling of these elements is sophisticated and playful at the same time. The results are unique, immediately recognizable and vibrant – a delight to behold.miro1

Miró was passionate about art from an early age and after a failed attempt by his family to get him into business, he was allowed to pursue his artistic studies.  His early work was influenced by the Fauve painters and Cubism.  He admired Picasso’s work and eventually left Barcelona to live in Paris where he spent six months of each year, working alongside other artists in relative poverty.  The other half of the year he spent in Spain on the family farm.


Like his fellow Catalan artist, Salvador Dali, Miró is most closely associated with the surrealist movement started by Andre Breton.  While Dali embraced surrealism wholeheartedly, with  Miró it is more accurate to say that surrealism embraced him.

Constantly experimenting in his work, he was careful never to align himself completely with any one art movement. His take on the world is quirky, humorous, child-like in its depiction of subject-matter yet extremely sophisticated in its ability to comment on life’s experiences.

Dali, flamboyant, attention-seeking, extreme, takes us to the edge with paintings that show us a world that is distorted and disturbing.  Miró’s approach is calmer, more playful.  Always his own person, never interested in playing to the gallery, his work feels focused, centred, stable.  His view of the world is uplifting, fun, life-enhancing.

This one is available at Elan Fine Art Gallery - Vancouver
Available at Elan Fine Art Limited,Vancouver

Above all, Miró  reminds  us how important a sense of humour is in life and his brilliant paintings, sculptures, wall hangings and ceramics give us permission to stop taking ourselves so seriously.



ART/Abstract or not  – Mark Rothko

click to enlarge
Mark Rothko (1903 – 1970) was an American painter of Russian Jewish descent. He is considered one of the most famous postwar American artists along with Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning. Generally identified as an Abstract Expressionist, he himself rejected this label and even resisted classification as an “abstract painter.”

rothko4The most important aspect of painting for Mark Rothko was the creation of space within it.  For him, artists were seekers of truth and he sought to communicate his understanding of the world, not through colour, as we might imagine, but through a sense of space within the work.

Mark Rothko along with Adolph Gottlieb published the Abstract Expressionist Manifesto, which read as follows:

rothko3 ‘To us art is an adventure into an unknown world, which can be explained only by those willing to take risks. This world of the imagination is fancy-free and violently opposed to common sense. It is our function as artists to make the spectator see the world our way – not his way. We favour the simple expression of the complex thought. We are for the large shape because it has the impact of the unequivocal. We wish to reassert the picture plane. We are for flat forms because they destroy illusion and reveal truth… ‘rothko1

‘You might as well get one thing straight.  I’m not an abstract artist...I’m not interested in the relationship of colour or form or anything else.  I’m interested only in expressing basic human emotions – tragedy, ecstasy, doom and so on.  And the fact that a lot of people break down and cry when confronted with my pictures shows that I can communicate these basic human emotions…The people who weep before my pictures are having the same religious experience as I had when I painted them.’


I find them intriguing.  How about you?


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Art/Abstract – Willem de Kooning

After Jackson Pollock, de Kooning was the most prominent and celebrated of the Abstract Expressionist painters.dekooning1

Willem de Kooning (April 24, 1904 – March 19, 1997) was a Dutch American born in Rotterdam, Netherlands who was widely considered to be among the most important and prolific artists of the 20th century. 

His pictures typify the vigorous gestural style of the movement and he, perhaps, did more than any other of his contemporaries to develop a radically abstract style of paining that used Cubism, Surrealism and Expressionism.  Although he established his reputation with a series of entirely abstract pictures, he felt a strong pull towards traditional subjects and would eventually become most famous for his pictures of women, which he painted in spells throughout his life.  Later he turned to landscapes, which were also highly acclaimed, and which he continued to paint even into his eighties, when his mind was significantly impaired by Alzheimer’s disease.

Available at: Elan Fine Art Limited. Vancouver, B.C.
Gorgeous Abstract Composition Edition 98/100 Stone lithograph (1986 – 28 x 25 in.) Available at: Elan Fine Art Limited –Vancouver, B.C.

                                                                                                                                                                                                       He possessed the polished techniques of painters in the New York School, one that compares to that of the Old Masters, and he looked to the likes of Ingres, Rubens and Rembrandt for inspiration.  De Kooning’s influence on painters remains important even to this day, particularly those attracted to gestural styles; the highly abstract and erotic work of prominent 1990s painter Cecily Brown is inconceivable without his example.

“I’m not interested in ‘abstracting’ or taking things out or reducing painting to design, form, line, and color. I paint this way because I can keep putting more things in it drama, anger, pain, love, a figure, a horse, my ideas about space. Through your eyes it again becomes an emotion or idea.” – de Kooningdekooning2

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