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Saturday, 20 October 2012

On Kandinsky's Horses

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)

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