The further I delve into the writings of Robert Motherwell, abstract expressionist and philosopher, the more I am taken with his purity of thought. Reading his words I come to realize, Motherwell couldn't have painted as he did if he wasn't a deeply philosophical person and mind scout.
"It is one thing to think and another to exist in thought." Kirkegaard. Motherwell existed in thought.
Through Motherwell's essays and lectures and through his paintings and collages, he explored and expressed the dichotomy of creating.
On the one hand, you want it to come from that true place where the ego is set aside and the mind is free to act; on the other, you want some thought, some contemplation to be present. To be absent, yet aware, that is the struggle.
Abstract expressionism did not grow in a vacuum. Artistic building blocks began with impressionism, moving to dadaism, cubism and surrealism.
Historical influences included two major world wars, the Spanish Civil War, the depression, and philosophical influences from the poetic and literary voices of Mallarme, Valery, Sartre, Camus, Kierkegaard and Nietzsche.
Add the influence of psychoanalysis pioneered by Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, you can follow the path that led the modernist looking inward for their inspiration. And through this journey came a body of experimental work that shocked the art world. And forever changed the way we looked at art.
No longer were we bound by the lens of the outward seeing eye, we were now free to explore a much more complex and subtle landscape. One that is ultimately linked closer to the Universe. It is the language of the non-verbal that ties us together as humans beings and as spiritual beings.
Once achieved successfully, we experience "the shock of recognition". Or in the words of Rilke, "where I create, there I am true."
This was an extraordinary time in the development of the creative, thinking mind. Equal to their forerunners, the philosophers and artists of the Age of Enlightenment.
And some decades later, we are still learning from these pioneers. They stormed the citadel of the art world with a ferocity that took an immense amount of courage. I'm not sure we have seen anything so shattering, since.