Nothing can prepare a person for the rush of high emotions leading to a sublime experience after viewing Klee’s art exhibit. Recently I visited a just opened exhibition of Paul Klee’s work at the Tate gallery, London, UK. I cried and this was surprising to me, so I kept asking myself, what is so intense about his work to make one cry? Paul Klee offers art as an interplay between life and energy. Klee’s artistic genuineness illuminates empathy that is communicated in a powerful way bringing together nature, historical challenges, the history of art, and universe in a potent expression, where the invisible “roots” of influences blossom into a new art expression asking the observer to react and “dance” growing like a tree within the artistic vision of a concrete art piece.
In his works Klee interprets that the artist is like a tree trunk that connects the roots to the branches, each of them being one work of art. Klee says that “as the tree grows its crown in the image of its roots,” analogously the concrete work of the art transfigures invisible roots into the visible, so each separate work mirrors the wholeness of the artist’s intuitive and original attempt.
Paul Klee worked in one of the most intense periods of Western Art History marked by the transformation of figurative art into various forms of abstraction and/or expressionism. The era between the 1920s to 1940s produced some of the most remarkable abstract paintings. Klee’s work, however, achieves an amazing confluence in that his works drifts between abstraction and the last drops of saturated figurative symbolism. On many paintings there are eyes, stars, moon, sun, fish, all floating on an abstract infinite space, where the image follows the lure of the figurative glides and one can gaze into new dimensions of reality.
This magic gaze is achieved with an interesting art concept: Klee relates archetypal objects such as stars, sun, moon, sky to formal vocabulary of art such as dot, line, space, or colour and as a result he forms unfamiliar relationships between different realms. Each of us is called to interpret the way Klee’s magic works. Every painting creates a new world born out of nothing; Klee acts as a God/Magician with devotion to small things, as he writes in his theory of art “andach zum Kleinen.” His personal Microcosm is a reflection of the Macrocosm of the Universe.
Klee is fully conscious that man/woman is a part of Nature and therefore study of Nature is the ultimate muse of his Art. However, Klee is not interested in a traditional study that is based on “precise investigation of appearances,” he wants to paint un-optical impressions and representations, he wants to be more than an “improved camera.” Klee’s Art may be defined as the art of invisible impressions that have become visible through his transformative/alchemical abilities.
One can define Klee as a metaphysical painter—the cognition of the natural world is blessed by a sense of totality and the ability to go beyond the outward aspects of objects by drawing the image through the purling creativity of his artistic mind stream. In his own words, “by contemplating the optical –physical appearance, the ego arrives at intuitive conclusions about the inner substance.” This “inner substance” becomes visible and alive in Klees’ work.
His approach to art is in one way strongly analytical. In his theory of art “Pedagogical Sketchbook” (a manual for his Bauhaus students) Klee requires that the artist assimilates the Science of Art, where Math and Physics dominate, but in his art expression Klee gives himself to intuition, as he says, “the unknown X,” and this is what is the essence of Klee’s work–an intuition paired indistinctively with exact research.
Perhaps you have noticed that I am writing about the painter, but I have not mentioned colour extensively in my critique. It is mum to write about in, his works needs to be seen. He has the ability to use colour to transcend reality.
Let me finish with the grand words of Novalis that I can deeply relate to Klee:
“…give sense to the vulgar,
give mysteriousness to the common,
give the dignity of the unknown to the obvious,
and a trace of infinity to temporal.”
Klee’s “Making Visible” is at “Tate” until 9. March 2014.
Making Visible, Tate Publishing, 2013
Pedagogical Sketchbook, Paul Klee, Bauhaus Books, 1925
Creative Confession and other writings, Paul Klee, Tate Publishing, 2013