Abstract Art – Can It Evoke The Spiritual?

Traditionally, a sense of the spiritual has been evoked in the depiction of religious themes. For example the humanity of the divine shown in Christian pictures of Christ on the Cross, the image of meditation expressed in Buddhist images of the Buddha, and the ideal of order shown in Islamic decorative art-work using repeated geometrical patterns.

More generally, however, the visual arts since the beginning of the 20th century have been associated with a wide variety of aesthetic expression usually not seen as spiritual. It has no longer been normal in the West to assume that all art aims at beauty. Much artwork in this period might be described as reflecting emotional liberation, political criticism and hedonism. The question arises as to whether it is possible for the spiritual to be seen in abstract art?

Kandinsky’s impact on the development of abstract art

One person’s answer to this question was a definite ‘yes’. This was the Russian artist Wassily Kandinsky. He wrote The Art of Spiritual Harmony published in 1919.

Kandinsky favoured painting in non-representational ways, i.e. not representing anything visually recognisable. This was because he thought the more obvious the separation from nature, the more likely is the inner meaning to be pure and unhampered.

The book is widely believed to have had an important impact on the development of abstract art in the twentieth century with a main focus shifting towards the appreciation of the form of lines and colours in combination rather than representational image. Representational art is still to be found to this day, but it is no longer pre-eminent in the way it once was.

The word ‘spiritual’ for Kandinsky

For Kandinsky a sense of awe is present in all ‘true art’. Presumably then, the spiritual in art amounts to more than what is merely ornamental, good taste or interesting but should suggest a sense of wonder.

He observed that humanity:

“Inclines to the outer and knows little of the inner.”

He wanted artists to express their own inner lives on the canvas. We might think that in this way the viewers’ increased sensitivity to the needs and suffering of others can deepen their own spirituality.

The term ‘spiritual’ for Kandinsky thus refers to wonder, awe and depth of experience. I would suggest it might also involve a sense of beauty, joy, harmony, fresh vision or innocent simplicity.

Kandinsky’s art

Kandinsky picked out for praise the art of Paul Gaugin (a post-impressionist) saying the Frenchman, although not a creator of non-figurative paintings, was nevertheless willing to sacrifice conventional form to inner expression and give a profound emphasis on what cannot be expressed in natural things.

Kandinsky himself tried to paint without recourse to natural form or representation. His theory was that in such a painting there would be no symbolic references with which the viewer would associate ideas and feelings – by which I suppose he meant natural pleasures and sentiment. He claimed his art was more purely spiritual as a result of being abstract.

Abstract art and subliminal perception

One wonders, in so far as a picture creates a sense of transcendence, whether it does so because of a subliminal use of symbols of which both viewer and artist is unaware. For example Kandinsky points out that, although Picasso and the Cubists produce intricately balanced lines and curves, they nevertheless persist in giving titles to their pictures which recall the natural object from which their minds ‘first took flight’. These titles as word symbols could be said to bias the viewer to the artist’s intention.

The spiritual school of American art

This attitude is in contrast with the nineteenth century. For example at that time there had been a so-called ‘spiritual school of American art’ in which the artists tried to project in their visual art a celebration of ideals rather than the material side of life. In their painting of natural objects, they used nature, not as an end in itself, but rather to represent what they saw as inner truth. Some of these artists (such as William Page, George Innes and William Keith) were aware of Emanuel Swedenborg’s theory of correspondence: a theory which suggests that spiritual qualities like innocence, protectiveness, courage, can be intuitively seen in natural things to which they correspond.

Kandinsky had a very different approach to that of the earlier American school, yet he was equally concerned about the way art had lost her soul. He introduced the phrase ‘art for art’s sake’ as a neglect of inner meaning.

Islamic art

Islamic artwork, is also mostly non-representational. The Islamic world’s resistance to the representation of living forms probably stems from the belief that the creation of life is unique to Allah and to paint animals and plants amounts to idolatry.

Swedenborg’s way of understanding spiritual history is in line with this view. His theory is that humankind over the ages had lapsed into more and more external perception: as a consequence works of art such as ‘the golden calf’ of the Hebrews lost their symbolic meaning and began to be worshipped as idols, rather than used as mere reminders of spiritual qualities.

“Much of Asia practised idolatrous worship… Ideas about God were presented in the form of various likenesses and carvings; and when their meanings became lost, the common people began to worship these as gods. Even the Israelite nation had this sort of worship when they were in Egypt, as is clear from the golden calf, which they worshipped in the desert instead of Jehovah.” (Emanuel Swedenborg, spiritual philosopher)

Likewise, in recent centuries there has been widespread veneration of relics, icons and other objects by many Christians.

My thought is that as culture has developed beyond this primitive religiosity, people have less frequently idolised or venerated artwork. If so, perhaps the Muslims have taken the problem of idolatry too far and should take a more positive attitude towards representation of natural life forms.

Individual differences in perception

The appreciation of art is a subjective thing. They say ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ but what do you find aesthetically attractive? One might judge a Lamborghini to be beautiful because of its curved lines and partly because it is desirable as a status symbol, or we might judge it to be repulsive because it signifies for us over-consumption and offends our political or moral values. There is no pleasing everybody and visual designers cannot escape subjectivity in the spectator.

What one person sees, as sublime in a painting, another does not. I suspect the awareness of anything spiritual is less likely to be appreciated by me when I am focused on worldly matters and my own self-interest. Is there not mystery in the perceptual process of the spectator as well as in the creative process of the artist?

As a clinical psychologist, Stephen Russell-Lacy has specialised in cognitive-behavioural psychotherapy, working for many years with adults suffering distress and disturbance.

How to Buy From Online Art Galleries in India?

India is a glorious land of art and culture, and this Asian country has always been associated with amazing art objects, from the cave paintings of Maharashtra to the sculptures of Khajuraho to the magnificent murals in temples of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and other places, mosques and palaces of royalties in different states and so on. It is natural that online art galleries in India enjoy a wide patronage from art enthusiasts and buyers. As an art lover interested in buying from online Indian art galleries, you must follow these tips.

Comb through the gallery with care

Many galleries are big enough in size, and you can find plenty of art objects on display. It is a good idea to go through the catalog in as much detail as possible. It is not a good idea to buy from the first set of paintings that you can find. Invest some more time, explore a little more and check the gallery items as much as you are able to. You may find a better painting on display, and go for it.

Compare the prices

It is essential to have a fair about the pricing of art objects, such as paintings, when you are considering buying any of them from one of the online art galleries in India. Check whether total cost, including the shipping expenses, can be afforded from your end. A little price comparison across different stores can go a long way in finding out more affordable sources online.

Check whether there is a sound return policy

Make sure that the online art gallery you are purchasing from has a proper return policy. There should be some type of satisfaction guarantee or return policy. Keep in mind that you will be buying the art without personally seeing it, and some type of guarantee has to be there. In case you find the art object defective or unsuitable for you in some other way, a return policy will allow you to get it shipped back. Make sure that the artwork comes with shipping insurance; otherwise you will be the one to pay for any damages occurred while shipping.

Check the authenticity

Make sure that the painting you are buying is an authentic piece of art. The one that you buy should come with a certificate of authenticity which serves as a guarantee for the purchase of an original object. You should also check the comments and feedback in the product page to ensure you are going for an authentic piece of art.

Register with the gallery

When you like what a gallery has on offer, get listed with it in order to get emails containing information about upcoming events. You can get previews of the work of different artists through email updates and take a look at them when you are relaxing. For reference purposes, you can also get a complete record of previous paintings and exhibitions mailed to you. You can surf these during leisure hours. Keep in mind that online galleries are open 24/7.

How Original Art Can Transform Your Space

Throughout human history, art has provided a way for people to express themselves and their ideas, and it has equally provided a focal point for the imagination of onlookers and has fostered an appreciation of beauty in all its forms. For many people now a days, art in the home is a luxury that we can afford, bringing a touch of this magic into our spaces.

Indeed, original art can truly transform a space from something bland and lifeless into something with imagination, beauty and character. Here are a few of the main reasons that investing in original paintings for sale for your home is often well worth your investment.

Firstly, it can be said with all honesty that all art is an expression of the emotions, thoughts and perspectives of the artist that created it. These can be very thought-provoking, and this is why many people become huge fans of one particular artist – it can be because the painting or drawing speaks to them in particular, or because there is a profound idea encapsulated within.

Even some of the most ‘simple-looking’ works of art have an idea behind them, and this is enough intrigue the onlooker in many cases. Therefore, having a piece of original art in your home a chance to put something meaningful and thought-provoking on display, as passionately created by the original artist.

When looking for original paintings for sale, you will also often come across pieces that give plenty to talk about, which means that these particular works of art will likely be a great focal point and conversation piece for your home. In a room will bare walls, putting up a painting that has plenty of interesting details and features can make for an interesting distraction.

Often, a gorgeous and complex piece of art in a room can give guests the chance to discuss what it is that they see in the artwork. For others, a minimalist, abstract design can give an equally fascinating talking point as guests try to work out the meaning that the artists has attempted to convey with their work.

A third point to make is that art shows the personality of the person who purchased it as much as the personality of the artist. Some people are passionate about modern, abstract art, whereas others find landscapes and still life art extremely soothing and relaxing. For those who love the sea, paintings of crashing waves can be a firm favourite.

Browsing through original paintings for sale to find something that suits your tastes and personality means that you can express yourself through your d├ęcor, which can make an impression on anyone who visits your home. Furthermore, you will have the chance to look upon a piece of art that speaks to you, soothes you, intrigues you or uplifts you on a daily basis.

However, buying art for intellectual reasons or because you want make a statement are not the only reasons that you might want to invest in a painting or a drawing for your home. One of the most common motivations for buying art is that it simply offers the opportunity to put up something beautifully decorative in an empty space.

Artwork will add character and colour to an otherwise very bare room, and this can really transform a living space. In fact, even the most expensive furniture can look quite bland and drab if there is nothing creative and original in a room, and this is where artwork comes in.

Furthermore, artwork can transform the dimensions of a room by adding further layers of colour and texture, creating a more lively, rich and balanced space to live in. These are just a few main ways that original paintings and drawings can transform your home.