It’s too bad the curator at Stockholm’s Moderna Museet isn’t given to colloquialism when speaking about the museum’s new show of Paul Klee ad Ivan Augeli. Granted these artists sought the ‘”fourth dimension” – the impetus for Early Cubism, Surrealism, Futuris, and abstraction, and Dostoevsky, too. And granted any explanation of the extra dimension is inherently up in the clouds.
Dostoevsky spelled out the esoteric nature of the fourth dimension in “Brothers Karamazov” like this:
“I have a Euclidean earthly mind, and how could I solve problems that are not of this world? And I advise you never to think about it either, my dear Alyosha, especially about God, whether He exists or not. All such questions are utterly inappropriate for a mind created with an idea of only three dimensions.”
Even so, the Stockholm curator, Fredrik Liew made what Klee and Augeli were after appear extra complicated when he spoke of the “metamorphosis from object to immateriality” and “the great poetic and political potential” of the work.
The way this column sees Klee isn’t all that grand. His work is like a doodle or automatic writing. Most of his nine thousand paintings were not consciously controlled. He said it himself in his diary when he tagged his works “psychic improvisations.” But in the end his work speaks of everyday life.
“Scene in a Restaurant” is wild with excitable line that conveys the din of a public eatery. “Diane in the Autumn Wind” is made of a grid of crosshatch patches, like debris held up by the wind and a figure made of what resembles windswept pieces of paper. “Young Lady’s Adventures” is a free-form line that suggests a girl’s pert expression and pony tail. In “Death and Fire” a crude stick figure marches toward its end, face bleached white in the manner of a skull. “Red Balloon” shows the subject floating over a street of squares that suggest buildings. Made with only a few geometric shapes, Klee’s painting demonstrates his ability to present a child’s view in an adult world.
Klee made it clear in his writing that distorting reality is a way to reality: “The creation of a work of art must be accompanied by the distortion of natural form, for therein is nature reborn…We construct and construct,” he said of the creative process, “and yet intuition still has its uses. Without it we can do a lot, but not everything. One may work for a long time, do different things, many things, but not everything. When intuition is joined to exact research, it speeds the progress of exact research.”
When you hear talk like that, the “fourth dimension” doesn’t sound all that obscure, does it?