In his writing, Kandinsky identified the subject of Composition VI 1913 as the Deluge, or great Biblical flood, a cataclysmic event that ushers in an era of spiritual rebirth. He believed that painting itself resembled such a cataclysm: ‘Painting is like a thundering collision of different worlds that are destined in and through conflict to create that new world called the work.’ Though one can make out the forms of boats, crashing waves and slanting rain, it is the mood of violence and chaos that is more important than the literal interpretation of objects or narrative. The painting is characterised by a powerful sense of movement, created by contrasting light and dark areas of colour, linked by strong diagonals. Conventional perspective has disappeared. Instead, forms and colours are layered and juxtaposed, interacting to create a swirling, three-dimensional effect. The monumental scale of the work adds to this, giving the viewer the sense of being immersed in the space of the painting. These effects contribute to what Kandinsky described as the ‘inner sound’ of the picture.
It is obvious that a grammar of this sort is open to in finite extensions, and is not exempt from subjective inter pretations; Kandinsky himself was well aware of this and he tried various ways of solving his problem-the problem, that is to say, of finding valid solutions which are in telligible both in terms of the emotions and of the reason In 1910 he wrote: "Clashing colours, lack of balance, tottering principles antitheses and contradictions these make up our harmony The first abstract pictures, in fact, reveal a profound inner disquiet: "Explosion clusters of spots, frenzied lines, bursts, rumblings, catas trophes, the expressions of a dramatic convulsion which seems to exceed all measure GREAT VARIETY of forms move about in space, collide with one another, while from dark backgrounds patches of light burst forth and little dots like storms invade the areas of quiet, and everywhere reigns the impression of a dramatic event, a vortex, which fully justifies such titles for these pictures as The Deluge or The Last Judgment. Recognisable forms seem to emerge in some places, only to dissolve again straightaway into the domain of the unidentifiable: a multitude of forms and in-rushing movements extends right to the edges of the canvas, and yet without degenerating into chaos. Carefully studied correspondences, intervals, lines of force and emphasis reveal the presence of an order full of subtle ten- sions, which confers on these works by Kandinsky their exceptional fascination "To create a work of art is to create a world wrote Kandinsky: for him, art is always a fantastic adventure, for the little cosmos of the canvas must somehow embody primeval forces.
"Art," he added, "is great only if it is in direct contact with cosmic forces and is subordinate to them. One senses these laws, almost without realising it if one approaches nature not from the outside but from within it is necessary not just to look at nature, but to live it.”
Even the richest and most exuberant pictorial language has its limitations: the first, violent reaction accompanying the liberation from the object was followed by a period of meditation and clarification.
"Early in 1914" are once more the artist's own aware of a words "I became need for cold tranquillity. I did not want rigidity, but ess, a great coldness. And sometimes ice a burning centre within a shell of ice."
In this new phase, which attained its fullest develop- ment during Kandinsky's period at the Bauhaus, the structure of his pictures became more severe, while geometrical forms replaced irregular ones; the ruler and the compass became important tools for the artist. Curved and straight lines were distributed in a manner which seemed less arbitrary, although it did not preclude compositions of a rich and intense poetry; the colours were clearly re lated to the forms and the picture surface became an active element, an enveloping background (Plate XII). And if some works of this period seem to be an exposition of the ideas set forth in Point and Line to Plane', these geo metrical pictures are much more than just a painted theory a purely intellectual exercise. "The head," wrote the is a necessary and important part of the human artist. body, but only if it is in organic relationship with the heart and the feelings Without this relationship, the head is the source of all dangers and corruptions. This is true in every field; and therefore also in that of art.' It was, in fact, through the emotions that these pure, perfectly constructed forms and these very carefully adjusted colours achieved their special role, which was that of allowing one to discover within the icy shell' the burning centre': ten sions and repose, rhythm and latent movement endowed these geometrical constructions with a marvellous life which revealed a hidden kinship with the works of the first dramatic period But before long there began to appear signs of a new orientation: the treatment of the geometrical forms de veloped in an ever-increasing magical and spiritual way organic vegetable forms were placed side by side with planimetric ones and the colours, now dense and uniform took on a new expressive intensity.
2. The Masters 28, Kandinsky, Knowledge Publications, Sir John Rothenstein, Peter Anselm Riedl, translated by Ronald Alley