The Wick - Winter Landscape, Wassily Kandinsky, 1909

Discover Winter Landscape, Wassily Kandinsky, 1909

As our patience with winter begins to wane, we’re turning to Wassily Kandinsky to see the season in a glorious new light. The Russian theorist and “father of abstract art”, as he is often dubbed, painted this colourful vision in 1909, during the early part of his journey towards abstraction and two years before his Blue Rider Period, when his work became even more colour saturated and free. “Colour provokes a psychic vibration,” the artist once said. “Colour hides a power still unknown but real, which acts on every part of the human body.” This soul-stirring scene is a case in point, with the vivid tones of the setting sun bouncing light across the snow and bringing the scene to life. Tall, slim trees – a Kandinsky hallmark – line a path up to an inviting house.

With its bold colours and spontaneous, expressive application of paint, this work is a vibrant example of the style that Kandinsky would so famously develop over the years that followed and that would make an indelible mark on the history of Western art. The painting is currently holed up inside the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg, so this digital image is probably the closest you will come to it for many years, but it’ll make you want to embrace the winter chill nonetheless.
The Wick - Black Burns, 2017. Douglas Gordon

Discover Black Burns by Douglas Gordon

With Burns Night – the annual celebration of the life of Robert Burns – approaching this Thursday, we’re looking back to artist Douglas Gordon’s more nuanced homage to the giant of Scottish literature: Black Burns, shown at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in 2017. Gordon made a shattered counterpoint to the white marble statue of the poet by John Flaxman that stands proud in the Great Hall. Carved out of black marble from the same quarry, this broken double lay in ruins on the gallery floor.

The Glasgow-born artist often makes artworks by a process of destruction and is as unafraid to break down his idols as he is to laud them. Black Burns is an anti-monument that finds poignancy in the aspects of the poet’s life that Flaxman’s statue ignores – the poet’s womanising, drinking and the fact he was once so desperate for money that he booked passage to Jamaica with the goal of becoming a bookkeeper on a slave plantation (though the sudden success of his poetry meant the trip never happened). But Gordon was quick to point out at the time that he wasn’t seeking to disrespect the man who later wrote abolitionist poem The Slave’s Lament or to destroy his image, rather to open him up – to humanise a figure who has been cast in stone and placed out of reach.
The Wick - Discover The Snow Art of Simon Beck

Discover The Snow Art of Simon Beck

As a cold snap bites the UK and the first snowflakes fall in 2024, we’re looking to the ephemeral land art of former London engineer Simon Beck. Based partly in the French Alps, Beck makes vast stretches of untouched snow his canvas, creating giant geometric patterns in the powder with nothing but his footsteps and some simple maths.

The professional cartographer creates maps to plan his designs, with one millimetre representing one step on the ground. Then he dons his snowshoes and takes to the outdoors, carefully plodding for up to 12 hours a day. One of his largest works – a four-leaf clover on a frozen reservoir in France – was the size of six soccer fields and took him 32 hours across four days to complete. All it takes to wipe his work away is a short snow shower, heavy gale or a rogue skier but that’s all part of its beauty. Each piece is a delicate balance between the geometric and the organic.
The Wick - Alexandra Kehayoglou, No Longer Creek. Courtesy of the artist, Artsy & The National Gallery of Victoria

Discover No Longer Creek by Alexandra Kehayoglou

Let’s make 2024 the year we begin to live more in balance with nature. With that in mind, we’re looking to the work of Argentinian artist Alexandra Kehayoglou, whose vast, hand-tufted textile works – made from surplus materials – depict natural landscapes that are under threat or reimagine areas that have been desecrated by humans, giving them new life.

North of Buenos Aires is a river called Raggio creek, whose biodiversity has been stripped and topography transfigured. In her giant carpet No Longer Creek, she restores it to its pre-human state, rewilding its banks and watery depths. When she exhibits the work – first shown at Design Miami/Basel in 2016 – she invites visitors to step onto the carpet and lie down on the soft wool, experiencing an environment in which their activities leave no trace. It’s something to strive for in the coming year.
The Wick - Dream When the Sky Blooms with Sakura by Cai Guo-Qiang

Dream When the Sky Blooms with Sakura by Cai Guo-Qiang

In need of some inspiration for your festive firework display? Look to Chinese contemporary artist Cai Guo-Qiang, who uses gunpowder as a tool to create floating paintings in the sky. In June this year, the Yotsukura Beach in Iwaki City, Japan, was the stage for When the Sky Blooms with Sakura, his 30-minute, daytime installation featuring 40,000 choreographed firework shells between the sea and the sky.

Made with support of Saint Laurent, the 400 metre-wide artwork represented his belief in reawakening dreams of hope for the region, which has suffered from the effects of an atomic bomb, the tsunami and a recent earthquake. Blue and black waves gave a nod to the pain of the past, while blooming clouds of iridescent colours suggested a brighter future.

“Through the sakura in the sky, I was expressing the story of the friendship between the people of Iwaki and me, which transcends politics and history, and I hope that the artwork will inspire the world with faith and hope,” said the artist, who lived in the Japan for many years. The Wick is resharing it on New Year’s Eve to spread hope and joy in 2024. We wish a happy New Year to all!
The Wick - Henri Matisse. Maquette for Nuit de Noël. 1952

Discover Maquette for Nuit de Noël, by Henri Matisse

To mark the festive season in 1952, the Time Life Company commissioned Henri Matisse to create a stained-glass window for the celebrations at the Rockefeller Center. The artist made a maquette of cut-and-pasted paper for the work, in which a constellation of stars appears in the sky over a landscape of organic shapes. The Nuit de Noël (or ‘Christmas Eve’) artwork was handed over to the stained-glass craftsman who had made the windows at Matisse’s Chapelle du Rosaire in Vence. Many months later, the nearly 11 ft-high window was completed and sent to the Rockefeller Center in time for Christmas Eve.

Matisse described the maquette and the window as “like a musical score and its performance by an orchestra”. The soul stirring duo are now in the collection of MoMA New York and were exhibited in Tate Modern’s show, Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs in 2013, with the maquette even starring on then Tate director Nicholas Serota’s Christmas card that year. “Nuit de Noel is an astonishing creation celebrating the ‘joy of life’ by an artist in his eighties,” he said.
The Wick - Our glacial perspectives, 2020. 
South Tyrol. Photo: Studio Olafur Eliasson

Discover Our Glacial Perspective by Olafur Eliasson

Exactly eight years after the ink dried on the draft of the landmark Paris Climate Agreement at COP21 – and with the outcome of COP28 still hanging in the balance – it seems an apt moment to contemplate our place on the planet, with a little help from Olafur Eliasson. In 2020, the Danish-Icelandic artist perched a huge optical device atop the Hochjochferner glacier in South Tyrol, Italy, to encourage people to see man-made climate change from wider “planetary and glacial perspectives”. The permanent installation was designed to resemble an oversized armillary sphere – an ancient astronomical instrument made of concentric brass rings arranged into a globe to represent the movement of celestial bodies around the earth. To reach it, visitors must hike up the mountain, passing through metal archways representing a different ice age in Earth’s history.

Eliasson designed the sphere to make the abstract idea of climate change tangible in a region directly affected by it. As global superpowers continue to spew emissions and temperatures keep rising, the need for increased action is urgent. Governments must do more, but we all have a role to play, as Eliason’s work suggests. A bit of humility from humanity wouldn’t go amiss.
The Wick - Discover Yinka Shonibare, Hibiscus Rising

Discover Yinka Shonibare, Hibiscus Rising

A 10m-tall hibiscus flower has bloomed in the heart of Leeds, its vibrant petals bringing a splash of colour to the dark, redbrick surrounds. This giant bloom – unveiled last week as part of the city's year of culture, Leeds 2023 – is the vision of artist Yinka Shonibare. Adorned with African-inspired batiq patterns, its petals appear to flap in the breeze.

The sculpture celebrates the cultural diversity of a city that was the birthplace of Europe’s oldest Caribbean carnival, while also acknowledging a dark chapter in Leeds’ history. It was commissioned in memory of David Oluwale, a British Nigerian and a local resident, who drowned in the River Aire in 1969, after being systematically harassed by members of the Leeds City police force. His story has left a mark on the city he came to from Nigeria to find a better life.

Rather than look back with sadness, Shonibare wanted Hibiscus Rising to be a symbol of hope, “an everyday reminder of our desire to improve the lives of all and a place for people to come together,” as he put it. The sculpture is also a riposte to the feats of white men commemorated in other parts of the city.
The Wick - Discover Roy Lichtenstein, Paper Shopping Bag

Discover Roy Lichtenstein, Paper Shopping Bag

Here’s one for our American friends celebrating Thanksgiving this week: a delectable turkey, dished up by the American pop artist Roy Lichtenstein. The original 1961 version was inspired by an advertisement for turkeys in a newspaper. Three years later, Lichtenstein worked with screen printers to reproduce it on a series of shopping bags for the exhibition American Supermarket at New York’s Bianchini Gallery, which highlighted the differences and similarities between the actual consumer objects and pop artists’ depictions of them. Warhol was among them, of course.

The exhibition was designed to resemble a supermarket, with a check-out counter, aisles and shelves, stocked with real and plastic food items, displayed alongside the artworks. To blur the lines between art and commerce, the works were sold at cheap prices, with Lichtenstein’s bags selling for just $12. They now fetch around $2000 at auction.