ART HISTORY BRIEFING: ABSTRACT PAINTING
Abstract Art has struggled for years against the pervasive underlying refrain, “Should that even count as art?” Despite the persistent downplaying of its suitability to share lodgings with the works of Monet or Michelangelo, abstract art has consistently demonstrated its capacity to appeal to the imagination.
Unlike historical representational images which are considered art, abstract art does not attempt to give a realistic view of an image. Instead, it uses color, form, depth, and other visual cues to allow the viewer to create an individual creation out of an often seemingly random shapes. Even when the image is intended to convey a specific thing, it is not done in a realistic fashion – instead, it utilizes non-representational images, with focus on painting the underlying ‘essence’ of an object
By deliberately avoiding realistic representational features in their works, Abstract artists work less to create an image or scene as they perceive it, but instead to engage the viewer. A painting without a specifically rendered subject inspires the viewer interpret the shapes, colors or shadows of the piece to form images in the viewer’s own mind.
Because abstract art can take any form imaginable, the techniques used cover the gamut the breadth of the art world. Other art forms aside, there are a prestigious number of famous artists with every painting medium widely available around the world, as well as many that aren’t.
It has been noted that people can differentiate between good and bad artwork, and still not like it. Even so, most people can identify differences between abstract pieces created by artists, as compared to compositions created by children or novices. Colors will be harmonious or complementary and not contrast or clash – unless they’re supposed to. And when they do, it will be made an obvious feature. Brushstrokes may seem random or uneven, but will show expertise instead of hesitation in the strokes. The medium chosen will have been one that matched the image to the medium.
Arguably the earliest abstract paintings we have record of date to rock art in the Chauvet cave created 32,000 to 36,000 years ago. The multi-legged bison images convey the feeling of movement in the portrait, as perhaps the first-known animation. In more recent history, there was a surge of Abstract artists exiled from Europe who relocated to New York and flourished in the creative fugue they encountered. These early adopters were classically trained and mostly coming from fields and movements that strongly influenced the abstract art to come- Romanticism, Impressionism, and Expressionism.
Regardless of its skeptics, no one can argue convincingly that Abstract art hasn’t left an indelible mark on the world of art and how we appreciate it. Jackson Pollock and Pablo Picasso are still household names decades after their deaths, and most people could tell you Wassily Kandinsky was a painter, even if they couldn’t pick out one of his portraits.
While there exist a number of highly regarded and well displayed abstract paintings in galleries around the world, they are less instantly recognizable to most people. While to an artist the difference between Tableau I by Piet Mondrain and a geometrical bit of boredom in Microsoft Paint, the average person may have trouble. But as a genre, it remains one of the most instantly recognizable of any.
Unlike many art mediums that require years of practice and training in order to master the techniques and muscle memory involved in delivering pigment to a surface, creating art digitally is a field that favors the young. Young artists who have years of experience in operating mouse and keyboard, or more recently touch screens and readers, are quickly taking advantage of the recent increased interest in digital art. While artists depicting reality are still learning how to bring shape to their creations, some abstract artists already know how to use electronic media to perfectly display the image they wish to convey. Through the wonders of technology, there is a new generation of artists bringing to the world a new generation of art. And with some of it, people just might wonder why it is considered art at all.