I value only artists who really are artists, that is, who consciously or unconsciously, in an entirely original form, embody the expression of their inner life; who work only for this end and cannot work otherwise’
Wassily Kandinsky from Concerning the Spiritual in Art.
This week on my quest to find greater inspiration and creativity in life I spent time with Wassily Kandinsky and his thoughts as found in his seminal work Concerning the Spiritual in Art. I looked at that quote and thought, what if I replaced the word artist with humans.
‘I value only humans who really are human, that is, who consciously or unconsciously, in an entirely original form, embody the expression of their inner life’
I really felt the work this week was to apply that to myself. I wanted to, with intention or through good luck, exist in the world expressing my inner life in the outer world. It says to me to live a life that has meaning. To notice what is inside, to value that part of myself, and to be sure that when I walk through my day, I’m being and living my inner self.
Kandinsky promoted the idea of inner life as a source, or spark for the artist. It was that inner voice, he wrote, that needed to find its’ voice on a canvas.
“This all important spark of inner life today is at present only a spark. Our minds which are even now only just awakening after years of materialism, are infected with the despair of unbelief, a lack of purpose and ideal”
Hard to believe he wrote this about 100 years ago. It could have been written today easily. The inner life. If I stand in this idea of checking in with my inner life before I do stuff, how different my choices seem to be. Or at least feel. I write often here about ‘shoulds’. The voice of the gremlin, the inner critic who sabotages our moves ahead. The ‘shoulds’ that we struggle with and fail at and that limit our life. In my inner life, there is no gremlin. He lives somewhere else. There is purity to the inner life and it’s voice, its needs and wants.
I used to flirt with painting in my teen years. At that time I was obsessed with things looking like they were supposed to. The more accurate my representation in ink or water colour, the more I felt I’d succeeded. These days I like to take photos. When I choose my shot I am trying to capture in the picture what my eye sees. The particular perspective I hold about an object. Like the way a director uses a tight focus or a pan shot in film. I want to direct the audience’s eye to what I see. Kandinsky is pushing me beyond that. What do I want the photo to say? What is the feeling I’m trying to create. I need technique to do it. I need an understanding of light for the camera, or colours and brushes for paint to create my vision,but if I stop at the technical,then I ignore the greater purpose of the work. What do I want to say? What is my inner voice trying to say?
“If the emotional power of the artist can overwhelm the ‘how’ and can give free scope to his finer feelings” Kandinsky wrote, then ‘the what” which he describes as the ‘spiritual food’ can release us to a ‘newly awakened spiritual life’.
In terms of living, it seems to me that Kandinsky offers me this: we can tap into the spiritual food of what we wish to say with our lives I can express compassion, fire, leadership and more, or I can get stuck. In my life, I find Kandinsky’s words on being stuck in ‘how’ to represent the technical of living. My busy day to day. Appointments, cleaning the house, answering email, getting groceries. The ‘to do’ list of living. I know it has to happen, but within those tasks I mustn’t lose track of those ‘finer feelings’ he speaks of. I may never touch the spiritual part of myself. What is my life here to express?
There is such great energy in that question and there is also the fear of aiming to high and failing. But I know that the notion of aiming high is only a perspective. Purposeful living is in the daily. I must stop and ask the question every moment: What is this expressing of me? Is this what my inner life calls for or not?
The daily tool I developed for this is to make two lists. One is what my inner life sparks for and the correlating list of what the outer manifestation of that is.
Inner Life-need for peace
Inner Life-support and effect change for others
Outer Life-life coaching/time with friends
Outer Life-cooking evening meals for my family and baking for lunches
This was a great list to make and gave me such immediate clarity about the clutter in my life that I don’t really care about. It reminded me of what mattered. Kandinsky’s’ inspiration from the inner and the need to express it reminds me that I have an inner life (I forget sometimes) and reminded me of the incredible importance of hearing it and giving it expression. Life need never be a list of ticked of accomplishments with no heart.
This week, I found my heart again. I listened, questioned and slowed down a bit. Thanks Wassily.
Next week I am moving from visual arts to science. Creativity and inspiration in the area of science is one I don’t pay a lot of attention to, so I expect to be challenged and surprised. I’m beginning with reading Steve Jobs latest biography. He, the founder of Apple, seemed to be someone who was successful creatively and managed to guide others to great feats of creativity as well. February will see my reflections on this last month as well as what I am learning from the muse of science.