3. Word

Kandinsky was a prolific writer.  His Complete Writings on Art, edited by Kenneth C. Lindsay and Peter Vergo, is 923 pages long.  Kandinsky used art theory to explain such things as abstract art, the role of the artist in society, the relations among the arts, and his theories of color and form.  But Kandinsky was driven to write art theory for the same reason the Word became flesh – for theosis, that is, for union with God:

Only by a process of microscopic analysis will the science of art lead to an all-embracing synthesis, which will ultimately extend far beyond the boundaries of art, into the realm of “union” of the “human” and the “divine.” (Point and Line to Plane)

The Word points to something silent that words drown out.  Scripture can enlighten or bedim, befog.  “Have you never read . . .?” Jesus asked the religious leaders again and again.  He knew they had.

Illustration from Kandinsky’s Point and Line to Plane. “The same undulating line accompanied by geometrical elements.”


You can see this not only in what Kandinsky, a Russian Orthodox, writes but also in how he uses writing.  Creation, the province of artists and God, is ineffable.  Art theory is necessary “1. to discover the living, 2. to make perceptible its pulsation, 3. to establish the law-governed nature of life.”  But Kandinsky frequently makes clear that words have no part in the act of creation.  As Lindsay and Vergo put it in their introduction to Complete Writings:

He recognized the virtue of verbal reasoning for an artist and encouraged it to roam freely except during the act of creation.  Only when the brush has completed its odyssey should the mind examine the findings with words.

[This is the third of five posts on Kandinsky’s art theory.  The first is here, and the second is here.]