Saturday, June 25, 2011

Patron Saint #1: Wassily Kandinsky (& the Blue Rose)

"This all-important spark of inner life today is at present only a
spark. Our minds, which are even now only just awakening after
years of materialism, are infected with the despair of unbelief,
of lack of purpose and ideal. The nightmare of materialism, which
has turned the life of the universe into an evil, useless game,
is not yet past; it holds the awakening soul still in its grip.
Only a feeble light glimmers like a tiny star in a vast gulf of
darkness. This feeble light is but a presentiment, and the soul,
when it sees it, trembles in doubt whether the light is not a
dream, and the gulf of darkness reality. This doubt, and the
still harsh tyranny of the materialistic philosophy, divide our
soul sharply from that of the Primitives. Our soul rings cracked
when we seek to play upon it, as does a costly vase, long buried
in the earth, which is found to have a flaw when it is dug up
once more."

- Wassily Kandinsky, Concerning the Spiritual in Art, 1910

Wassily Kandinsky was born in December of 1866 in Moscow, and died in France in 1944. He was a painter and an art theorist, and is generally considered the father of Abstract art. He was also a member of The Blue Rose*, a Russian Symbolist group, and the Blue Rider, an Abstract Expressionist movement.

He was also an early influence of mine, although his style was so unlike my own. I've chosen to honor him at this time, however, because I find I'm suddenly a bit gun-shy about presenting my own ideas. At the same time I am trying to remind myself that artists like myself come from a tradition. There are several Russian artists who were also theorists - Naum Gabo and Kasimir Malevich come to mind - but I'm afraid that I can't rely on my twice-removed heritage to bolster me up. After all, Kandinsky, Gabo, Malevich were men. If they were women, chances are we would never have heard of them. And, regardless of their gender, if they were resurrected from the dead today, their words would be lost beneath a deluge of useless, pointless, gutless chatter. They'd take one look at what currently comprises the art world and the world in general and quietly shuffle off back to their graves.

It's been raining for three days straight. Bear with me.


A link to Kandinsky's work will appear on the sidebar of this blog.

Re: Video - the music heard in the background is that of Enya.


*The name, Blue Rose, was taken from a unfinished novel by the German Romanticist, Novalis (1772-1801), Heinrich von Ofterdingen, and concerned a blue flower; a flower which apparently held an important symbolic meaning for many European artists, poets and writers (among them C.S. Lewis and George MacDonald). This excerpt might interest some of you:

"I long to see the blue flower. I cant get rid of the idea, it haunts me. I never felt like this before, its as if I dreamed of it years ago, or had a vision of it in another world, for who would be so concerned about a flower in this world? and I've never heard of anyone being in love with a flower... but when I forget about the blue flower, a nameless longing takes possession of me, no one can understand this. I'd think I was mad, if it were not for the fact that my thoughts are so clear and connected, and I understand so many new things. I've heard it said that in the olden days, animals, rocks, and flowers all spoke to humans. I'm haunted by the idea that they have something to tell me, and I feel as if I could comprehend their speech." 


Further note on the blue rose: According to Wikipedia, the true blue rose does not and cannot exist in nature due to a "genetic limitation". For this reason they have generally symbolized mystery, and "a longing to attain the impossible".

Apparently, the impossible was attained, however, in 2004, by genetic engineering.


  1. For some reason, I was immediately reminded of the use of a blue rose in Twin Peaks the movie. Gonna put on some Chris Isaak, thanks for a great post.

  2. Well, sweets, believe it or not, I just returned to the computer to delete this post. It is almost 4 in the morning here - bedtime. But, if you think it's a great post, I'll trust your judgement... that is, till my next existential spasm compels me to pull it down - in which case, please don't take offense! ;-)

  3. I think the idea that inner life could boil down to a single symbol that is altered from its original meaning purely by changing its colour (from red rose to blue rose), is fascinating. And that's a great Kandinsky quote about the wreckage that surrounds our sense of well-being. If a shattered consciousness can settle on a blue rose and find direction, then our frayed nerves might find some relief.

  4. Yes, that's very good... image or symbol as something to grasp before one drowns.

    Speaking of which, I added a link to this post: "art world". I shudder to think what someone like Kandinsky (or any authentic artist, for that matter) might do after seeing that "Top 10" list.