July 20, 2016 – Unknown World
“Lend your ears to music;
Open your eyes to painting, and stop thinking!
Just ask yourself whether the work has enabled you to ‘walk about’ into a hitherto unknown world. If the answer is yes,
what more do you want?”
Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) Russian painter
It seems to me that, for the most part, we approach a work of art or a piece of music with the primary question, “Do I like it?” Whereas Kandinsky is saying that the primary question we might bring to any work of art is, Does it allow me “to walk about into a hitherto unknown world?” That’s a completely different question from, “Do I like it?”
How do we get from do-I-like-it? to does-it-open-a-new-world? His answer is clear: Stop thinking! Don’t bring your thinking function to art, but rather bring your feeling. Does this piece in any way lead you to a “hitherto unknown” emotional state? “What more do you want?” he wonders.
So rather than walking through a museum and thinking “Hate it, Love it, Uggh!, Nice,” etc. walk through trying to be aware of your emotional state and how various pieces might change that state. No judging; no thinking.
But eventually, at some point, we all get to “Do I like it?” It’s human nature. But it’s also human nature to not particularly like a piece of art or music, and still allow it to lead you somewhere new. This is often how you get from not liking to liking something.
This process — of first bringing your feelings to a work of art — will certainly feel strange at first if it’s new to you, so be patient with yourself. Then again, you might discover that you’ve been doing this all along.
Kandinsky was known for exploring “unknown worlds.” He is credited with painting one of the first purely abstract works. The painting above is his.