What is abstract art seems a difficult question to answer as it may trigger other questions, such as: How to understand it? What is its purpose? Why do people like abstract art? Why do people pay so much money for these types of paintings?
My answer to that is you do not need to understand abstract art, but all you need to know is abstract art is an expressive visual language that attempts to communicate with our feelings, not our minds. This is simply all about abstract art.
This is the language of feelings – an entirely different type of language in itself. Because of that, many people when they see one of my abstract paintings for the first time, for example, may feel confused. Many people are not familiar with the language of feelings because nobody actually teaches the language of feelings.
Abstract art purposely breaks all the rules of what we have been taught to believe is good art. And that is what I find quite fascinating about it as it follows no rules, yet you can create a fantastic piece of artwork.
The Universal Language of Feelings
All forms of art try to evoke emotions and this is very obvious with abstract art, particularly non-representational art.
Abstract art is a different language and may not be easy, but it is not that difficult. It is much more universal than many people may think. It does not necessarily use words, in most cases, and it is left open for the viewers’ interpretations, not the artist’s.
It is an expression made visible by a form, which attempts to translate the unfamiliar subject of the art. Humans’ intrinsic quest is always to create meaning and understanding of our surroundings and experiences in life.
Abstract art can be a powerful expression of feelings, beliefs, thoughts and ideas. Our lives are full of many complications and complexities. Our feelings, beliefs, thoughts and ideas are a reflection of these complications.
Generally speaking, we continuously strive to establish an understanding of the unfamiliar, and unknown, to name the unnamed and to dignify our existence. We use art to help us express these needs.
What differentiates artists is the ability to express their innermost feelings and to connect with the viewers. The ability to communicate and create an impact. Skilful artists, through evoking feelings, allow the viewer to translate their own feelings and find their own meanings.
If you engage your feelings, the artwork can communicate with you and can let you make your own expression of what may initially seem unfamiliar or unrecognised. You make up whatever you want.
“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see“. – Edgar Degas.
This is clearly demonstrated by non-representational art. The type of art may look meaningless to many people because they are unable to link it to something familiar.
The keyword when it comes to abstract and non-representational art is engaging your feelings, not your logical mind. Non-representational art is about whatever feeling you want.
Art therapists are knowledgeable and fully understand the magnificent influence of art when it comes to helping people with mental health difficulties.
Why Do People Create Abstract Art?
How many times have we heard the comment about abstract art that “a 5-year-old could do that” but until you try it, you will find it is a lot more challenging than it looks? I have tried to copy other paintings and I was nowhere close.
Starting from absolutely nothing, no reference whatsoever on an empty canvas and creating a non-representational painting that is true and genuine is quite challenging.
Personally, I create non-representational paintings because it allows me absolute freedom of expression as I follow “no rules”, “no restrictions” and “no limitations”. No other activity comes anywhere close to the tremendous satisfaction that the painting process gives me.
I am sure other artists will have their own reasons and different interests in creating abstract or non-representational art to express themselves, evoke certain feelings, because they enjoy it, etc.
The Beauty of Abstract Art
One of the most fascinating facts about non-representational abstract art is it has no reference or representation of the real world. So both the artist and the viewer are entirely free from almost any restrictions or influences and can engage their true feelings of whatever they want.
I said “almost” because there are other elements that would affect the viewer’s feelings. For example, colours, shapes, forms, lines and composition. These are some of the main elements of abstract art. While art remains subjective and is influenced by personal experience and culture these elements will influence the emotions and feelings you create uncontrollably and unconsciously.
For example, in western cultures red is associated with authority and danger, white with purity and innocence, etc. Round shapes are easier and smoother to look at, and squares and rectangles are more formal. I am sure you can see the point.
The general understanding of the definition of “non-representational art” is that it does not depict anything from the real world. But I am still not sure if that would be a possibility!
The beauty of abstract paintings is found in being open to interpretation, the viewer’s interpretation. You are totally free to explore a piece of the artwork and you are totally free to assign your own expression and interpretation the way you want to the piece. Not many other visual works of art allow such freedom of interpretation.
“Abstraction allows man to see with his mind what he cannot see physically with his eyes… Abstract art enables the artist to perceive beyond the tangible, to extract the infinite out of the finite. It is the emancipation of the mind. It is an exploration into unknown areas.” – Arshile Gorky.
To enjoy something:
Does everything have to have a meaning?
Does everything have to be interpreted as something I recognise?
Must I understand how and why it was made?
That’s a lot of hard work for simple life enjoyment.
My Favourite Paints to Create Abstract Paintings
I started painting with watercolours but when I discovered acrylic paints, I quickly moved away from using watercolours. Acrylic paints are such a versatile medium to apply on almost any surface. It dries quickly allowing you to add multiple layers in a short period of time.
There is a wide range of different acrylic paints with a variety of colours. Acrylic paints are also easy to mix colours and blend. The limit is only your imagination. Acrylic paintings can be immensely rewarding.
Many beginner artists choose acrylic paints in their initial learning stages. But also many professional artists prefer to paint with acrylic paints.
In my opinion and also the opinion of many other professional artists, oil paints take you to a different level of artistic creativity.
Oil paints are very demanding in understanding their properties and characteristics. Although it’s not difficult to learn how to paint with oil paints, it requires a great deal of learning and practising.
The result is entirely different from any other medium. Oil paintings can last for hundreds of years.
My simple answer is you do not need to. This is the beauty of abstract art as it cannot be fully understood, in my opinion. It can be anything the viewer wants it to be. (Remember “no rules”, “no restrictions” and “no limitation”).
The artist and the viewer have total freedom of thought process as it is all about emotions and feelings. The artist is free to create whatever he/she feels and the viewer can choose whatever emotions or feelings he/she wants.
Isn’t it great that there is at least one activity that does not need rules to follow, understand or apply?
The viewer does not need to understand anything about abstract art. All he/she needs to do is just have an open mind without trying to think or analyse the artwork. You do not need to engage your logical mind but you will need to engage your feelings and allow the piece of artwork to draw you into it.
Don’t read about the artist. It is a common practice in the art world to encourage people to learn about the artist and his/her background and some of the information about the artwork. But, I actually think this approach could influence your viewing of the art. I usually do not read anything about the artist or the artwork first. I prefer to let the artwork do its magic to connect me to it without any other information. Let the colours, lines, shapes and texture touch your inner feelings and you make out whatever feelings you want.
Particularly with non-representational abstract art as there is no reference or representation to anything from the real world, it gives a fantastic opportunity to relax our logical minds from trying to link it to something familiar.
Abstract art is so unique and different from other art forms, but it does not necessarily mean you will like all abstract art. Some may draw you into it, others may not. Allow yourself time to view the art and see if it evokes any emotions.
According to the Slow Art Movement, which is popular worldwide, museum visitors often move through museums quickly between artworks. The average is 17 seconds of looking at an individual artwork – resulting in missing a lot of the artworks at the museum.
Just allow the artwork to draw you into it and pull an emotional response from within. Once you make that connection, the connection that keeps you drawn in, it is then when you know you are linking your feelings to something so special – that is the beauty of the abstract painting.
Don’t think about whatever grabs your attention, just let your feelings take over and let go. This type of art is from the heart and soul, instead of what you see is what you get. Once that happens you will see the beauty of abstract art and how it is much more than just a thoughtless mess on a canvas.
“Every time I pass near a blank canvas I feel something explode inside of me. It is not something I can explain or pass on to someone else…but it is, always, a beginning of a new creation” – Osnat Tzadok.
What Does Abstract Art Do to Our Feelings
Our emotions and feelings hold great information about us individually and about how we individually see the world. Particularly how we interpret our own individual world and how it fits (or doesn’t) in the bigger world.
To truly understand that fact, it can reveal fascinating and creative solutions to almost any situation.
Emotions and feelings, positive or negative, hold a tremendous amount of energy. We all have been in situations when we repress or blindly express them.
The feeling of fear, anger, jealousy, grief, etc, produces great amounts of negative charges in the mind, which in turn can reflect on the health of the body, as well.
The same would apply to the feeling of joy, happiness fulfilment – these are the positive charges that we all seek to achieve and maintain at all times.
This journey of discovering your inner emotions and feelings is half the battle. This is the journey of self-understanding.
The other important half is how you actually deal with it. The journey to ultimate freedom.
Throughout our life, most of us are not taught how to deal with difficult emotions and feelings. It isn’t easy.
Despite the fantastic achievements humans have made over many decades, most of us are emotionally underdeveloped.
Abstract art is one of the direct ways that can allow us to directly access and touch the innermost deepest parts of ourselves that directly influence the creation of our emotions and feelings.
There is a reason for the popularity of abstract art not only in museums and art galleries but also in offices, hotels, hospitals, public places and our homes. Here is more information about Living Room Wall Art.
What is abstract art to you? I would be interested to hear your views in the comments below.