Updated: May 4
Of all the genres and styles of art, I must admit to being the most confused by abstract art. Sometimes, I really am at a loss to see the difference between abstract artwork hanging on a gallery wall and that of a scrawling created by my daughter back in her kindergarten days (and a few of those do still hang, framed upon my walls).
So, is it all just in the eye of the beholder or something we can learn to understand and appreciate? Like many things in life, perhaps knowledge is the key.
Abstract Art is artwork without a recognisable subject and one that does not relate to something external or even try to look like something particular. In fairly basic terms, abstract art is where the colour, the form and often even the materials themselves are the subject of the painting. Abstract art is totally non-objective and non-representational.
Visit the Tate Gallery page about Abstract Art.
Artworks of an abstract nature can be either geometric or fluid, with apparent spontaneity which misrepresents the actual careful execution and planning of the creation process. Also a part of the abstract genre is figurative abstractions, the representation through art of things that are not visual such as emotions, feelings, experiences and sounds. Details are eliminated leaving only an essence or just part of the recognisable form.
In the early 19th Century, Impressionism, Fauvism and Cubism broke with the tradition that art needed to ‘represent something’ opening the door for abstract art to evolve. These earlier styles led to the embracement of the idea that the colour, lines, forms and textures could in fact be the subject rather than just part of the artwork.
The popularity of abstract was apparent in the 1940s with action painting coming to the fore. Action abstract painting saw paint being dripped, smeared, thrown and spattered to create the work of art. This style was the cohesion of abstract and expressionism; abstract expressionism.
‘Of all the arts, abstract painting is the most difficult. It demands that you know how to draw well, that you have a heightened sensitivity for composition and for colours and that you be a true poet. This last is essential’ – Wassily Kandinsky.
THE INFLUENCE OF MUSIC IN HIS ART: WASSILY KANDINSKY, IMPROVISATION 28 (SECOND VERSION) (IMPROVISATION 28 [ZWEITE FASSUNG]), 1912. OIL ON CANVAS, 111.4 X 162.1 CM. SOLOMON R. GUGGENHEIM MUSEUM, NEW YORK SOLOMON R. GUGGENHEIM FOUNDING COLLECTION, BY GIFT 37.239. © 2015 ARTISTS RIGHTS SOCIETY (ARS), NEW YORK/ADAGP, PARIS
JACKSON POLLOCK: The Key belongs to Jackson Pollock’s Accabonac Creek series. It was named for a stream near the East Hampton property that he and his wife, the painter Lee Krasner, purchased in late 1945. Visit here to learn more about Kandinsky and The Key.
This is one of Kandinsky’s famous quotations: “Colour is the keyboard, the eyes are the hammers, the soul is the piano with many strings. The artist is the hand which plays, touching one key or another, to cause vibrations in the soul.”
Read more about other styles of art at the Art Matters blog or Contact Ellen Michel if you’re ready to give abstract a try for yourself. By enrolling in the Ellen Michel Art School you will receive expert tutoring and direction.
More about Jackson Pollock here.