The other day I was planning an art lesson for my Grade Ones based on Wassily Kandinsky’s colour study, the one with the circles inside circles. But while I was wading through Kandinsky’s work immersing myself in pure colour, I found myself drawn to his horses. I collected a bunch of images and put them in roughly chronological order, and realized I was looking at a devolution of sorts. A return to the simplest terms; to the essence of the horse, of the image of the horse. Travelling backwards through millennia of art history to the time when we painted on cave walls; and then back beyond that. To the essence of human beings as artists; to the impluse to create.
To the silence at the centre of the big bang.
|Kandinsky. The Blue Mountain. 1908-09|
Here: the brush strokes of the Impressionists, perhaps even of Seurat, combine with the colours of the Fauves. Line describes form, like in a colouring book. Horses, riders, and landscape are rendered with the childlike quality of a fairy tale; speaking more while saying less.
|Kandinsky. Improvisation III. 1909|
Form and composition simplify. Perspective flattens. Brush strokes loosen into larger passages of colour. Colour becomes even more fantastic.
|Kandinsky. Improvisation XII. 1910|
Paint and horse liquify, flow like thought, like idea.
|Kandinsky. Two Riders and Reclining Figure. 1909-10|
The horse takes on impossible movement; becomes movement.
|Kandinsky. All Saint's Day. 1911|
Colour disappears; the horses merely spirits in the riotous land of the living.
|Kandinsky. Horse and Rider. 1911|
This? This is almost the beginning. A head, a neck, a mane streaming out behind. A suggestion of a body; a hint of legs. The final vestiges of form.
|Kandinsky. Composition IV. 1911|
And this. This is the horse in simplest terms. The horse as an upward-arcing movement; a leap; an impulse toward the skies. A spirit released from gravity. A line freed from form. Line reduced to idea. To "formless circumstance." (Leonard Cohen)