Why Abstract Art?

Art is an experience, not an object

Robert Motherwell

Some people hate abstract art and will happily tell you that. Some will be kinder and say “Oh well I just don’t understand it

Actually even though it does  not offer the viewer a picture of something recognizable, an abstract work invites the  viewer to engage their own imagination and discover their own interpretation. In this way the abstract painting becomes more intriguing, mesmerizing, engaging, involving.  

Abstract art is more likely to allow the viewer, to discover something deep and intangible in themselves. 

Abstract art has been defined in a number of different ways but the central idea is about composition, form, lines, patterns, textures, colours, movement and emotion.  Also depth, dimension, and design.  It is a non-representational or unrealistic form of art but one that demands artistry and skill, nonetheless.

Some abstract art offers a different kind of representation. For example an abstract landscape allows the viewer to see the suggestion of a place, without attempting to define the viewers experience too closely.

Lake of Lost Dreams

It leaves room for the imagination of the viewer to see their own vista in the painting. Their mind assembles the areas of the picture into a memory.

The painter is skilled in creating a sense of depth and distance but at the same time might be focused more on creating the feeling of place. They might be focused on allowing the sense of the place in the painting to be a reflection of a human emotion, or a spiritual sense. This way the viewers response is part of the whole experience. This painting below is my expression of a place where it seemed, the entire world was green. As I gazed across the lake it struck me how monotone nature sometimes decides to be and how utterly beautiful that monotone can be, with only the hint of any other tint. A splash of orange. A squiggle of blue.

I didn’t want a lot of detail just the basic shapes of mountains and water with only a sharp gesture for a wharf in the corner. This painting is about this calm green scene captured in paint

At Lake of the Woods.

Non-objective abstract art makes no attempt to represent anything immediately recognizable and instead offers a visual experience that is exciting,  or soothing or evocative or stimulating.

The materials used in the painting and their particular character, rough smooth, glossy, shiny, transparent opaque, viscous, are sometimes an important part of the experience. The textures, the layers, and the behaviours of the materials are part of the idea you are experiencing.

I read a quote by the head of the Department of Neuroscience at Columbia University, Dr. Eric Kandel:

  “our neural circuitry is hardwired to prefer images we can identify, which makes abstract forms more difficult to process, at the same time, abstract forms leave the door open to interpretation, stimulating the higher-level areas of the brain responsible for creativity and imagination.”

I absolutely love that. “stimulating the higher level areas of the brain”

I think that is what happens to me when I am painting abstract art.

I guess you might say Abstract art offers your brain more of a work out.

One thing I know, when someone hangs a picture of recognizable scene or an object on their wall some folks are less likely to really look at the painting, because they have already identified what it is, and need no more direct experience with it. They don’t allow their their eyes to wander and discover the brushstrokes, the shapes, the shadows, and the feelings in the image.

Not true for every art lover but this idea reminds me of I something an art teacher said to our class “If you prefer representational art make sure you are looking at it in order to have the relationship with it that is possible over time. Don’t just hang it there to match your couch.


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