The Liteness of Kandinsky

I’ve always had problems with Kandinsky. One is his scaleless space, but more about that another time. Another, which I’ve only just began to clarify for myself, is the arbitrariness of his arrangements. There’s no reason why they have to be like they are rather than otherwise, and that starts with his early nature and landscape based abstractions. A lot of geometric abstraction—from Popova to Lissitsky to Moholy-Nagy to countless others—teeters on the same brink. It all looks equally good, and equally generic and arbitrary. But lately been looking closer and finding that I appreciate it a lot more.

Vassily Kandinsky, Delicate Tension 1923

Vassily Kandinsky, Delicate Tension 1923

The key is that it’s not just a conceptual arbitrariness, a property of circle, triangle and trapezoid, but the many small details are themselves without any overarching order. They don’t line up. In this piece some of the lines find the centres of the circles, but usually not. But then there’s no reason why they should. An open sided triangle is not really a triangle, because the important point seems to be the vertex. In a composition of circles wouldn’t one of the ends of a protractor have some logical relation to either a centre or an edge of a circle? That kind of relation does exist in this picture, but only just. Or couldn’t the lines be rays? Circles with rays or receding perspective lines are common in the cosmic imagery of early geometric abstraction. I can’t find any consistent relation between the lines and circles here, but there are some almost hits, or suggestions. The picture makes my need for order seem silly. But then as I search for some reason to the design I find myself enjoying more the lack of it. The heading here is Whim, discussed elsewhere on this blog.

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