November 2023

Finding Inspiration in Kandinsky:
The Art of Design Engineering

 David Karamian
Introduction by Lissa Tyler Renaud

Introduction
Over the years, I've come across references to Kandinsky in unexpected fields: medicine, psychology, physics, astronomy, and more. It has always intrigued me that Kandinsky's work had such impact beyond the arts, and in areas I know little about. So this charming comment on social media caught my eye and made me think:

"Before I could afford a professionally painted piece of art, I had a very large Kandinsky print on my dining room wall. He was my most favorite artist for a few decades. I could relate to his art because I was a design engineer and his art was all about shapes and engineered like drawings."

This comment was made by the exceptional David Karamian, engineer-artist, and artist-engineer. I asked him to expand his remark for this series—to challenge us and help us see a Kandinsky painting through his eyes. He is this month's Guest Writer, and what follows is his thoughtful and stimulating response.

Lissa Tyler Renaud
Founding Editor, "Kandinsky Anew" Series
Oakland, California


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Finding Inspiration in Kandinsky: The Art of Design Engineering

 David Karamian

In the world of creativity, unexpected turns often lead to the most profound discoveries. My own artistic journey began in an unlikely place—design engineering. Growing up, I was always inspired by art, avant-garde jazz, and contemporary music. My heart longed for an education in the arts, but life had other plans, guiding me towards a career in engineering. Little did I know that this path would eventually lead me to a captivating world where art and design intersected, all thanks to a fateful encounter with the works of Wassily Kandinsky.

Before discovering Kandinsky, I felt as if something was missing in my journey as an engineer. My designs were precise and functional, but they lacked a certain depth, a dimension that could elevate them beyond mere practicality. That dimension was color!

Kandinsky's Violet Green, 1926
Engineering Tools: This painting, resembling a canvas of engineering tools, ignited my inspiration to design my products with precision and creativity.

In Kandinsky's world, color was not just a visual element; it was a
language, a means of expressing emotions, and a tool for storytelling.
His ability to translate music into vibrant hues spoke to me on a profound level. It was as if a new world had opened in front of my eyes—a world where color danced with form and function.

Kandinsky believed in the intrinsic connection between art and music, where each brushstroke resonated with the harmonies of a grand composition. This revelation was transformative for me as an engineer. It made me see that design engineering, too, could be an art form, where color could breathe life into functionality.

Kandinsky's Several Circles, 1926
Springs on a Progressive Die: I envisioned the springs in a progressive die
dancing to the rhythm of music and color.

Music became the thread that wove through every aspect of my creative journey. I began to design with art in my heart and the melodies of classical compositions in my ears. This infusion of creativity allowed me to see engineering challenges from a different angle. No longer confined by the boundaries of conventional thinking, I started to envision innovative and aesthetically pleasing solutions, now richly colored by Kandinsky's influence.

My engineering designs began to reflect this newfound inspiration. They embraced organic and structured shapes, elegant yet functional aesthetics, and a keen awareness of the interplay between form, function, and color. I understood that the principles I had gleaned from great modern and abstract artists could be applied to engineering, creating products that were not only efficient but also visually captivating.

Kandinsky's Abstract Interpretation, 1925
Design Study for Special Equipment : my Design Motion Study creations for special equipment closely resemble this painting, a vivid tapestry of color.

 

Kandinsky's 1929 painting, Certainly, perfectly captures
the essence of motion study in various engineering product designs.

 

This shift in perspective didn't just make me a better engineer; it made me a more creative one. I found that I could draw inspiration from art, music, and engineering to push the boundaries of what was possible in my field. It wasn't just about solving problems; it was about crafting solutions that were works of art in their own right.

But my artistic journey didn't stop at engineering. It propelled me to explore other creative avenues that drew from the same design principles. Photography became a passion, a medium through which I could capture the interplay of organic and structured shapes in architecture and the world around me. My camera lens became a tool for translating the principles of design into visual stories.

The architecture, in particular, drew me in—the kind that mirrored engineering's precision and art's elegance. I found myself captivated by buildings that were not just structures but artistic statements. I saw beauty in the balance of form, function, and color, in the way buildings could harmonize with their surroundings and evoke emotions.

Kandinsky's 1925 Black Triangle
Study for Robot Design: this painting masterfully embodies engineering principles
(Form, Fit, and Function).

In the realm of innovation, the most successful product companies are those that understand the value of creativity in engineering. They grasp the idea that precision, imagination, color, and music are not mutually exclusive but can harmoniously coexist. It's a philosophy that elevates products from mere functionality to objects of desire, from engineering marvels to artistic
expressions.

My journey is a testament to this vision, a testament to the enduring power of creativity to shape our world. Kandinsky's influence on my engineering creativity is a reminder that the boundaries between art, science, and music are porous, and innovation thrives in the fertile ground between them. As I continue to design with art in my heart, the echoes of Kandinsky's paintings in my mind, and the melodies of classical compositions in my soul, I bridge the gap between two seemingly disparate worlds, creating a symphony of engineering and artistry that resonates with the spirit of the Bauhaus and the visionaries who believe in the transformative power of creativity. It's a journey of endless discovery, where art, engineering, photography, architecture, color, and music come together to create a harmonious symphony of design and inspiration, a symphony that celebrates the multifaceted nature of creativity in every aspect of our lives.

Now, having fully transitioned into the world of art, I immerse myself in painting, photography, sculpture, and a deep appreciation of nature. This transition has allowed me to explore the depths of creativity in its purest form. It's a world where every stroke of the brush, every click of the camera, and every interaction with the natural world is an artistic expression—a testament to the power of creativity to shape our lives and our surroundings.

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David Karamian, Guest Writer
David Karamian holds a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering and a Master of Science in Administration (MSA) in International Studies. With a 30-year career specializing in design systems and application optimization, he has made significant contributions while working for and consulting with five of the Fortune 10 companies. David is also the visionary behind tech startups Siamanto and PACE. Currently, he serves as the Founder and CEO of NorArtGallery Publishing, and his 2022 coffee table book, Armenia - The Lone Stone, reflects his creative passion for history, photography, art, and poetry. An accomplished photographer and painter, he is a regular contributor to Black and White Photography Magazine.
 

Curator, writer and editor, Kandinsky Anew Series
Lissa Tyler Renaud MFA Directing, PhD Dramatic Art with Art History (thesis on Kandinsky's theatre), summa cum laude, UC Berkeley (1987). Lifelong actress, director. Founder, Oakland-based Actors' Training Project (1985- ) for training inspired by Kandinsky's teachings. Book publications: The Politics of American Actor Training (Routledge); an invited chapter in the Routledge Companion to Stanislavsky, and ed. Selected Plays of Stan Lai (U. Michigan Press, 3 vols.). She has taught, lectured and published widely on Kandinsky, acting, dramatic theory and the early European avant-garde, throughout the U.S., and since 2004, at major theatre institutions of Asia, and in England, Mexico, Russia and Sweden.
She is a senior writer for Scene4
For her other commentary and articles, check the Archives.

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©2023 Lissa Tyler Renaud
©2023 Publication Scene4 Magazine

 

 

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