Composition is a term that we often use as designers and it plays a crucial role in all forms of visual communication, not just in graphic design but also painting, photography and sculpture too. In this context the word means ‘the placement or arrangement of visual elements’, but for Kandinsky it is something of a double entendre.
Synaesthesia is a relatively rare yet harmless condition which allows a person to interpret sounds, colours or words with two or more senses simultaneously. In Kandinskys case, colour and texture triggered particular sounds or musical notes – literally making the the process of creating a painting more akin to composing a symphony.
Image source: WebMuseum, Paris
The correlation between sound and colour was a lifelong preoccupation for Kandinsky, starting as a curious hissing sound heard when mixing colours in his paintbox as a child and leading to a dramatically moment of realisation during a performance of Wagners opera, an experience which moved him to say “I saw all my colours in spirit, before my eyes. Wild, almost crazy lines were sketched in front of me.”
Looking at his body of work it is easy to see how this unique background led to such distinctly abstract art. Despite lacking the familiar features of a portrait or landscape his work possesses a beauty of its own, focusing instead on balance, tone and the interaction of shapes.
A true master of composition, Kandinsky’s unique vision pushed the boundaries of the visual arts – and that is why he truly inspires us.