ThoughtForms and Kandinsky

Last tuesday I went to see my new friends Myrto and George at DigitalArte. Their office is located in the heart of the artistic scene in London: Planet Hackney, in front of the canal with a great view of the futuristic buildings in the City and nearby the trendy Broadway Market. In this purpose of becoming an artist, their advice and ideas are invaluable.

Apart of the stimulating conversation, the journey to Hackney involves other pleasures… first of all, for me it is the first time that I am taking my art seriously. I mean, it has been always a hobby, you may say a personal indulgence, but to go out and show what I am doing to other art-related professionals is a step forward.  Carrying my portfolio I fancied myself one of the many artists roaming through the streets of East London… and I am! So many ideas came from this meeting and now I have some tasks to do.

Hackney is experimenting a quick transition after Brick Lane and the East of London: it is  a mixed neighbourhood where it is possible to find the traditional bakery next to a trendy boutique.  Artists and entrepreneurs are attracted by the quick dissappearing low rents and new shops elbow against the old ones.  Strolling around Broadway Market it is possible to take the pulse of the trends in art, books, music and fashion.

At the end side near London Fields,  in a small local a little white bookshop catches my eye… inside there is a good arrangement of titles, many of them on the psychotropic literature (some part of my past life as a researcher sparks with it) and one book without an specific title stands out.: It is a journal or magazine called  “Strange Attractor”. This is the Number Three, edited by Mark Pillington (2006)  and an article on the occult in modern art in regards the work of Vassily Kandinsky attracts my attention and soon I discovered a very interesting, albeit odd, collection of essays on occultism, literature, psychonautic, architecture and art… so luringly weird!

The article in question, titled: “Kandinsky’s Thought Forms: the occult roots of modern art”, by Gary Lachman (p. 97-107) reflects on the interest of different artists on the topic of occultism, at the beginning of the 20th century. This connection, albeit previously “edited” by art historians, is gradually emerging as a valid source of stimulation for the many movements that shook the art world in the past century. As many of his contemporaries, Kandinsky was concerned with the role of the artist in this new century, facing a growing materialism, urban decay and disillusion.  Kandinsky seminal work “The Spiritual in the Art” can be interpreted as the convergence of a number of ideas drawing from ideas on theosophy and spirituality, art and the role of artists in the process of elevating human condition to the most spiritual realms of existence. Quoting from Kandinsky:

“When religion, science, and morality are shaken (the last by the mighty hand of Nietzsche), when the external supports threaten to collapse, then man’s gaze turns away from the external toward himself. Literature, music, and art are the first and most sensitive realms where this spiritual change becomes noticeable in real form. These spheres immediately reflect the murky present; they provide an intimation of that greatness which first becomes noticeable only to a few, as just a tiny point, and which for the masses does not exist at all.”

In the article about the influence of Occultism in the work of Kandinsky, the author (Gary Lachman) offers a comprehensive summary of the different aspects of Theosophy influencing Kandinsky. For instance, following Theosophical view, it is said that we possess for different kinds of ‘bodies’: there is the physical body, the astral body, a mental body, and a ‘buddhic’ body. “The astral body reflects our emotions and desires; the mental body is concerned with our thoughts; and the buddhic body with our spirituality (p.99).” For the theosophical writers the aura was purely spiritual, thus invisible to the eyes, only approachable through an internal visit to the soul.  This type of internal journey of the artist in search of the spiritual, appealed to contemporary artists and writers such as Herman Hesse, the poet Rilke, and Kandinsky, who was developing his own approach to the spiritual aspects of art. Although it is acknowledged that moods and emotions are inner feelings, for some  theosophists it was possible to “visualise” these feelings throughout colours. Indeed, as we talk about “blues” related to sadness, or “red” and anger, we are actually referring to  the synaesthesia phenomena (i.e. hearing colours or seeing sounds) which was so important for the Romantic and Symbolist movements, as argued by the author. Indeed influencing books such as Thought Forms held the idea that “thoughts are forms” thus it is possible to see them…

So… well, I have diverted enough of my initial aim with this post: I thought it would be fascinating to keep a visual journal of these Thought Forms: as how do I feel today… so rather than tweeting or updating facebook profiles, instead  we may opt for a less obvious more visual language?  So yesterday, coming back in the train, with many ideas and this feeling of fear and trepidation for this new path of my life, this is what came up (I used MyPaint and App for the iphone).


It is difficult to resist the temptation of explaining what I felt… and I may leave it here in order to keep the magic of the Thought Form in its visual form.

p.s.1:  I went also to visit another new friend, the artist Jane Glynn in her studio at the Ferens Building in Letchworth Garden City. it was a great encounter as she showed me her work with books and animations, and her current project of drawing a face everyday of the year. Already almost 290 faces of girls are gazing at you when you get in the studio. Jane works on the connections between fairy tales and intuition, a topic that perhaps resonates with the book of Clarissa Pinkele, Women who run with the wolves, a classic in the feminine mind.  And a topic that my dear friend Ann Rippin has been creatively researching.

p.s. 2: Last night I had this beautiful dream about three kind of threads in which we live, on one we live the material world as everyday life; in the second, there is the spiritual life, the realm of dreams and enlightenment; and there is a third thread related to beauty. This third thread works as a bridge between the spiritual and the everyday life. I woke up very impressed by it all and realising that this is a subject for further reflection and fully inspired to re-read Concerning the Spiritual in Art!

Post to be continued…


3 thoughts on “ThoughtForms and Kandinsky

  1. Pingback: Women Artists at Tate Modern (1): Saloua Raouda Choucair | beatriz acevedo art

    • Robert Searle, thanks for your comment. I had a look on your blog and it has a great deal of “beautiful” images, books, and the P2P foundation looks really interesting!!! I am very inspired by the work of Richard Shusterman on pragmatic aesthetics, not only about the conventional idea of “beauty” but on how we live our lives in a meaningful..beautiful way.

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