Introduction to Abstract Art


In simple terms, abstract art is an art form which does not attempt to accurately depict reality. For example abstract work are not figurative in the traditional sense and at a quick glance you would be unable to make out a full physical form, but rather an element that may represent the human body. Abstract artists often believe that now that we have medium that can actually capture reality such as a camera or video camera it is no longer necessary or interesting to do so through art. Instead abstract art focuses on emotion through the use of shapes, colours, forms and gestural marks.

The dictionary definition of the word abstract is to separate something from something else. This is closely followed in abstract works of art where paintings have a story or meaning behind them but they are not representational and the subject is often not rooted in the normal world. Picasso is an example of an artist who adheres to abstraction by having for example a human eye at one corner of the painting and a nose in the other. The effect of this means that the viewer can work roughly work out what the painting represents, but has to dig deeper into the artists own description of the work and pay particular attention to visual elements of the artwork to truly grasp the meaning within.

The mention of Picasso allows me to speak about the two different forms of abstraction that exist, reality based abstraction verses pure abstraction. The cubists and fauvists fall into the former bracket because they relied on the visual world for their subject matter. Pure abstraction is more extreme form and was pioneered by Mondrian and Malevich.

Many who practice abstract art or consume it go by the saying ‘art for art’s sake’ to explain why. This means that they believe arts purpose is to be enjoyed and to be about the creation of beautiful effect and visual aesthetics. Rather than that art has the responsibility to document or comment of society or capture people’s likeness or create a religious link between the illiterate and god, which is what was believed to be art purpose until the 1800s.

The opinion that the purest form of beauty is actually geometric shapes rather than human form actually goes back even further than that though, to Plato who pioneered this link of thought. In not representing the material world abstract can be seen to represent the spiritual world, and is therefore a more virtuous art form.

I want to quickly address a question I get asked a lot - how is my artistic style so muti cultural? - well, a great but admittedly more expensive way to really hone your own unique artistic style is to travel. I recently got back from a trip to India which just bawled me over. I wasn’t prepared for the things I experienced there and fell in love with the artisan culture and traditional Indian techniques (as well as the food of course)!