In the early years of the 20th century, much experimentation in all areas of the arts stirred Russian circles. Among the avant-garde thinkers, Mikhail Matiushin wanted to explore the relations between the visual and musical expressions. For Matiushin, the object was to abstract the essence of the experience of art without eliminating the emotive response.
Abstract and Emotive
Matiushin brought some interesting qualities to his work as an artist: he was also a composer and color theorist. His focus on color led him to use vibrant, bright colors in his own paintings. He theorized that humans do not fully use their capacity to see and that it should be possible to expand the limits of visual perception. This theory came to be called “extended vision.”
Resisting Social Realism
During this period of avant-garde thinking, Matiushin became the head of the studio of spatial realism at the Russian State Free Art Studios, until the Soviet government enforced Social Realism on Russian artists in the late 1920s. Until that time, Matiushin continued his studies on the nature of color and perception. His artwork demonstrated his thinking that music and other sounds represent experiences that are both concrete and abstract. Such theories contributed to his piece entitled “Painterly Musical Construction.”
Emotive Abstraction Continues
Many abstract artists demonstrate similar thinking, whether they are aware of Matiushin’s work or not. Abstract art is not all solid panels of single colors or cold geometric shapes. Diana Hobson’s work draws on vivid colors and underlying motion.
Her 1982 work “Sultry Dreamer” conveys motion and emotion in a manner that Matiushin would possibly find familiar. Many of her more recent works are on display at her studio in Venice Beach.
“Matiushin Self Portrait Crystal” by Mikhail Matiushin, 1917. Reproduced under Fair Use Practices for instruction.
“Painterly Musical Construction” by Mikhail Matiushin, 1918. From the Collection, State Museum of Contemporary Art, Costokis Collection, Thessoloniki. Reproduced under Fair Use Practices for instruction.
“Sultry Dreamer” by Diana Hobson, 1982. Copyright Diana Hobson. Used by permission.