Connect to the Viewer Emotionally

Wassily Kandinsky was a pioneer abstract artist as well as an important aesthetic theorist.  In his treatise, Über das Geistige in der Kunst (On the Spiritual in Art), he outlined a discussion of art and the relationship of the artist, artwork and the viewer.

A work of art consists of two elements, the inner, and the outer.  The inner is the emotion in the soul of the artist; this emotion has the capacity to evoke a similar emotion in the observer. . . .Emotions are aroused and stirred by what is sensed. . . . .And again what is sensed is the bridge from the material [ the artist and his work] to the immaterial [the emotion of the soul of the observer]. . . . The inner element – i.e., emotion – must exist;  Otherwise the work of art is a sham.
— Wassily Kandinsky

Artists reflect and reach into themselves to create their art.  Once a painting is created, the art takes on a separate meaning as it connects emotionally with the viewer.  The viewer reflects on his or her own experience as he or she forms a separate emotional connection to the art – which may be similar to or completely different from what the artist intended.  Effective art engages the viewer and connects with him or her.  If the artist does not have an emotional connection with the concept, then there generally will not be an emotional connection to the viewer – in Kandinsky’s words, “the work of art is a sham”.

Artists know that by connecting emotionally with the viewer, they increase the probability that they will create a lasting and memorable impression on the viewer.  Otherwise, their work is in the category of the proverbial sofa painting – the painting that the viewer selects because if goes over the sofa and works well with the colors.  As far as the viewer is concerned, that piece might as well be a print or a poster.  Because the viewer places no more value on the work than a reproduction or a piece of decor, it makes no lasting impression.  In addition, once installed, that work is ignored or forgotten, because it isn’t important and it doesn’t mean anything for the viewer.

Alternatively, if the artwork triggers to some emotionally charged memory in the viewer, he will connect with it again and again.  He is repeatedly transported back to that connection, and, more importantly, seeks out the piece art to renew it. The artist may have no concept of what that memory is.  The viewer has taken the work of art, the emotion that the artist is communicating, and layered on his own interpretation to create his own connection with the work.