From Traditionalists Katsushika Hokusai and Zhang Daqian, To Post-War Masters Willem de Kooning, Zao Wou-Ki, Josef Albers, and Yves Klein.

 Eastern and Western aesthetics in painting evoking
 emotion, abstraction and explosiveness
 in color and nature

By: Isabella Di Scipio

Each of these artists from entirely different backgrounds, ethnicities, and education all wanted to achieve the same goal. They wanted to create something going higher beyond the cosmic realm of the physical world into the ethereal world full of peace, tranquility and celestiality.

They are striving to travel towards something higher. Going towards the infinite unknown. They utilize their artistic genius which is very reminiscent of Dante’s mission in La Divina Commedia. Dante goes on a journey and is taken by Beatrice who leads him from hell to the heavenly realm. In a way these artists search for paradise. Each of these artists represent Dante and their version of Beatrice is the paintbrush. This paradise is found in their very own works of art that they invent. 

Aesthetically these forms from each of the artists combine attributes of imagery related to water and mountains in true, authentic, clear and realistic forms seen as seen in Zhang Daqian, Katsushika Hokusai and abstract forms as seen in Zao Wou-Ki, Yves Klein, Josef Albers, and Willem de Kooning. 

I bring these artists together to depict how their works focus on certain formalities of color diffused through various forms of nature.

We see the Great Wave in Hokusai’s woodblock print. We see mountains and watery landscapes full of trees rising in Zhang Daqian’s ink paintings. We see eclipses, hurricanes, and tempestuous disasters in Zao Wou-Ki’s ouvres. We see rhythmic water, trees, and mountainous-like aspects in de Kooning’s oil paintings and lithographs. We see geometric patterns of overlapping squares in a multitude of blue hues in Josef Albers oil paintings and prints. We see the hypnotic and mesmerizing international ultramarine Klein blue in Yves Klein’s paintings, prints, and sculptures. 

Each of these magnum opuses select majestic and grand shades of blue which venture towards something higher than the artists’ intentions, existences, and physical beings.

These Chinese and Japanese Traditionalists and Eastern and Western Post-War Masters paint to escape the harsh realities of the world and explore their own worlds through the formalities of ink and oil paint to find inner peace, beauty, movement, and abstraction in a colorful wild nature. 

There is a famous saying by Italian Count Baldassare Castiglione from his magnum opus, The Book of the Courtier, IV, 1508-1516, where Castiglione discusses deeply this notion of beauty. He claims, “However, beauty, though it comes from the soul, can become corrupt…ugly, which leads us to the other side of the argument, that beauty can be deceptive.” Essentially what Castiglione deems to tell us his audience where there is beauty here is also ugliness. This applies especially to the color blue. Though blue is a magnificent regal color full of prowess and courtly magnitudes, it can also be indicative of fear, mystery, despair, lost hope, darkness, danger, depression and utter sadness, cold, tempestuous weather, rough waters, and so forth. Blue also juxtaposes this idea of negative ideas and also resonates in our minds as a color of calmness, tranquility, rivers, streams, rain drizzling, a quiet night, nocturne, a light and blissful blue day, clouds, sumptuous silks and fabrics, Kings and Queens, and the Virgin Mary. All of these things allow us to associate with this color. Blue a color of materiality and of fine quality was also a color of spirituality. In a material world blue was a color of immortal, divine higher beings.  

Color evokes feeling. What resonates in my mind when we hear or see the color blue? There are many answers. In fact they are ultimately infinite.

I explore the aesthetics here within the various tones of blue specifically. Blue is a color that often evokes passivity, tranquility, composure. Blue is a color often associated with water, rivers, oceans, the sky during the day and of course the heavens. Blue relates to sadness, darkness, infinity. When I hear the color blue water, all forms of water resonate in my mind. Water  such as  rain, rivers, streams, pools, ponds, oceans, bays. Water correlates to ideas of nature’s, fecundity fertility infinite beauty, life and transcendence. Water represents rebirth. 

The artists focus on this idea of watery transcendence, infinite life and rebirth through the art of painting and the physical finished product of the art piece itself. The physical work of art will always remain. Ars longa vita brevis meaning, “Life is short, art endures.” The artists draw these connections derived from water and nature’s infinite forms and beauty to their work to demonstrate how the art will always exist even when they are gone. The art will exist just as nature in the terrestrial realm will exist for eternity.

By: Isabella Di Scipio

Author: Bella Di Scipio

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