Abstract Art

An Introduction

“Yar ye kya chuss hai

Ainwein do teen linain mar di hain

Kya fazool may mehngi cheez hai”

That is mostly our reaction whenever we see Abstract Art displayed on sale; before even trying to understand the hidden meaning and implications we judge things on a face note and stamp it as useless.

In simple words, Abstract art is art that does not attempt to represent an accurate depiction of a visual reality but instead use shapes, colours, forms and gestural marks to achieve its effect. Strictly speaking, the word abstract means to separate or withdraw something from something else. The term can be applied to art that is based on an object, figure or landscape, where forms have been simplified or schematized.

It is also applied to art that uses forms, such as geometric shapes or gestural marks, which have no source at all in an external visual reality. Some artists of this ‘pure’ abstraction have preferred terms such as concrete art or non-objective art, but in practice, the word abstract is used across the board and the distinction between the two is not always obvious.

Abstract art sometimes may seem illogical but that’s the beauty of it.

Abstract art is often seen as carrying a moral dimension, in that it can be seen to stand for virtues such as order, purity, simplicity, and spirituality.

The term “abstract art” is frequently being used, but many could not answer the question: What is abstract art? We will try to understand this gigantic artistic approach by offering definitions, briefly present the idea behind abstract art, and by explaining its main characteristics.

What is the Idea behind Abstract Art?

The basic premise of abstraction – incidentally, a key issue of aesthetics – is that the formal qualities of a painting (or sculpture) are just as important (if not more so) than its representational qualities.

Let’s start with a very simple illustration. A picture may contain a terrible drawing of a man, but if its colours are very beautiful, it may nevertheless strike us as being a beautiful picture. This shows how a formal quality (colour) can override a representational one (drawing).On the other hand, a photorealist painting of a terraced house may demonstrate exquisite representationalism, but the subject matter, colour scheme and general composition may be totally boring.

The philosophical justification for appreciating the value of a work of art’s formal qualities stems from Plato’s statement that:

Straight lines and circles are… not only beautiful… but eternally and absolutely beautiful ~  Plato

In essence, Plato means that non-naturalistic images (circles, squares, triangles and so on) possess an absolute, unchanging beauty. Thus a painting can be appreciated for its line and colour alone – it doesn’t need to depict a natural object or scene.

Remember that a picture – before being a war horse or a nude woman… is essentially a flat surface covered with colours assembled in a certain order ~  Maurice Denis

Some abstract artists explain themselves by saying that they want to create the visual equivalent of a piece of music, which can be appreciated purely for itself, without having to ask the question “what is this painting of?”

Abstract art has no basic format.

What is Abstract Art?

There are a number of definitions of abstract art. The real question is it really possible to have one, coherent definition that would include all complexities of this movement. But, we could say that abstractionists use a visual language of shape, form, colour and line to create a composition which may exist with a degree of independence from visual references in the world. Abstract art does not depict a person, place or thing in the natural world; or it does, but does not make any visual references. What is very important to mention when defining the abstract art is the fact that its creators do not deal with the representational interpretation of a subject. They only communicate with the viewers in an attempt to understand “reality”. All abstract artists share a common position – reality is subjective, and it’s up to a viewer to define it.

Abstract comes in all forms, shapes and sizes.

Characteristics of Abstract Art

The main feature of the abstract art is that it is a non-representational practice, meaning that art movements that embrace abstraction departures from accurate representation – this departure can be slight, partial, or complete. It depends on what art movement we are talking about. In geometric abstraction and lyrical abstraction, we can talk about total abstraction. Figurative art is characterized by partial abstraction. Even realistic art can have partial abstraction as well. But, all abstract arts makers use colour, memory and visual sensation to show that reality is subjective – and that is probably the most important feature of abstract art. This subjective approach in contemporary art coincides with similar approaches in social sciences, particularly in philosophy.

You may dislike abstract art, but you cannot ignore the fact that this type of art is an inevitable part of contemporary art. You cannot ignore the fact that, in many cases, different movements that are using abstract ideas are dominating contemporary art in whole. Just take a look at exhibitions, at art auctions, fairs – different forms of abstract art appear everywhere, and it’s impossible to follow contemporary art without respecting the important place abstract ideas have in today’s world of the arts.

We should keep in mind Abstraction, like poetry, does not dictate a clear narrative but rather, quietly offers a fragment, a piece of a mysteriously familiar narrative.


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“Abstraction allows man to see with his mind what he cannot see physically with his eyes ~  Arshile Gorky

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