Tuesday, 7 February 2012
“…An original ‘great’ failure
At the beginning of the 20th century, a fascinating project – promoted by a branch of so-called ‘abstract art’ (notably Kandinsky, Klee, Kupka) – was embodied in the desire to establish painting as an artistic practice, which would at the same time be ‘as scientific’ and ‘as abstract’ as music ‘already was’.
While, in Europe, musical tones were already mathematically determined in antiquity, supposedly by Pythagoras, painting still hadn’t established its ‘modern grammar’. At the same time, ironically, while some painters wanted to construct such a grammar (with all the dogmatic attitudes that such a project fatally involves – perhaps best represented by the influence of ‘de Stijl’ on Bauhaus pedagogy –), modern composers were deeply involved in deconstructing their traditional rules.
A collective movement placed colour in the centre of this ideal, as the visual equivalent of sound (an idea that Newton defended).
Colour (and especially colour mixing principles) thus became (once more) the object of a systematic research. Goethe’s colour theory was still influential, while Maxwell’s and Helmholtz’s views on the phenomenon were almost ignored by artists (except, importantly, by Seurat). An important consequence of this story (which I strongly reduce here) has been the exclusive production – by the modernist painters interested in ‘visual science’ – of colour mixing theories using only a subtractive synthesis of colour (Itten’s book is the most famous example in this regard).
Since colour mixing was reduced exclusively to subtractive synthesis and because of the erroneous idea that colour and musical tones are phenomena obeying similar laws, the project of a ‘composition’ of colours, whether abstract or not, which was to be ‘as scientific in its methods as music already was’, could only fail, though possibly a beautiful failure.” – excerpted from Luccas statement. See here for the full text.