Wassily Kandinsky, ‘Cossacks’ 1910–1
Wassily Kandinsky, Cossacks 1910–1 . Tate

Room 3 in Constellations

Wassily Kandinsky Cossacks 1910-1

Cossacks

Wassily Kandinsky, Cossacks  1910–1

WHAT EMOTION DO YOU FEEL WHEN YOU THINK OF A COLOUR?

The ‘cossacks’ of the title are Russian cavalrymen which you can just recognise from their orange hats at the top and right of the painting. However Wassily Kandinsky believed paintings did not need to represent the real world. He felt that emotions could be expressed through the way colours and lines were arranged in a painting. He linked musical tones to particular colours, and considered colour to have a powerful spiritual impact. Can you hear music when you look at the painting??

‘The first colours which made a strong impression on me were light juice green, white, crimson red, black and yellow ochre. These memories go back to the third year of my life.’

Start Gallery caption, 2016

Gallery label, July 2017

Image released under Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported)

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artworks in Wassily Kandinsky

0 through 9

Jasper Johns, 0 through 9  1961

In the 1950s, Johns began using flags, targets and numbers as the basis of his paintings. These were ordinary familiar things, but also had an iconic, emblematic quality. This work is one of a series that he undertook in the summer of 1960, using the superimposed numbers 0 to 9. Johns let the process of painting the number sequence dictate the structure of the painting. This allowed him to concentrate on the qualities of the paint itself, exploring colour and thickness. The result is a highly abstract structure, but one rooted firmly in the real world.

Gallery label, September 2004

© Jasper Johns

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Méditerranée

Ellsworth Kelly, Méditerranée  1952

Mediterranée was Kelly’s first purely abstract relief. He experimented with processes of chance to determine the colour combinations. ‘I wanted to show how any colour goes with any other colour’, he later commented. His use of relief reflected his desire to avoid the illusory representation of depth: ‘When I want to do a painting with one colour overlapping another, it has to be a real overlap, not a depicted overlap ... I no longer wanted to depict space, but to make a work that existed in literal space.’

Gallery label, November 2015

© Estate of Ellsworth Kelly

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B17 Glass Bólide 05 ‘Homage to Mondrian’

Hélio Oiticica, B17 Glass Bólide 05 ‘Homage to Mondrian’  1965

In the mid-1960s Oiticica began to make the Bólides (or Fireballs), sculptural objects aimed at exploring the structure of colour. The Glass Bólides were a distinct group, consisting of large glass jars or containers. Here, colour in the form of pigment is dissolved in water and is also applied to coarse fabric, showing Oiticica’s interest in exploring the physical properties of colour. The dedication to Piet Mondrian, known for his abstract-geometric paintings in primary colours, acknowledges his influence on Oiticica but its use here for a dramatically contrasting work stresses Oiticica’s own unique development.

Gallery label, April 2009

© Projeto Hélio Oiticica

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Guadalupe Island, Caracara

Frank Stella, Guadalupe Island, Caracara  1979

© ARS, NY and DACS, London 2020

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Noeme

Tomma Abts, Noeme  2004

The ambiguous nature of Tomma Abts’s paintings questions traditional distinctions between abstraction and representation. In her works paint is thickly applied in places, creating ridge-like reliefs which at times she emphasises with trompe l’oeil shadow. Through over-painting and illusion she reverses the early Modernist aim of making the painting process more apparent. Abts’s forms often begin to take on figurative qualities. In Noeme (2004), the interlocking linear elements suggest planets or their halos.

Gallery label, May 2007

© Tomma Abts

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Shostakovitch 3rd Symphony Opus 20

Aubrey Williams, Shostakovitch 3rd Symphony Opus 20  1981

© The estate of Aubrey Williams

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Artur Zmijewski, Blindly  2010

Blindly 2010 is a video with sound for which Polish artist Artur Zmijewski asked a group of visually impaired people to paint the world as they see it. Some of the volunteers were congenitally disabled; others became blind in their lifetime. In the film they draw self-portraits and landscapes, occasionally asking the artist for instructions or giving verbal explanation for their decisions. Their paintings are clumsy and abstract. It is however not the resulting works but the process of making them that is at the core of the film. Lasting almost nineteen minutes, the work was produced in an edition of three plus an artist’s proof and an editor’s proof; Tate’s copy is number three in the main edition.

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Goshka Macuga, Drawing no.4 ‘Path of Movement of a Point’ after K. Malevich (1922)  2003

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Art in this room

Cossacks
Wassily Kandinsky Cossacks 1910–1
0 through 9
Jasper Johns 0 through 9 1961
Méditerranée
Ellsworth Kelly Méditerranée 1952
B17 Glass Bólide 05 ‘Homage to Mondrian’
Hélio Oiticica B17 Glass Bólide 05 ‘Homage to Mondrian’ 1965
Guadalupe Island, Caracara
Frank Stella Guadalupe Island, Caracara 1979
Noeme
Tomma Abts Noeme 2004

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