Expressing spirituality in art and architecture

Art has traditionally represented the physical reality. However, entering into the modern movement era of the late 19th to the early 20th century, there was a shift towards the search for new ways of seeing the nature. Even the function of art was, in a way, being put into questioned, especially after the advent of photography as reproduction technique of reality.

The industrial societies became the predominant feature, the urbanization was expanded in a traumatizing speed, and the catastrophic outcomes of the first World War, were examples of those events at that time that boosted rejection of the certainty thinking, a product of the age of enlightenment era, which have been before so much revered.  Those foregone solutions and foregone conclusions that were well embedded in the positivists’ or naturists’ thinking are not anymore what most matter for some as the states of emotional experiences are having more meaning to the fragile heart of some man. More and more man need this freedom to express the subjective experience, the inner feeling and so the expressionism tendency in art, literature, music or architecture throughout Europe of the modern era seek to capture the moods or to evoke ideas of meaning of those emotional experience rather than of those material actuality. Artists, therefore, attempted to convey those psychological states in a refuging idea -or possibly called- in a way of spiritual art.

For those who are fond of cultural outing and museum excursions, at the famous and one of the most, if not Switzerland’s most visited art museums, Fondation Beyeler in Riehen, Basel, is having at the moment an exhibition that explores the related above mentioned theme through a group of German expressionism: Kandisky, Marc & Der Blaue Reiter – September 4th, 2016 – january 22nd, 2017. This group had been active in Munich between 1908-1914; important male figures were big name like Wassily Kandinsky, Franz Marc, Alexej Jawlensky and others as well complemented with talented female artists like Gabriele Münter and Marianne Werefkin. The latter is our main protagonist of autumn 2016 exhibition in Melano, Ticino. Observing the name of primary German expressionism groups “The Blaue Reiter” (the blue rider), “the Brücke” (the bridge), which is founded by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, the metaphor signaling the movement, whether it is toward an opening passage or toward a deviation into a new artistic territory, is much more evinced than a conceal hint.

Wassily Kandinsky and Franz Marc (Hrsg.) Der Blaue Reiter Almanach, Munich, 1914 29,5 x 23 x 2,5 cm ahlers collection © Thomas Ganzenmüller, Hannover Maximum print size: 41 x 30 cm
Wassily Kandinsky Landschaft mit Regen, 1913 Öl auf Leinwand, 70,2 x 78,1 cm Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Founding Collection Druckbare Bildgrösse ca.: 27 x 30 cm
Alexej Jawlensky, Profonda meditazione, 1936/37 - Olio su carta tessuto, incollata su cartone, 24,5 x 17,5 cm - Collezione Artrust

Interestingly, when scrutinizing into the legendary almanac created by Kandinsky and Marc, where the materials inside are originated from diverse cultural backgrounds and timeframes, it shows differences in styles and adoptions, which assisted the understanding that art or aesthetic in art is to be considered on a continuously changing path. This further supported the expressionists’ assertion that is to see the inner necessity as an only touchstone for expressing creative activities. The common traits of the paintings under this tendency could be perceived from the spontaneous brushstrokes, the misrepresented figures that pave towards abstraction, the mythical or primitive derivation of forms and ideas, the removal of line from its role of defining contour and the liberation of colors from the obligation of representing of things. This inclination toward dislocation and alteration in form or dimension of something mirror the movement from concrete to abstract element and as well vice versa. To the extreme, when some expressionists’ are moving from his figurative works to an abstract expressionism, it is like the minimalist or deconstructivists’ architects of the following generation that refuse the use of decoration for the study of geometry. Notable development in postmodern architecture that started in the mid of the 20th century onwards to nowadays owes much to the conception of modernism movement.

The very recent announcement of the extension of Fondation Beyeler, in a way, represents another idea of movement, but this time it is not of a definition change in western art! As the collection expanded significantly over the years, the extension will serve to reinforce the educational and program function at the Iselin-Weber Park, in the area where the museum is located. This means more space for outdoor artworks and events and therefore more visibility to the public. From its original designed by Renzo Piano, Italian architect winner of the Pritzker Architecture Prize to the responsible hand of the Swiss Architect, Peter Zumthor, who as well won the same Prize.

Die Fondation Beyeler, erbaut von Renzo Piano Foto: Todd Eberle Druckbare Bildgrösse: 33 x 24 cm
Courtesy 7132 Thermal Baths and Spa

Zumthor is famous for his minimalist approach to building and to his used of simple and unfinished materials. These characteristics are visible in his is well- known project, the Therme Vals spa in Graubünden canton, Switzerland, which will celebrate its 20th anniversary this year. The main concern that Zumthor has when realizing a building is the place and the use of it. It is the context, the experience, and the materiality, which have theirs leading position in his flow of architecture creativities not much the aesthetic of it.  His “down to earth” construction style with attention to the silence and minimal noise from the surrounding surely will let the subjects inside communicate for themselves creating their own life and finding personal ways to express (exactly like the expressionists) their own spirituality.


Recommended further reading: Concerning the spiritual in Art, Wassily Kandinsky, 1911

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