Arbitrary or Wilfull?

My personal definition of the arbitrary is a finite number of options, all equally good. That’s how a modern painting, or even a modernist painting, starts – with an arbitrary beginning. What does it matter after all whether the first stroke is red or blue? If one had a reason to choose one over the other then the work would be motivated from outside, it would be an illustration. The important thing is how one gets from an arbitrary beginning to a strong illusion of necessity. At least that’s one aesthetic choice – some artists try to keep the arbitrariness to the end, also a valid approach. But this kind of arbitrariness is perhaps something different from the willfulness of early abstraction. Whether it’s Young Sailor II, or Sonia Delaunay’s halos, the modernists of the period say from 1885 – 1914, abstract or cubist or whatever kind of figurative, made strangely individual choices. Willfulness is freedom, and it’s unfortunate that artists of more recent vintage often feel they have to justify their actions in any other way. Delaunay’s concentric curves have absolutely no reason to exist, as far as I can see, and neither does their color have any rationale. In this example they might be motivated by a dancer, but she uses them all the time, for any subject.

Sonia Delaunay, Dancer - version II 1916

Sonia Delaunay, Dancer – version II 1916

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