Kandinsky: Tactical, Operational, Strategic
Imagine two trees: one rooted in a landscape and one painted on canvas. We see both as beautiful. Yet there’s a difference. The real tree is beautiful as a natural object. We experience pleasure in perceiving its sensuous materiality. But as we regard it, we come to realize that the tree is just one particular incarnation of arboreal perfection. Our recognition of its contingency impinges upon our capacity to apprehend the essential beauty of the tree. Its external form does not sufficiently reveal to us the principle of its internal unity, the essence that constitutes its tree-ness as such. The tree–like all living things–fails, one might say, to fully embody the Idea of the Beautiful. The flesh hides the soul. The tree represented in the painting, on the other hand, creates the possibility of apprehending a beauty that appears beyond the contingencies of any actual tree we might encounter. In rendering the concept of beauty in a determinate but virtual form, the artist produces the concrete appearance of the Beautiful as such.
Michael Schreyach, “Kandinsky: Tactical, Operational, Strategic,” review of Lisa Florman, Concerning the Spiritual and the Concrete in Kandinsky’s Art (Stanford University Press, 2014), Nonsite.org, no. 20 (Winter 2017): n.p.