Executed in 1940, Ohne Titel (671) is an elegant gouache infused with the vibrancy and musicality characteristic of Kandinsky’s mature Parisian period. Escaping the great uncertainty and austerity which had riddled Paris throughout the Second World War, the artist immersed himself in the spiritual reassurances of the visual form. The only evidence of the artist’s tribulations is the work’s medium, a coloured cardboard, replacing canvases which were extremely scarce at the time. Amidst the psychological pressures on a ‘degenerate artist’, particularly one with intimate connections to both Russia and Germany, Kandinsky found legitimacy in the realm of the imagination through a compelling logic of radical creativity – one which broke through the limits of materiality.
In his 1911 essay, Du Spirituel dans l’art et dans la peinture en particulier, the artist presents his works as belonging to three genres: Impressions, Improvisations and Compositions. The present work belongs to the last, characterised by a conscious and intentional efficacity that still ultimately gives way to the spiritual and the emotional. As such, while the artist examines the effects of forces and abstractions on lines and colour, Ohne Titel (671) illustrates his desire to divest from the physical and concrete quality of art, instead choosing to transform the inner sounds and vibrations of the psyche in a symphony of form and line, division and colour, ciphers and signs. In this interchange of colour and form, the artist plays with the sonority of geometrical elements to create a pictorial manifestation of the phenomenal figurative reality of painting. In his belief that all painting in its essence is abstract, his surface manifestations reveal a fundamental truth: ‘Art is subordinate to cosmic laws revealed by the intuition of the artist’ (Wassily Kandinsky quoted in Armin Szweite, ‘Free the Line for the Inner Sound’ in Kandinsky, Watercolours and Drawings (exhibition catalogue), Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf, 1992, p. 22).
He tackles this inventive pictorial language in a two-fold manner. Primarily with the view that colour itself cannot stand alone but must rely on geometry. In his Cahiers d’Art (1935), Kandinsky wrote ‘In my view a geometric boundary allows a colour a much greater possibility of arousing a pure vibration than the boundaries of any object whatsoever’ (quoted in Wassily Kandinsky, Cahiers d’Art, 10, no. 1-4, p. 54). In Ohne Titel (671), he thus chooses to abandon the identifiable object, freely interrogating the possibilities of geometrical elements. Secondly, the artist fascinates himself with theories surrounding colour stimulus, not experimentally and scientifically as psychologists had done at the end of the nineteenth century, but through an introspective and phenomenological lens. In his own words, ‘To this end, form, movement, colour, natural and imaginary objects must be divorced from any narrative intent’ (quoted in ‘Theory’ in Du Spirituel dans l’art, p. 71).
Through this masterful synthesis of form, Kandinsky produces a stunning and radically creative work, which in its lyricism and tonality bring to life the internal vibrational frequencies of the artist’s colour and lines. The work is thus a presentation of the artist’s desire for communion between the artist and the viewer, in which through his art, the artist himself can gift the viewer with a synesthetic experience where one can hear and feel the pictorial language.
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