When speaking of abstraction in art, what most often comes to mind is the idea of visual language reduced to its core aesthetic elements, of a focus on “form” for its own sake, without the encumbrance of a narrative located beyond the canvas. This is by large true. But the lack of a narrative does not necessarily mean the absence of a message. The great pioneers of abstraction of the early 20th century were enthralled by philosophical and mystical concerns. Theosophy, which sees creation as expanding geometrically from a single point, was a paramount reference to artists such as Kandinsky, Mondrian, and Malevitch. Kandinsky, in a little book he published in 1910, “The Spiritual in Art”, (“Das Geistige in der Kunst”) proclaimed the object of his art to be the spiritual. Malevitch and Mondrian saw their geometric abstraction as the expression of cosmic dualities. Abstraction, to those artists, was the visual formulation of a spiritual quest.
It is in this same vein that Peter Dittmar’s exhibition: PETER DITTMAR –“COLOUR WINDOWS” should be apprehended. Although the core of his inspiration is not Theosophy proper, but Theosophy's principal source: Hindu-Buddhist cosmology, with which the artist came into contact in the 1970s. Dittmar went to India for spiritual quest, being part of the current of Eastern ideas then entering the minds of Western youth in revolt, to give a lasting oriental turn to their spiritual quests.
The simplicity Peter Dittmar achieves here is more complex than it appears. It sums up – and hides – an encyclopedic accumulation of knowledge and spiritual endeavor that places the artist in league, as their student, with not only the great abstract painters mentioned above, but also Schopenhauer, the Bauhaus theoreticians, Zen Buddhist masters, Hindu-Buddhist cosmologists, and many others. His simplicity is an achieved form of learning and meditation.
Peter Dittmar, a respected artist in his country of origin, Germany, and in Australia as well as in Bali, where he spends half of his time since 1982, shows us that abstraction is indeed alive and well. Nourished by the sources of both Eastern cosmic philosophy and Western knowledge, he enables one to forget both form and colour as we behold, giving us the chance blending ourselves into the Void and Stillness of the cosmic OM.