The relationship between creativity and madness?

Point of exploration

I am going to explore boundaries between creativity, eccentricity effect and madness . What do we expect from ourselves and others and define as “normal”? What does sane and insane actually means? What are the main factors influence the process of making a work of art? How far could someone go in order to accomplish creative ideas? All of these questions I am going to explore.

Through out this project I will get as far as possible from my interior and spatial design area and explore different art fields. I will try to experiment with many materials I have never worked with before.

I am going to document all my findings in the blog and make a record of some notes.

Ladbroke Grove visit

Today I’ve visited Ladbroke Grove and Portobello Market in order to find inspiration and do further research. Based on some things I have explored as a secondary research about theosophy I have decided to focus on old things that considered to be vintage. As theosophy is a mystical and occultist philosophies,which studies mysteries of life. I thought that it would be helpful to go there and explore some of the vintage shops. Portobello road market is full of shops that sell vintage clothing, accessories, bags and home items. The point of exploring these things is that lots of people believe that some of the vintage items could still have energy from the previous user/owner. I went to those shops and spoken with some of people who are fond of vintage things. One lady told me that its really  fascinating the way she finds and choses things in her house. She collects glasses and textiles which been previously used in old British houses. She also told me that she occasionally visits vintage exhibitions and finds it interesting to source new objects all the time. She said that she likes items with history, thats the main reason she enjoys vintage.


Dali / Duchamp exhibition

Marcel Duchamp and Salvador Dali are two of the most influential artists of the twentieth century. I have decided to visit this exhibition as both Dali and Duchamp insisted on the importance of individual and they developed the idea of identities. Even thought they had really a different public performance, they still united in the beed of creating their unique identities.


“I have forced myself to contradict myself in order to avoid conforming to my own taste.”- Marcel Duchamp


The Spiritual in Abstract Art

There was a strong sense of a spirituality in many of the early abstract paintings. I was really impressed when I’ve found out how many world famous artists, who made history of the abstract art, were actually keep on spiritual studies and explored ways by which people could be effected. This carried on into the abstract expressionism movement.

I have been extremely interested in this connection. In my opinion, by reading critical reviews on abstract art and looking at the reasons for a specific ideologies in paintings could illustrate me the richer picture and give me much better understanding.

“When religion, science and morality are shaken (the last by the strong hand of Nietzche) and when outer supports threaten to fall, man withdraws his gaze from externals and turns it inwards. Literature, music and art are the most sensitive spheres in which this spiritual revolution makes itself felt. They reflect the dark picture of the present time and show the importance of what was at first only a little point of light noticed by the few. Perhaps they even grow dark in their turn, but they turn away from the soulless life of the present toward those substances and ideas that give free scope to the non-material strivings of the soul. (Concerning the Spiritual in Art, p. 33)”

The most impressive artists of the time for me are Barnett Newman and Mark Rothko. Newman was an American painter, sculptor, printmaker, and writer who worked at the same time as Rothko. Like Rothko, he lived in New York and painted large, color-saturated canvases.

Newman and Rothko had a strong sense of the spiritual purpose of their work. This spirituality was not synonymous with the traditional beliefs of the church. It is clear that theosophy and mysticism had a very strong influence of these artists.

  Barnett Newman

Barnett Newman 1905-1970

Canto II 1963-4 Barnett Newman 1905-1970 Presented by Mrs Annalee Newman, the artist’s widow 1972

  Mark Rothko

Green On Blue, 1956

“Theosophy is a collection of mystical and occultist philosophies concerning, or seeking direct knowledge of the presumed mysteries of life and nature, particularly of the nature of divinity and the origin and purpose of the universe.”

“Mysticism is popularly known as becoming one with God or the Absolute, but may refer to any kind of ecstasy or altered state of consciousness which is given a religious or spiritual meaning.”

Swedish artist Hilma af Klint was making abstract paintings in 1906. “Her abstract works were not shown until twenty years after her death, as stipulated in her will. She did not believe her contemporaries were ready to appreciate their full meaning… Klint considered herself a medium, holding séances and claiming that her paintings came from communications with a higher form of consciousness.”



Theosophy and art

Origins of Abstract Art.

The origins of abstract art known to come from the time when people started to question spirituality and evolution of the soul. This mostly comes with  the term theosophy.

“Theosophy is a collection of mystical and occultist philosophies concerning, or seeking direct knowledge of the presumed mysteries of life and nature, particularly of the nature of divinity and the origin and purpose of the universe.”

There are some of my notes from documentary based on theosophy of the 17th century and influences in art.

Spirituality in abstract art began around 1890 and ran in parallel with a growing interest in mysticism and the occult. Many artists were becoming intrigued with spiritual writings. Many of them been inspired from the work by Madame Blavatsky “The Secret Doctrine”.

But it was Theosophy that had the most profound effect on the emergence of modern abstract art and specifically on the founding fathers of the movement, Wassily Kandinsky, Frantisek Kupka, Piet Mondrian, and Kazimer Malevich.

Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944)

“Kandinsky was Theosophical in his view of history as a cyclical process, in which everything is evolving toward greater consciousness. During that process, he wrote, some human beings have developed “a deep and powerful prophetic strength” and “a secret power of vision” (that is, clairvoyance); they have become advanced souls or Masters, who point the way to others.”


Kandinsky, Wassily. Concerning the Spiritual in Art. Trans. M. T. H. Sadler. New York: Dover, 1977. Reprint of the first English translation, 1914.

Motherwell, Robert, ed. Concerning the Spiritual in Art. New York: Wittenborn, Schultz, 1947. Revision of the first English translation with changes supplied by Wassily’s wife, Nina Kandinsky.

Ringbom, Sixten. “Art in ‘The Epoch of the Great Spiritual’: Occult Elements in the Early Theory of Abstract Painting.” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 29 (1966): 386–418.

Piet Mondrian

“I am always driven to the spiritual,” Mondrian stated. “Through Theosophy I became aware that art could provide a transition to the finer regions, which I will call the spiritual realm.”


I find it really interesting how artists take completely different approach and choose diverse style of working. Currently I a have a fine art space myself and it is extremely interesting to see how artists work. Some are really annoyed by the noise (even music) and don’t really like to be asked anything which working. Others enjoy community and talking about their upcoming work. Artist’s studio is a very intimate space in my opinion. Even it is an open space or a shared studio it is still a place of creation and deep emotions and thoughts. I find it fascinating to see how painters set their space up for work and how they find ideas and inspiration in other types of art, like a ballet or literature, music and even cookery.

In the library I have found a documentary about Frank Auerbach, who is a German-British painter. He was born in Germany, he has been a naturalised British citizen since 1947. It is known that there are a specific people visiting the painter for a really long time and pose for his portraits. I have found out that some of them been posing at specific times of the week for about 20 years. This is one of the most fascinating examples I have found. I think that it shows how energy of the painter and his approach towards work interest people around him. He asked them if they were reliable people and they been along his side helping him producing art for such a long time!


The artist lives alone at Camden studio in London and works all year long with absolutely no days off!! I think it is an absolutely incredible example of artist being “in the zone”. I came across this term while reading the article about “creative process in the world of creative people”.

“Being in the zone implies increased focus and attention which allow for higher levels of performance…”




My final piece can’t be a very well planned work, as it would be an experiment. I really want it to be very expressive piece. Looking at it a viewer would get a sence of music and my personal interpretation of it.

Here is some of the pages from my everyday journal. I kept it with me at all the times in order to document everyday findings about the studio and different artist styles.

Rubbings and textures from the studio experiments

Shiny surfaces with acrylic paints Reading lyrics from Russian songs and looking at the palette for the final piece.

Some lines from the songs I listen to always makes me think about colours and how they could be used as a combination. I have always been fascinated how deep colour could effect our mood.

Arrangement of lines and movement through the piece. Trying to find the best rhythm.

Developing final piece arrangement f the lines and canvas planning.

Here is a quick mind map from the sketchbook. As I was a little bit concerned with the flow of my project and I couldn’t record everything step by step (I think this was caused by my constant switch from abstract art research to spirituality in modern art and music influences research) I helped myself with writing all thoughts in the right order. By putting key points from my research on paper I have decided to make a one piece painting which would be expressive outcome from my experiment.


I have decided to experiment with the theme of spirituality through the paint. I have rayed to reach a bit dusty mysterious effect here and make it look like a fog. I’ve worked with mixed media collage and acrylic with PVA glue.

I want to experiment with many fabrics and materials in order to reach the most out of the emotion of curiosity and spirituality. I would like the viewer to experience idea of looking inside personal feelings and beliefs.

Thinking about the scale

It is interesting how much success of the artwork really depends on the scale chosen by the artist. If it is really small it makes public to come closer, pay attention to details and concentrate on work. However, large scale could influence someones eye in a greater way. I believe that it gives a chance to the person to compare their own body to the artwork.

I went to the South London Gallery to see Katharina Gross’s exhibition. She is a German artist exploring how abstract art works in a three-dimensional field.

“They’re about expanding small experience,” she says. “By making something small really large, you slow the information and time down, like slow motion.”- Katharina Gross.

“Grosse believes that incorporating painting with its immediate environment forms a total system of light and color that painting in two dimensions neglects.”