Sunday, June 04, 2006


"Man's ability to measure the spiritual, earthbound, and cosmic, set against his physical helplessness is his fundamental tragedy. The tragedy of spirituality."

-Paul Klee


avery said...

But isn’t it that tension between the ability to measure and the immeasurable which give the philosopher, the artist, the poet their motivation, if not their insight? Isn’t it our mortality, our physical and spiritual flaws, which spur invention and creativity? If one can find any connection to “the spiritual, earthbound, and cosmic” enough to even begin to try to quantify them, isn’t there some small joy in that?

Morgan Lucas Schuldt said...

Of course it's mortality. It sounds like to me that Klee was verging on a notion of the Sublime in this quote, though I could be wrong. I think his epitaph is particularly poignant, given your questions: "I belong not only to this life. I live well with the dead, as with those not born. Nearer to the heart of creation that others. But still too far." This from a guy who produced nearly 9000 works in his 60 year life. Not bad...

avery said...

His epitaph is poignant, but not just in what it says about death, but also about life...our own human-ness. The fact that we are part of a larger fabric (perhaps "the spiritual, earthbound, and cosmic") that is infinite and yet also tangible. It is Man's ability to make the crucial connection between his/her soul and the larger world that makes us yearn for the spiritual.

Klee expressed it through painting, which in itself embodies all of this because like most art it is both personal and public. I think Kandinsky (a contemporary of Klee) sums it up better than me in On the Spiritual in Art when he says, "Then is the bond between art and the soul, as it were, drugged
into unconsciousness. The artist and the spectator drift apart,
till finally the latter turns his back on the former or regards
him as a juggler whose skill and dexterity are worthy of
applause. It is very important for the artist to gauge his
position aright, to realize that he has a duty to his art and to
himself, that he is not king of the castle but rather a servant
of a nobler purpose. He must search deeply into his own soul,
develop and tend it, so that his art has something to clothe, and
does not remain a glove without a hand."

Morgan Lucas Schuldt said...

Beautiful quote. The idea--if I read the syntax correctly--of the artist as a juggler is particularly striking.

avery said...

I can't help it...I came across this quote from Rothko and I had to add it to the mix:

"The fact that people break down and cry when confronted with my pictures shows that I can communicate those basic human emotions.. the people who weep before my pictures are having the same religious experience I had when painting them. And if you say you are moved only by their color relationships then you miss the point."