Thursday, October 26, 2006

When we paint and draw, we simplify objects to lines and shapes. Later, we make them look less flat by creating the illusion of form.

When we abstract something, we use lines, (like sticks, swirls, curves, and dots); shapes (like circles, triangles, and squares) and forms (sphere, cones, and cubes) to create an image of something unseen. Abstract paintings capture a sense, a feeling, an intent.


Some artists say that figurative art is more difficult for them to do because the artist is trying to make it look “right.” Other artists say abstract art is more difficult because the artist has nothing to look at to follow. (Not all figurative work is photo-realistic, and not all abstraction is without reference.) I think that they are equally difficult, or easy, depending on how you look at it.

I prefer the struggle involved in creating abstract art because I am eager to see what emerges, what this invisible thing looks like, and what I can learn about me and my beliefs as I work to create. In a way, abstract art helps me to see more clearly what I think of something.

When others view abstraction, the most common response is to try and see Something Recognizable. We might hear, “is that a nose?” or “I think I see a face there, no, well, part of one.” We do like to see the human form. Whenever we look we are matching curves and lines to our interests. But abstract art only works like that in small measure. Too much trying to “see something”, and you’ll give up in frustration (try a Pollack). The easier way to view abstract art is to soften your focus from the details for a moment and get the emotional gist of the piece. Does it remind you of anything? What does it move you toward or away from? What draws you in, and why?

So, words other than “nose” and “face” now apply. Even “I see ____” doesn’t really work on a literal level. With abstract art, it makes sense to say “I feel, I like...” and “this is uncomfortable, it feels like...” or “I just want to stay here, it gives me a sense of...” If we use “I see” in reference to abstract art, it makes the most sense meaning “I understand.”