How Artists During the Abstract Expressionism Period Represented Their Views Through Their Artwork

Researched Essay- Arts Theory Artist: Wassily Kandinsky (Abstraction) Prasanta Rai During the American Post WWII Art Movement/ Abstract Expressionism period (mid 1940s- 1960), artists Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) and Arshile Gorky (1904-1948), both used abstraction in their artworks in order to create a representation and critique of their world. Using nonfigurative artwork they used colors and shapes in order to not only portray a painting, but to express the actual emotions involved within the artwork. Damajanovic, S. ) Focusing on Kandinsky’s artwork “Composition VII” and Gorky’s artwork “One Year the Milkweed”, the concept of expressing emotions through form and technique can be observed. Abstraction expressionism was a form of art created during the late 1900’s. This period was where artists experimented with different colors or shapes in order to evoke the unconscious feelings by combining both the emotional intensity and the artists self expression. Damajanovic, S. ) It was a part of “Modern Art” in a period after the World War II, artists went against traditional ways of creating art such as Historicism where everything was based on themes and were representations of real world ideas. (Collins, T. ) They started exploring new ways of expressing their ideas- “Abstract Expressionism” was one of them. Wassily Kandinsky was a Russian artist who led way to the creation of Abstract Expressionism.

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His abstract art were influenced by many factors such as his emotions, personal expressions and music (many of his artwork were named as “compositions” or “improvisations”), he also had a disease called synaesthesia where he was able to hear and see colors. (Irish Art Encyclopaedia) Claude Monet’s painting “Haystack” also had a big influence on him as the paintings were very vague: Monet used different variations of colors based on the light and atmosphere. (WebExhibits) This had intrigued Kandinsky as he was unable to see what the painting had depicted, but therefore was able to start creating his own personal style of art. Duchting H. ) In his artwork, he attempts to provoke the viewer’s personal senses, what they are thinking when they see the image and how they feel. For example when looking at Kandinsky’s art piece “Composition VII” What we first perceive are all the colors and shapes, this seems nonsensical. However as we look more in depth, we don’t just see the image, we are able to feel and hear all the different tones and emotions connected with the artwork. The colors and shapes in “Composition VII” seem to be all focused into a central motif- the triangle and the circle.

His usage of colors also give a tone of uncertainty, one color is mixed in with different contrasting colors and gives a sense of a musical composition as each colors gives off a different tone of sound a light color; a softer sound and a darker color; a harsher sound. This can be connected to his background of music which heavily influenced his artwork. (Harden, M. ) Kandinsky did not want to paint something normal for example as an apple since the audience would only look at the composition, shape etc.

He wanted to convey a sense of reality in the artwork, the true emotions and how different colors seem to unlock multiple senses which in hand gives a different feeling and emotion for each. As Wassily Kandinsky paved ways for abstract expressionism, new artists influenced by him emerged, one such artist was Arshile Gorky. His art were also influenced by his personal emotions and feelings. He was a witness and a survivor of the Armenian genocide (Meagher, B. ), this had a huge effect on his artwork as the feeling of agony and pain are reflected throughout his paintings.

Gorky’s eventual suicidal death is also reflected and explained in his paintings. (Cutajar, M. ) Similarly to Kandinsky, Gorky used abstract paintings in order to convey his emotions. He didn’t want to paint everyday objects/ events as even a photograph could do that, Gorky wanted to show the non physical side to the paintings. By using variations of colors and shapes he was able to show his self expression through his paintings, this can be observed in his painting “One Year the Milkweed”

Comparing Kandinsky’s “Composition VII” and Gorky’s “One Year the Milkweed”, there are similarities in the way that they both use different tones of colors in order to give the sense of emotion of the artwork. In this artwork, Gorky uses duller colors in order to create a feeling of agony. The washed texture of the painting and the dripping effects also highlight the depressing atmosphere. There also seems to be a hint of a landscape at the background from the green and brown colors, however there is nothing that we can indentify it to be a landscape.

Unlike Kandinsky’s painting where he uses more lighter tone colors and has a form, Gorky’s painting creates a sense of detachment. Because of Gorky’s history, his witness of the Armenian genocide and his feelings of pain and resentment, these are hinted in his artwork. Although there are no identifiable forms that suggest a depressing and pain filled painting, the viewers are able to feel and sense these emotions. Both artists Wassily Kandinsky and Arshile Gorky have created representations of their personal expressions through the use of abstract art.

By going against traditional methods to convey stories and emotions in a painting, they are able to make the viewers not see the subject, but to feel, hear, sense the painting as itself. Creating abstract forms of art, they challenge the audience to use their imagination to see the painting and figure out the stories and emotions conveyed in the painting. A painting with that essence touches our hearts in a way normal paintings cannot. “Composition VII” Wassily Kandinsky “One Year The Milkweed” Arshile Gorky Bibliography: Duchting , H. Book “Wassily Kandinsky” (2008), Harden, M. Kandinsky: Compositions”, Webpage, (Viewed 14th March, 2010) http://www. glyphs. com/art/kandinsky/ WebExhibits, “Monet’s Colors”, Webpage, (Viewed 14th March, 2010) http://www. webexhibits. org/colorart/dh. html Irish Art Encyclopaedia, “Wassily Kandinsky”, Webpage, (Viewed 14th March, 2010) http://www. visual-arts-cork. com/famous-artists/kandinsky-wassily. htm Meagher, B. November 18th, 2009, “The Philadelphia Museum of Art Presents Arshile Gorky: A Retrospective”, Webpage, (Viewed 14th March, 2010) http:// culturemob. com/blog/the-philadelphia-museum-of-art-presents-arshile-gorky-a-retrospective Damajanovic, S. 007, “Abstract Expressionism”, Webpage (Viewed 14th March, 2010) http://www. huntfor. com/arthistory/C20th/absexpress. htm Collins, T. “Modernism”, Webpage (Viewed 15th March, 2010) http://www. askart. com/askart/interest/Modernism_2. aspx? id=75 Cutajar, M. “Arshile Gorky”, Webpage (Viewed 16th March, 2010), http://artscenecal. com/ArticlesFile/Archive/Articles1997/Articles0297/AGorky. html Images: Wassily Kandinsky “Composition VII”- http://www. paintings2enjoy. com/assets/Paintings/Composition_VII. jpg Arshile Gorky “One Year the Milkweed”- http://www. harley. com/art/abstract-art/images/(gorky)-one-year-the-milkweed. jpg


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