“Abstract art is more than decoration” is the subject of my article today as I have been discussing the same with other people recently. The subject came about with interior designers regarding wall art and wall decor for homes, corporate offices and hotels.
Those of us who appreciate art are often asked whether we like abstract art or not. There is a strange assumption that we should either love it all with a passion or hate it.
Many believe that they hate all abstract art because it is “weird” or “pretentious” and don’t stop to give it a chance. Those who appreciate abstract art would argue that there is something for everyone.
As an abstract artist, I could be biased toward abstract art. However, over the years I have seen a change in the perception of several people who saw my abstract paintings aided by simple brief explanations.
You simply have to look beyond the surface and stop thinking about aesthetic beauty. That isn’t what abstract art is about. Instead, you need to allow yourself time to feel and be a little more vulnerable to emotional connections.
It won’t happen with every piece, but occasionally you will find abstract art that can elicit a response you can’t explain and certainly didn’t expect.
Abstract Art Is More Than Aesthetic Beauty
Abstract art isn’t just there to look pretty on a wall. And, in my opinion, an abstract painting isn’t a piece of decoration on a wall. That is what commercial wall art and mass-produced images are for. You can get a fairly generic print of a landscape or some wildflowers, put it on a living room wall, an office wall or in a hotel bedroom and people will say that it looks nice. Then they will barely notice it again. It hangs there filling space. That is wall décor and that is not the case for abstract art.
Nice is too bland a word for effective and meaningful art. That is how many of us describe wall art and wall décor.
Abstract art makes us stop and stare for a while and brings out strong emotions with clever and often subtle use of colour and shape. There is as much said in the negative space and the juxtaposition of objects as there is any specific element.
Abstract Art Is Subjective And Personal
We may not all feel the same way looking at a piece of abstract art, and that is totally fine. Some may look at it and see aesthetic beauty on a more surface level while others feel something deeper. They see a sense of sadness or joy. They may feel something but are unable to explain it.
They feel an energy in the brushstrokes and composition that stirs something deep inside of them. Often there is simply a desire to keep looking and to feel without a clear understanding of what that response truly is or what it is about the painting that creates the response. The important thing is that we feel it.
As with all art, this is subjective and we can’t judge the experience of others or expect them to feel the same way. It is easy for a group of people to go into a room in a modern art gallery, find themselves drawn to very different pieces, and not be able to fully explain why. Or, there may be a deep and meaningful explanation that is personal and unexpected.
This often strikes a nerve or a memory on such an individual level that other people can’t fully appreciate it. Yet, there is something in the artist’s depictions and message on the canvas where they get it. Therefore, as a viewer, you feel more in tune with that artist and feel as though you connect with them on a deeper level.
This gives abstract art an even more emotional meaning than something a little more traditional. When there is a blatant subject in a landscape or a portrait, there is a clear interpretation we are meant to take away from it.
We can appreciate the talent behind the painting and recognise the image, but there may not be that deeper feeling. We may not be as likely to just stand, stare and feel. Yet, this happens all the time with abstract work from leading artists.
The Best Abstract Artists Know How To Bring Out An Emotional Response
With this idea of stopping and staring in mind, think about some of the greatest abstract artists exhibited across the world. For example, think of Mondrian.
To many, Mondrian is the artist that just painted blocks of colour in a grid with thick black lines. But there is so much more to the work than that.
It is all about the choice of colour and the deliberate placement of the blocks in relation to each other. We can stop, stare and feel without knowing why, and we will go back to the gallery to do it all again.
The same is true for other artists with a strong use of colour and shape in their work. Kandinsky being another prime example. Then there is the power in the work of Rothko.
The Rothko Room was a stunning concept in the Tate Modern Gallery in London. A series of his greatest pieces were exhibited in one room where viewers could sit and admire them together in all their glory.
There were clear guidelines set in place for the exhibition, where the work had to be seen under precise lighting conditions. The room was dim and calm and this allowed the tones of the predominantly black and red canvas to glow and leap out to those sitting opposite on the benches.
Sure, some people wouldn’t have understood and would have walked straight out of the room. But, many would sit and almost bathe in that reflected glow and the power of the paintings.
They would feel something beyond any aesthetic beauty in the artwork and lose track of time. This is where abstract art becomes more powerful than other forms.
The Power Of Colour
Another piece of modern art in the Tate Modern takes this idea of emotion and meaning in colour to another level. This one will divide opinion between those that just see a sheet of blue and those that become transfixed. IKB 79 by Yves Klein is one block of a tone of blue new to art at the time. There is no aesthetic beauty to this piece in the same way as something with a clear image. But, it challenges the viewer to see how they feel.
Blue in art is often cold and melancholy. It is easy to feel sad when looking at blue pieces, such as some of Picasso’s blue period pieces. Perhaps many people feel the same when looking at this giant sheet of blue. But, there is an odd warmth and energy to the tone where it isn’t blue as we know it. We can’t quite explain what it is that’s different or what we feel, but the piece still creates a response. If a single piece of blue canvas can do this, a more complex piece of abstract art with colourful shapes and design elements can go even further.
There is psychology in the use of colour that artists can use to express themselves and be understood by a wider audience. Reds are passionate and energizing. Greens are calming. Yellow is happy to some and hated by others. When artists are careful with their tones, the placement of colours together, and the brushmarks, those emotions begin to stir.
I began my long journey in art because of the emotional power of colour. Since I was a child, I have always been drawn by, not only the beauty of colours but more importantly the meanings behind every colour shade and value. Our favourite colours can say quite a lot about us.
Is Abstract Art Just Decorations?
The simple straightforward answer is no. It is important to make the distinction between abstract art and mass-produced wall art. You can find artists that will throw together something that they know will sell because it is simple and generic enough that people will think it is pretty.
It is a good way to make money when not working on something more creative or meaningful. But, these pretty 2D images don’t represent true abstract art. There is a huge difference between abstract art and mass-produced commercial art. The purpose of abstract art is completely different from the purpose of commercial art and decoration.
Simply put, abstract art is a statement in its own right.
Abstract art is three-dimensional, figuratively speaking. It challenges us to go deeper into the choices the artist makes and the way that the image makes us feel. The appeal isn’t about seeing something beautiful with traditional aesthetic appeal. It is about connecting with work and something inside ourselves at the same time.
Buy The Art That Makes You Feel Something Rather Than What Is “Pretty”
The deeper meanings and emotions behind abstract work don’t mean that we can’t hang it on our walls at home or in the office. The right piece of art can match the right space and strengthen the meaning and those feelings.
For example, if you find something that evokes feelings of calm or harmony, something that maybe brings up positive memories, you may enjoy having this on the wall in your living room or bedroom. That way, you can come and take advantage of the painting when you need a break from the world. Or, maybe you find something that is powerful and energising that you feel would be the perfect motivational tool for a home office.
Motivational posters with quotes and royalty-free photos only go so far. Abstract art is far more powerful.
The conflict in opinions about abstract art, and the negative connotations in buying it for the home or office, can put a lot of art lovers off. There is often the fear of justifying a love of a piece of work that is so hard to describe or that may be hated by others. But, it is important to remember that this is what makes abstract art so much more special than other traditional fine art forms.
If you see a piece and are drawn to it, it doesn’t matter whether anyone else likes it. There is a strong relationship forming therebetween the artist, artwork and viewer that can be very powerful. Go with it.
Take it from an abstract artist; abstract art is more than decoration and is more than aesthetic beauty. Sure, not everyone will like art and, most definitely, not everyone will like abstract art or abstract paintings. And that is absolutely fine.