The Art of Abstraction: A Journey Through History and Creativity
Discover the beauty and power of the art of abstraction through a journey across history and creativity in this insightful blog post.
The art of abstraction is a fascinating and complex subject. Understanding abstract art principles and guidelines can be a daunting task. In this blog post, I will explore the world of abstract art touching on some of its history and creativity. We will also look at some of the key features and concepts that govern it.
I have been fascinated by abstract painting for decades and I have also written several articles about it. It has been a long journey in the world of abstract art and I still find more amazing things about it.
The broad meaning of abstract art is that it is a form of art that does not attempt to represent real objects from the world we see around us.
Instead, it is about exploring our deeper meanings, representations and associations of our interpretations of colour, shape and form which create something entirely unique. This is particularly the case with abstract non-representational art.
I find this broad definition of the art of abstraction itself amazing. A remarkable skill of humans is to create meaningful interpretations of non-living objects or subjects.
Responding to the art of abstraction
I totally appreciate that abstract art is often perceived as difficult to understand, but it is important to remember that it exists on its own. Some people don’t even consider abstract art as art.
The art of abstraction is not about representing reality, but rather about exploring the limits of human creativity.
This ‘human creativity’ is what I find really intriguing about abstract art and abstract painting. It’s this ability to create something meaningful from almost nothing except your imagination and creativity.
The art of abstraction is basically an opportunity to explore new ideas and push the boundaries of traditional art. I think it is also important to explore the art of abstraction because it can challenge our perceptions and expand our minds and creativity.
Are there limits to human creativity?
Our creativity is a fascinating phenomenon that allows us to generate novel and innovative ideas, concepts and products. However, like any other human capability, creativity has its limits. Let’s examine some of these limitations.
- Cognitive Constraints
We have cognitive limitations that can restrict our ability to generate creative ideas. For example, despite our brain’s enormous capabilities, it has limited working memory. This can make it difficult for us to hold and manipulate multiple pieces of information simultaneously.
Similarly, we tend to rely on curiosity and mental shortcuts, which can restrict our thinking and creativity.
- Domain-Specific Expertise
Creativity is very much linked to domain-specific expertise. This means that we tend to be more creative in areas where we have knowledge, experience or expertise. This, in turn, can limit our creativity in areas where we lack knowledge or experience.
- Social and Cultural Constraints
Every society and culture has its own norms that could restrict creativity by imposing certain boundaries and expectations on what is considered acceptable or appropriate.
For example, certain professions may be viewed as more creative than others and people may feel pressure to conform to certain norms or standards.
- Environmental Constraints
The physical and social environment in which we operate can impact our creativity. For example, a noisy or cluttered workspace may limit a person’s ability to focus and generate creativity.
This is particularly true in my case. Noise and clutter can definitely affect the levels of my focus and creativity. I need to keep my work environment as clutter-free as possible and minimise any potential noise. This doesn’t apply to my ‘painting music’ which is an integral element of my painting and creative process.
- Biological Constraints
While our brain is incredibly complex and adaptable, there are biological constraints that can limit creativity. For example, age-related decline in cognitive function can impact a person’s ability to creativity.
While these constraints may seem restrictive, it is important to note that creativity is a highly individualised and complex phenomenon. Each one of us has his/her own unique set of strengths and weaknesses, as well as our own unique way of approaching creativity.
By understanding our limits of creativity, we can work to overcome these limitations and develop our own creative potential.
You may find this article interesting which adds more details about creativity, Boost Your Creativity Through The Art of Abstract Art.
The private world of abstract artists
The process of creating abstraction in art is deeply personal and it often involves exploration and experimentation. Abstract art has a rich history of experimentation and artists often use it as a means of exploring their inner selves.
I have written an article about Creating Art is a Journey of Self-discovery, which you might find interesting.
One way to create abstract art is to find a visual metaphor that represents your innermost feelings and emotions.
How can I find my visual metaphors?
Finding visual metaphors that represent your innermost feelings and emotions can be a challenging task, but it is also a highly rewarding one. I will highlight some tips to help you discover visual metaphors that capture your emotions.
- Start with free association
Write down a list of words and phrases that come to mind when you think of your emotions. Try not to censor yourself or worry about whether the words seem relevant or not. It actually works more effectively when you are not thinking too much about it. Just let your thoughts flow.
- Look at images that resonate
Once you have a list of words or phrases, start searching for images that capture the essence of those words and phrases. The internet is a good place to find many images, books and magazines, your photographs or even your artworks. Pay attention to images that resonate with you emotionally, even if you can’t explain why.
I strongly believe abstract paintings can offer a tremendous source for linking images to emotions. Non-representational art, particularly, has great abilities to offer us unlimited opportunities to connect with our feelings. Look at some of the abstract paintings on this website. Allow yourself a little time to engage with the paintings.
- Experiment with different mediums
When I started painting, I mainly used watercolours. But by experimenting with different mediums, I found acrylic and oil paints allow me, perhaps, some of the best ways to express my emotions in visual art. You could also try drawing, photography, painting or even collage and see which ones allow you to best express emotions.
- Use colour and composition to enhance emotion
Once you have a visual metaphor that captures your emotions, try to think about how you can use colour and composition to enhance the emotional impact. Think about how the placement of elements in your image can help to create a sense of tension or harmony and how colour can evoke different emotions.
- Trust your intuition
This is probably one of the best ways to explore and discover your creative process. Don’t be afraid to trust your intuition. Allow yourself to play and experiment with different ideas and don’t worry too much about the end result.
The most important thing is to let go and let your emotions guide you towards the visual metaphors that truly resonate with you.
Many famous abstract artists, e.g. Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986), created wonderful artwork intuitively. I have also written about intuitive art in this article, 6 Amazing Facts About Intuitive Art.
Key figures in the art of abstraction history
The art of abstraction history is full of key figures in this unique genre of art and some of the most famous abstract artists include Piet Mondrian (1872-1944), Kazimir Malevich (1879-1935) and Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944).
Mondrian was a Dutch artist who developed a style of abstract art that emphasised the use of primary colours and simple geometric shapes. Some examples of his famous abstract artworks include:
- Composition with Red, Blue and Yellow (1930)
- Broadway Boogie Woogie (1942-43)
- Composition in White, Black and Red (1936)
Malevich was a Russian artist who created a style of abstract art known as ‘Suprematism’, which emphasised the use of basic geometric forms. Some of his artworks include:
- Black Circle (1913)
- Black Square (1915)
- Supermatist Composition: White on White (1918)
Kandinsky was a Russian painter who is considered one of the pioneers of abstract art. Some people believe he was the first to make abstract paintings, but this is still a long debate about whether it was he who started abstract art.
He believed that art should be free from the constraints of representational art and focused on evoking emotions through abstract painting. Kandinsky’s style is characterised by vibrant colours, bold brushstrokes and geometric shapes. Some of his famous abstract paintings include:
- Composition VII (1913)
- Yellow-Red-Blue (1925)
- Several Circles (1926)
These ideas had a significant impact on the development of the art of abstraction, particularly in the way that artists began to explore more spiritual and metaphysical themes in their work.
Theosophy and the art of abstraction
Theosophy is a spiritual movement that emphasises the evolution of the soul, It had a significant influence on the art of abstraction and one artist who was deeply influenced by Theosophy was Hilma af Klint.
Af Klint (1862-1944) was a Swedish artist who created a series of abstract paintings that she believed were inspired by spiritual forces. Her work is often regarded as some of the earliest examples of abstract art in the West.
She is, most likely, the first abstract artist in the West. I wrote a detailed blog post about Who was the First Abstract Artist.
And here’s a great video about Hilma af Klint: The Visionary Genius Hilma af Klint.
She was deeply interested in theosophy, a spiritual movement that sought to understand the mysteries of the universe through the study of religion, philosophy and science.
Klint believed that her art was a means of channelling spiritual energy and expressing her innermost feelings.
Klint’s paintings are often characterised by their use of symbolic shapes and colours that are thought to represent the spiritual journey of the individual.
Her most famous work is perhaps her series of paintings known as ‘ The Paintings for the Temple’ (1906-1915). A total of 193 paintings in different series. These paintings were created as part of her collaboration with a group of female artists who were also interested in theosophy.
The paintings were intended to be part of a spiritual temple that would showcase the unity of all religions and philosophies. Each painting in the series is meant to represent a specific spiritual concept or idea, such as the evolution of the soul or the unity of the universe.
One example of Klint’s use of symbolism in her artwork can be seen in her paintings, ‘The Swan’ series. 24 oil paintings in this series, where the swan represents the union of opposites, e.g. dark and light, black and white, male and female, life and death.
Another example of Klint’s use of abstract shapes can be seen in her painting, ‘Doves No. 2, 1915’. This painting features a large blue circle with a smaller red circle inside of it.
Surrounding the circles are various abstract shapes and symbols. The blue circle is thought to represent the spiritual realm, while the red circle inside of it is thought to represent the individual soul.
The abstract shapes and symbols surrounding the circles are meant to represent the various spiritual forces that influence and shape the soul’s journey.
Principles and guidelines of the art of abstraction
In the art world, there are several principles and guidelines that govern the creation of the art of abstraction. One of the most important is the use of colours and shapes to symbolise the soul’s journey.
Another important principle is balance. Balancing dark with light, masculine with feminine, etc. There is often a philosophical meaning behind abstract art and understanding this meaning can be key to unlocking its true power.
Although abstract art does not have any set rules and shouldn’t, in my opinion, there are some principles and guidelines that artists often follow to create a harmonious and balanced composition.
I have written other articles that explain in detail The Elements of Abstract Art, The Principles of Abstract Art and The Composition in Abstract Art. Have a look at these blog posts as I’m sure they will give a greater insight into the making of abstract art.
I will go through some of the main points of creating abstract art along with some examples.
- Use of Colours
Colours are essential elements of abstract art. Each colour has its symbolic significance and can convey different emotions and moods. Some artists use a limited colour palette to create a sense of harmony and balance, while others use contrasting colours to create a dynamic and vibrant composition.
For example, in Piet Mondrian’s famous abstract painting ‘Composition with Red, Blue and Yellow’, he used only primary colours and black lines to create a simple yet striking composition.
- Use of Shapes
Shapes are another critical element of abstract art. Shapes can be geometric or organic and they can create a sense of rhythm, movement and balance in a composition. Some artists use simple geometric shapes like circles, squares and triangles, while others use more complex shapes to create a sense of depth and complexity.
For example, Kazimir Malevich’s painting ‘Black Square’ features a simple black square that represents the ultimate reduction of form and colour.
Balance is essential in the art of abstraction. It is achieved by distributing visual elements equally throughout the composition, creating a sense of harmony and unity. Some artists use a symmetrical composition, while others use an asymmetrical composition to create a sense of tension and movement.
For example, in Helen Frankenthaler’s painting ‘Mountains and Sea, 1952’, she uses a balanced composition with large areas of colour distributed evenly throughout the painting.
Contrast is an essential element in abstract art. It is created by using opposing elements such as light and dark, thick and thin lines and warm and cool colours. Contrast adds depth and visual interest to a composition.
For example, in Mark Rothko’s painting ‘No. 61 (Rust and Blue), 1953’, he uses contrasting colours of cool blue and warm rust to create a dynamic and visually striking composition.
- Emotion and Meaning
Abstract art is a great type of art particularly for expressing emotions and ideas through the use of colours, shapes and forms. Many abstract artists use visual metaphors to represent emotions or ideas, while others use abstract forms to create a sense of mystery and ambiguity.
For example, in Jackson Pollock’s painting ‘Autumn Rhythm (No. 30), 1950’, he used gestural marks and drips to create a sense of movement and chaos, representing the energy of the natural world.
Some of the things I find amazing about abstract art is that it offers artists unlimited freedom to express themselves uniquely and creatively. They can create amazing art by just following their emotions and feelings. There are no rules to restrict their self-expression.
Freedom of expression in the art of abstraction
This is, by far, the main turning point in my art life. Finding freedom of self-expression in abstract painting. It took me a while to move away from painting figurative and landscapes as well as photography. But when I discovered abstract art, it was a turning point and I never looked back.
As an abstract artist, I’m totally and utterly free to express myself uniquely and creatively. We are all unique individuals. There are no two people the same.
Being free to express yourself is essential to create meaningful and authentic art. Here are some practical ways to achieve this:
- Experiment with different materials and techniques
Explore a variety of mediums such as ink, charcoal, watercolour, acrylics, oils and mixed media. Try different techniques such as splattering, pouring and dripping to discover new ways of expressing yourself.
- Focus on the process
The creative process is more important than the outcome. In abstract art, you don’t necessarily know exactly what is the outcome. So, instead of worrying about creating a perfect piece, focus on the creative process.
Let go and allow yourself to freely express yourself visually embracing all the mistakes and imperfections. It’s an amazing process. Try it yourself.
- Use personal symbolism
Incorporate personal symbols and imagery that hold special meaning to you into your artwork without too much thinking. Free yourself of any thought process and let go. Don’t be afraid to take risks and push the boundaries of your comfort zone.
If it doesn’t work, that’s not a problem, start again.
- Find inspiration in the world around you
I find my inspiration in nature and our daily lives and experiences. If you find it difficult to find your inspiration, don’t think too much about it. Keep creating your art and you will find your inspiration.
Practice until you connect with your innermost emotions and they will lead you to your creative inspiration.
Another blog post I wrote about inspiration, The Most Creative Art Inspiration You’ll Find This Month.
What could restrict you from expressing yourself freely
In the art of abstraction, there is nothing to restrict you from expressing yourself freely, except YOU. I heard so many excuses from beginner abstract artists about what they thought restricted their self-expression in abstract art.
- Lack of technical skills
Nobody is born with all the skills we need in life. You need to be determined with a strong will to pursue your goals. Guided learning and practice are some of the main keys for abstract artists to develop their skills and techniques to create amazing artwork.
- Fear of judgement
It took me a long time to overcome the fear of being judged by others. I do appreciate that it can be a significant obstacle in expressing yourself freely through your art. The only way to overcome the fear of judgement is to persist to be determined about the way you express yourself through your artwork.
I don’t need validation from others. I’m my own worst art critic and that’s good enough for me.
- Artistic influences
While inspiration from other artists can be beneficial, being overly influenced by a specific artist or style can limit your ability to create something truly unique and original.
I like and appreciate the works of many artists, but I don’t take my inspiration from any other artists. Unique and authentic artwork can only be produced when you find your own unique inspiration. It must come from deep inside your personal YOU. Remember, you are a unique individual.
- Creative blocks
Every artist experiences creative blocks from time to time, which can make it difficult to express yourself freely. But it’s natural to feel that way sometimes. These blocks can be caused by various factors such as stress, anxiety or lack of inspiration.
I consider it part of the creative process. It’s pushing your creative process to think outside of the box. It helps you to dig deeper inside yourself and find your inspirations.
Your inspiration and creative process aren’t restricted from 9 to 5 and you must complete this project today. Creating art is not a commercial entity, selling art is a commercial entity.
Take your time and enjoy the ups and downs of the creative process.
- External factors
External factors such as financial constraints, lack of resources or time and other life responsibilities can limit your ability to fully express yourself as an abstract artist.
This is probably one of the most common factors among many artists. And I have experienced the same for several years.
You need to decide for yourself whether you are creating commercial artwork or you are creating self-expression through your artwork.
Even if you create artwork for self-expression, you still need the resources to create more artwork. I will leave this topic for another article as it needs a great deal of explanation and discussion.
Final words about the art of abstraction
I believe that nobody fully understands the art of abstraction. It is an ongoing and ever-changing form of art that challenges us to think outside the box and push the limits of human creativity.
We are still struggling to define the true meaning of art, which makes it even harder to define abstract art. We still argue whether abstract art started in Europe in the late 19th / early 20th century.
The art world insists that abstract art must be made with the intention to create abstract art. So, in that definition, so many of the art elites may not consider the 40,000 + years old Cave Paintings as abstract art or even some of the 6000 + years old Chinese and Eastern art as abstract art.
The elites of the art world like to impose certain rules on anything that could be classified as art. To me, personally, art is a human expression that no one can restrict its definition or form.
Art is a form of freedom of expression that has no defined boundaries, restrictions or limitations.
That have been my simple thoughts about the art of abstraction. I’m interested to hear your views about the subject. Please feel free to add your comments in the section below and let’s start a meaningful discussion.