Written by One Kriviciute
A canvas with a brush stroke, paint splash and an indescribable object in the centre of it, probably in front of your eyes is a masterpiece of abstractionism. An image, where everything is left for the imagination to expand, freedom to create a new universe suited for canvas in front of you. Abstractionism gives the freedom to travel through the artwork looking for the answer to what it depicts, and your meaning to the artwork. That is the essence of abstractionism, to evoke feelings, imagination, and inner creativity, to provide a journey into unknown areas of the art universe.
Abstractionism art uses a visual language of shape, form, colour, and line to create a composition, to create independence from visual references in the world. Abstractionism is not a representation of real life, it’s about giving the impression of it. Abstractionism is more than a representation of the real world, it’s a representation of inner feelings, a process of letting your feelings overflow a canvas, by using colours, shapes, forms, textures and lines. The origins of abstractionism go back to Impressionism, Post-Impressionism and Cubism, which are the first art movements that separated from classical art, and which became the first art movement to realize that art could be non-representational. At the time when abstractionism was born, at the beginning of the 20th century, the art movement was completely radical for its time. Bright colours, incomprehensible circles, lines, shapes, textures, and an art movement that had a diverse style and techniques, that invokes the artist’s freedom of expression, were nonrepresentational for the viewers of that time. Although abstractionism was not smoothly accepted at the beginning, in the post-war years, after works of art from Europe reached New York, the art movement received a lot of attention and admiration. Abstractionism received worldwide recognition, and the paintings of the art movement were seen widely in travelling exhibitions around the globe.
It’s considered that the first work of abstractionism was Wassily Kandinsky’s Untitled (First Abstract Watercolour), painted in 1910. Therefore, Wassily Kandinsky is often regarded as the pioneer of European abstractionism. This is an artist who wanted to place the world, music, and inner feelings in the drawing, by using colours and figures on the canvas. Kandinsky painted a unique world, a world where a different reality existed. To be able to feel Kandinsky at least a little, it is important to understand his daily vision. Kandinsky had a condition called synaesthesia, it’s a condition when a person experiences one sense through another. In Kandinsky’s case, when he heard sounds, he saw colours, and also reverse, when he saw colours, he heard music. Kandinsky’s wandering soul, between music and colours, fit on the canvas and this is how masterpieces were born.
Kandinsky aimed for his paintings to be more and more abstract, leaving any representation of anything in nature. But to feel Kandinsky’s primal brush, one must look at his first works of abstraction. One that perfectly reflects that period is a painting called Red Spot. A bright artwork is dated from 1921 and offers an early example of Kandinsky’s concentration on geometric shapes. This piece features a sharp composition. Kandinsky plays with shapes, angles and with colours. Even though there is plenty of white space between the different elements, the play of figures completes the painting and there is no visual emptiness left. It’s like a dance on a canvas, a movement of shapes and figures. In painting Red Spot Kandinsky concentrates on geometric shapes while at the same time blending soft and bright colours. This play is also characteristic of his later artworks, in which it becomes even stronger and reflected. His masterpieces were getting closer and closer to his inner life, they became a mirror of his inner world.
Kandinsky expressed his artistic world not only in masterpieces but also in the famous Bauhaus, where in 1911, Kandinsky played a central role in organizing The Blue Rider
group, a group of avant-garde artists. A group included artists like Franz Marc, Alexej Georgewitsch von Jawlensky, August Macke and others. One of them was Kandinsky’s work colleague at the Bauhaus, a worldwide famous painter, Paul Klee. He is a Swiss-born painter best known for his large artworks, influenced by cubism, expressionism, and surrealism. With a unique style, influenced by different art movements, what makes his artworks stand out is his painting is the play of colours, filled with abstractions and unknowns. Klee developed his colour theory based on primary colours. With colour performing on canvas, by interacting with one another, Klee creates dynamic movement that caught the attention of the viewer.
He explored colours, combined different art movements, and created his childlike style. Paul Klee has painted over ten thousand pieces, many destroyed during World War II. But even from the rest that survived till this day, Klee’s work can be easily identified.
One of them is called Intention, painted in 1938. The painting contains different straight lines or curves that are placed against a yellowish-brown background. The entanglement of lines creates partially perceived objects, like faces, animals, human bodies, and unnamed objects. A painting is playful, full of action and at the same time each line has its flow. Same as in all of Klee’s masterpieces, they are full of childlike perspective, a movement that represents his inner mood. Like Kandinsky, Klee creates his universe, which does not belong to anyone, only his imagination.
The famous Bauhaus connected not only Kandinsky and Paul Klee, among them was another famous abstractionism painter Piet Mondrian. An artist whose works you will recognize from afar, his abstract paintings are characterized by the depiction of straight lines at right angles, and the use of only primary colours white, grey, and black. Mondrian is best known for his abstract paintings made from squares and rectangles. His artwork is like a language made of shapes depicting the world’s environment. He created a unique style of art, called Neo-Plasticism. Mondrian’s art style combined “rules”, that only geometric shapes can be used, main compositional elements need to be straight lines or rectangular areas, and there needs to be no natural form and colour. Mondrian’s art is clear and straight, but at the same time hides the mysterious meaning.
Mysteriousness is what is depicted in the paintings and has become the basis of abstractionism artworks. Of course, the works of all artists are very different, some more playful, others more serious, but they all have a hidden, mysterious inner world in they letting to enter through their masterpieces, therefore, the viewer can momentarily feel part of that world, the artist’s inner world. Abstractionism turned the art world upside down, freeing you from the images of the everyday world, allowing us to feel the deeper world within each of us. Abstractionism changed the art world, by letting an expression of the artist’s soul shine.