Let’s explore the captivating art of non-representational art. It is a world of amazing art. As you delve deeper into the complexities of non-representational abstract artwork, you will discover a unique and beautiful type of expression that can open up a world of endless creative possibilities.
From the bold, bright colours of abstract expressionism to the soft, muted hues of minimalism, non-representational art offers a wide range of styles.
In this article, we will go together on a journey to learn a little more about the history and development of abstract painting and explore the techniques used to create stunning works of art.
And I hope you will gain a better insight into unique symbolism and meanings hidden in non-representational art.
You will be able to explore the deep meanings of the art of non-representational abstract paintings, unlocking some of the amazing beauty and mystery of this captivating form of expression.
Art has been a major part of my entire life since childhood. The beginning was landscapes and figurative watercolour paintings. Then developed into photography. But for the past several decades, non-representational abstract painting has been my true lifestyle.
It’s never easy to write about non-representational art. It’s never easy to create a non-representational abstract painting, either, even though I have been creating non-representational abstract paintings for several decades.
If you have read some of my other blog posts, you may have noticed that I use Georgia O’Keeffe’s quote over and over again:
“ I found I could say things with colour and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way – things I had no words for”.
It is probably the best quote from a great artist that fully but simply explains my non-representational abstract paintings.
In this article, I will accompany you on a journey to discover the following amazing topics about non-representational art.
Here we go. We will explore:
- What is non-representational art?
- What is non-representational art also known as?
- What is the difference between non-representational and representational art?
- Traditional abstract vs. non-representational
- The history of non-representational abstract paintings.
- How to appreciate non-representational art.
- Uncovering the meaning behind non-representational art.
- Embracing the beauty of non-representational art.
- Unlocking the creative power of non-representational art.
- Exploring the artistic techniques behind non-representational art.
- Taking a closer look at non-representational art.
Are you ready and willing to go deeper and explore the amazing world of the non-representational art world?
All you need is a simple open mind and I’m pretty certain you would enjoy this journey…
What is non-representational art?
Non-representational art definition is simple. It is the art that makes no representation of any real object from the world. Like all other art genres, non-representational art is an expression of the artist’s emotions, feelings, ideas, thoughts and a great deal of imagination.
It is similar to all other visual arts in the sense of using the basic elements of art, such as colour, shape and line to create a piece of artwork. However, there is a slight difference in the way non-representational art uses these elements. I will explain the difference further below.
What is non-representational art also known as?
Non-representational is also known as non-objective art. However, many abstract artists link non-objective art to abstract art that includes geometric abstraction shapes.
The best example to explain non-objective art is looking at Wassily Kandinsky’s “Composition VIII” (1923) painting. Kandinsky was one of the pioneers of non-objective art.
What is the difference between non-representational and representational art?
The main difference is in the way non-representational art uses the basic elements of art. It relies entirely on the same basic elements used in representational art, but without creating recognisable objects.
It creates shapes, forms and lines that appear totally unfamiliar as there is no depiction of the real world. There is nothing recognisable, except colours, in non-representational art.
Non-representational art is also a type of abstract art, but there is a slight difference between the two. I will explain more about the difference between traditional abstract and non-representational art in the section below.
If you want to know more about the meaning and definition of abstract art, have a look at this blog – What is Abstract Art?
Traditional abstract vs. non-representational art
Traditional abstract art, in my opinion, is kind of semi-representational, in a way. Abstract art uses recognisable objects or subjects from the real world around us but in a sort of distorted way.
As a viewer, you can still identify most of the objects of an abstract painting.
Abstract art takes away some of the main futures or structures of a real object. It keeps other features that will still represent a real but distorted object in an unrealistic and inaccurate representation.
There are many famous abstract artists, but one I would like to use to explain, loosely, traditional abstract art is Pablo Picasso (1881-1973). In his early years, Picasso painted representational art. Later, Picasso started to paint abstract.
His painting, “The Bull” (1945) is probably one of the best and simplest to explain abstraction art. He started with a completely realistic image of a bull and gradually took away some of the elements in subsequent drawings. The last drawing was just barely a mere representation of a bull image.
There is more to explain about abstract art, expressionism, impressionism, cubism, non-representational, non-objective, etc. I prefer to keep things simple in the interest of this article.
I have written about the difference between abstract and non-representation art in more detail in this blog – Painting Your Feelings.
In non-representational art, there are no objects depicted from the real world. In creating my non-representational abstract paintings, I use the emotional powers of colour primarily as one of the main elements in addition to other elements.
The language of colours is so fascinating.
The history of non-representational abstract paintings
Sometimes we may need to look back at the history of things we might be interested in. It helps to understand and appreciate them better.
I thoroughly enjoy reading a lot about history and modern abstract art. I also enjoy reading a lot about colour and their meanings across various cultures.
In this topic, I will just go through a brief history of non-representational abstract paintings. I promise that it will be just a brief history.
Non-representational abstract paintings are a unique type of art that has been around since the late 19th century in the Western world. Investigating the history of this type of art can help you gain an understanding of how it has evolved over the years and how it has come to be so popular today.
By exploring the works of Hilma af Klint (1862-1944), Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) and Piet Mondrian (1872-1944), you can gain a better understanding of the techniques and styles that were used to create these amazing and unique works of art.
I have written other blog posts about Hilma af Klint and Wassily Kandinsky. Who was the first abstract artist in the Western world? A long debate and an interesting subject.
In the Western world, non-representational abstract art is considered a relatively new type of art, only 100 or so years, its history is also linked to the beginning of modern art.
The history of this amazing art began with the Swedish artist, Hilma af Klint, the Russian artist, Wassily Kandinsky, the French artist, Paul Cezanne, Kazimir Malevich and Piet Mondrian. These are some of the most famous pioneers of the world of abstract art.
Many artists at that time were pushing the boundaries and rebelling, in a way, to break free from the creative constraints of traditional representational art.
This style of art began to spread through Europe and eventually the USA and many other countries around the world from the early 20th century.
The BBC give an interesting summary of the history of abstract art in this article – Abstract art timeline: colour and shape.
As I explained above, non-representational art is an expression of human thoughts and ideas. Artists use colours, shapes and lines to paint their stories. They created masterpieces intuitively.
By the way, creating art intuitively is different from intuitive art. I know, that might sound a little confusing. I have written a lengthy article about intuitive art.
I totally understand that they wanted to free their creative expression. They wanted to paint what they felt rather than paint a copy of what they saw. They found freedom of expression in abstract art.
That resonates with me tremendously. It is the same reason I moved away from figurative and landscape paintings and photography to non-representational art painting.
Non-representational art and abstract art may have evolved and changed a lot over the years, however, the fundamentals remain the same. Many artists have adopted this painting genre and it never fails to enthral and inspire new audiences.
Some of my favourite videos about abstract art are a series of 6 videos – The Rules of Abstraction with Matthew Collings. A great BBC documentary. Highly recommended for those who are interested in this type of art
How to appreciate non-representational abstract paintings
I have been creating non-representational abstract paintings for several decades and I totally understand what people go through when viewing this amazing mysterious art.
It is amazing as we are not used to being exposed to something unfamiliar. There is always a tendency to resist and reject unrecognisable subjects. It’s human nature.
All I would ask you is just give yourself a little more time to see if you can connect with the artwork. Please don’t judge my abstract paintings as to whether they would suit your art décor. My abstract paintings are never created as art décor.
My non-representational abstract paintings are a unique form of art that can be interpreted differently by each individual. Well, at least I hope.
Appreciating this type of art needs a certain level of understanding and appreciation for the elements, the principles and the compositions that go into creating each painting.
Appreciating non-representational abstract paintings is all about understanding the use of colour, shapes, form, line and texture as well as how these elements work together to create a meaningful work of art that speaks to your emotions.
Additionally, taking the time to explore different techniques, such as layering and texture, can help you gain a better understanding of how each element contributes to the painting.
I totally appreciate that it may not be easy to clearly identify the techniques and materials I have used to create my non-representational abstract paintings. And I’m not asking you to do so. All I hope for is for you to find your own interpretation, meaning or story in any of my abstract paintings.
It is not about my story. More importantly, it is about what you can see and feel.
More about appreciating abstract art in this article: Appreciating Abstract Art: A Guide to Unlocking the Mystery
Uncovering the meaning behind non-representational art
The meaning of non-representational art is as challenging as understanding it. This style of art is so different from representational art. In non-representational art, there is no reference or depiction of a recognisable subject or object.
This is what makes it difficult to understand because we are not taught how to interpret or understand unfamiliar objects and subjects.
To the untrained eyes, all you would see in non-representational art are random colours, shapes and lines. Or, they appear to be random. But, it is still an intriguing form of art.
Since its early beginning in the 19th century, there has been a great deal of debate over the meaning of this style of artwork. That debate continues today and probably will continue forever.
I’m sure I’m not the only artist who came across this question. I try to answer it in as simple terms as possible. It is a representation of the artist’s emotions and feelings, or the artist’s thoughts and ideas.
No matter what interpretation is given, non-representational art can be a complex and interesting form of art to explore. The first step to understanding the meaning behind non-representational art, in my opinion, is to look at the elements that make up the artwork.
This includes the colours, shapes, lines and textures used. While these elements may seem random, the artist has usually chosen them for a specific reason. The way that the elements are arranged can also provide insight into the artist’s intention.
It is also important to look at the artwork from different perspectives. This can help to uncover different interpretations and meanings. It is also important to consider the context of the artwork.
It may have been created in response to a certain event or situation. The artist may have been influenced by other works of art or by their own experiences. By understanding the context of the artwork, it can be easier to understand the underlying message.
I’m conscious that all such explanations may sound far too confusing for somebody who doesn’t wish to go deeper into the technicalities of creating non-representational art. And I totally understand that.
I have seen and still look at many pieces of artwork. Some are made by famous artists and others are created by not-so-famous artists.
I don’t necessarily understand or even enjoy all of them. Some paintings do not seem to connect with me!
This is probably how most of us decide whether we like or don’t like a piece of artwork. It is that connection, which is also commonly known as “gut feeling”. It’s about personal taste.
Embracing the beauty of non-representational art
I totally appreciate and understand when most people see non-representational art as mysterious and difficult to understand. To many viewers, this style of art may appear strange and unfamiliar. Generally, we don’t feel comfortable with unfamiliar things. But, I still believe there is great undeniable beauty and intrigue about this art. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be doing it for many years.
Many people told me it’s easy for you to say so. And that’s true. Non-representational art is a big part of my life. It is a lifestyle.
At the same time, I fully understand and appreciate that art isn’t everybody’s cup of tea. And that is absolutely fine, too.
Non-representational art is a very specific type of art that attracts the interest of those who appreciate its way of expression and its way of communication.
For the artist, it goes beyond the boundaries of traditional creativity and far beyond the recognisable. It provides unlimited freedom of imagination and expression. Not so many art genres could do that.
For the viewer, it offers you a journey to unexplored areas deep down. A journey full of unexpected experiences and discovering a little more about who you are. It sounds like a mystery, but it’s an amazing exploration of the most important person on this planet. YOU.
I speak to many people when they look at my abstract paintings and they ask me several questions about my inspirations, the meaning of the artwork, why I created the work and how I created the artwork.
I love all these questions and I try to answer and highlight the beauty of non-representation art. But, I also ask them questions. How does this painting make you feel? Do you find any connection with it? What does it mean to you?
For the art collectors or buyers, their emotional response is more important to me than why and how I created that piece of artwork. And that’s what matters to me. For you to find your own interpretation and meanings, not mine.
To me, creating a non-representational abstract painting is an immense joy. It involves my vision, my emotions and a great deal of imagination. Every painting I make is a true story of my journey in this life.
Whether you can or cannot figure out my story is not important. It’s important only if it resonates with you and only you.
I have no intention of boring anyone with the technicality of creating non-representation abstract paintings. Particularly for non-artists, the techniques of creating art may seem uninteresting. I have spent several years learning how to use these techniques and I don’t think I can explain them briefly.
I spent years learning about the language of colour and its meanings and associations in various cultures. And I’m not going to bore you with all these details. Just enjoy the artwork. And if you don’t, move on to the next one.
Unlocking the creative power of non-representational art
I know that there is always a mystery and ambiguity about non-representational art. Every time I talk or write about it, I am aware that it is not the simplest of subjects to explain. Because it looks at the non-traditional form of art. It is based on the artist’s imagination. Most of us find it difficult to interpret, understand or even appreciate.
Abstract art is all about unfamiliar and unrecognisable objects and subjects. Most of us like art that is about something we can recognise. However non-representational abstract paintings challenge the norm.
Non-representational abstract paintings are a unique type of art, often seen as a way to express emotions without the need for a recognisable object. We, generally speaking, struggle with unrecognisable subjects. We don’t like them, because we cannot associate them with anything we are familiar with.
Abstract art is a challenge because it is an expression of emotions and feelings. And as such, it attempts to connect with our feelings. It uses the language of feelings. But, do we understand the language of feelings?
Once we can we realise that it is a kind of new language, we will probably begin to know a little more about it when viewing abstract artworks, for example.
This type of art focuses on the use of the basic elements of art, such as colour, shape and form to create a work of art that can be interpreted differently by each individual. Keep in mind that it is a language of feelings and we express our feelings differently.
Unlocking the creative power of non-representational abstract paintings is something that anyone can do. Through experimenting with different abstract painting techniques and methods, you can gain a better understanding of how to use colour, shape and form to create a painting that speaks to your own emotions and ideas.
You can also apply similar techniques when you are looking at abstract paintings. Look closer at the selection of colours, for example. Colour has a profound impact on our mood. Every culture assigns certain associations and meanings to different colours.
Similarly, we also associate shapes, forms and textures to represent something more meaningful. I think once you begin to look at abstract artwork through its elements and what they may represent, you will begin to see abstract painting.
As a painter, you can also explore various materials like acrylic, oil and watercolour paints. You could also try to use other mediums. See which ones you feel comfortable with. Experiment with creating the different elements of art. By getting to know the different elements of non-representational abstract painting and taking the time to explore and experiment, you can unlock the creative power and beauty of this unique art form.
I know this sounds a little too technical. But trust yourself and trust your intuition whether you are making or viewing non-representational abstract paintings.
One thing is for sure, well at least in my opinion, non-representational abstract painting communicates and attempts to connect with our emotions and feelings as I mentioned above. It may need time to establish that connection.
Exploring the artistic techniques behind non-representational art
I will try to explain this section without making it sound too technical. Like any other type of art, this unique style of art needs a certain set of skills and a great deal of experience.
It didn’t take me long to figure out that non-representational abstract painting is linked to expressing emotions, feelings, thoughts and ideas. And that’s what I find fascinating about this type of art.
You might argue and say all types of art express emotions and feelings. And that is very true. The difference, though, with non-representational art there is no reference to a real object.
It is entirely based on the skills and experience of the artist to create something from almost nothing. So, viewing or creating this style of art needs a different approach from that of traditional representational art.
I think almost any technical skill can be taught and learned through guided learning practices. Guided learning is important in the sense of thoroughly covering every relevant aspect of the skill.
The artistic techniques in two-dimensional visual art are probably common across the various styles of art. Whether it is representational, abstract or non-representational art, you would, most likely, use similar techniques.
Many abstract artists believe that before making abstract or non-representational art, you should know how to paint traditional representational art. A good example of a famous artist who started painting representational art way before moving to abstraction is Pablo Picasso, as I mentioned above.
The artistic technical skill and process can be summarised as follows:
- Tools and mediums
- Colour selection and deciding on your colour palette,
- Colour mixing and blending,
- Layering techniques, and
Understanding the properties of different mediums, e.g. oil, acrylic and watercolour paints is also necessary for the painting process itself.
These are some of the basic techniques for creating meaningful abstract paintings. Obviously, there are more techniques to learn and apply. I’m certain that almost anybody serious about learning art, can learn the technical knowledge and gradually build up more skills and experience.
The main challenge, in my opinion, is how to express artistically your emotions, feelings, ideas, thoughts and imagination.
Learning the vocabulary, meanings and associations of colour, shape and line will play a vital role in making a great piece of artwork.
I’m conscious that all this information may sound too technical or a little complicated, but again trust yourself and just enjoy viewing or making your non-representational abstract painting.
Leave it to your feelings to guide you through the entire process and just enjoy it. Believe me, you do not have to be experienced in art or abstract art to find your appreciation and enjoyment in either making or viewing abstract art.
This is the art that communicates with our feelings. I’ve written an article about Painting Your Feeling, which you may find interesting. Let me know your views about it.
Taking a closer look at non-representational art
I think I said quite a bit about non-representational art from the artist’s point of view and about the creation process of this style of art.
But, what about the viewer?
I come across many people who are interested in this type of art but find it difficult to understand. My simple answer is that there is a great deal to learn about which could lead to becoming a difficult subject to understand.
However, there is a simpler approach to appreciating non-representational art. When you are looking at a non-representational painting, approach it with an open mind and expect to see unfamiliar objects.
Allow yourself time to explore its formation of colours, shapes and lines. Allow yourself time to let the artwork draw into it. Does any of the colours and shapes evoke your emotions? What type of emotions? Are you conscious of your current emotions?
There are no familiar objects in the painting. So, you don’t need to analyse it with your logical mind. Instead, you need to switch to the right side of the brain, the creative side. Viewing abstract paintings must engage your emotions and feelings to see beyond the surface of the artwork.
The key takeaways
Non-representational art is a style of abstraction art. This style is so unique. It does not attempt to depict any real object from the world around us.
It is created with the innermost feelings and thoughts of the artist. And it tries to connect with the viewer’s innermost feelings, too.
Non-representational art is an incredibly powerful type of expression. It allows both, the artist and the viewer, to delve deeper into our imagination, thoughts and self-expression.
My website is full of many different non-representational abstract paintings. Have a look around and take your time to allow yourself to find that magical connection.
I would appreciate it if you could come back again and let me know your thoughts about my paintings, this article or any of the other articles I have written for this website.