“We all want to understand art. Why not make an effort to understand the song of a bird?…individuals who make an effort to explain pictures are usually barking up the wrong tree.” – Pablo Picasso
What Picasso says about understanding art is very related to how we approach abstract paintings. Many people think that abstract paintings should have a certain concept of some kind, that could be clearly understood and articulated if perhaps they knew how. This misconception is not helped from the endless flow of people ready to spout nonsense as to what believe that the artist was seeking to say. The almost inevitable results of this case is that people may either feel like these are being excluded from sharing in a few secret knowledge, or alternatively conclude that Extra Large Paintings is actually all a sham. In either case, the effect is that many people tend not to feel well-disposed towards modern art or abstract paintings.
I certainly identify with Picasso’s remark as far as my own, personal paintings are concerned. If I had a specific message or even a meaning that I really could articulate in words, then I would articulate it in words – the painting could have no purpose. The entire point of creating an abstract painting is that it embodies something that only it could, in a way in which can not be put in words. It is really not an essay this is a painting – it encompasses and expresses things in a language that is certainly unique to the medium of paint. For this reason we must not try to ‘understand’ abstract paintings in how people sometimes feel they ought to be able to.
The viewer should not look for a clear narrative in an abstract painting – it is far from likely to tell a narrative, or refer to an outside ‘subject’ in a similar manner which a figurative painting will. But that does not always mean there is absolutely no meaning or no subject, or that abstract paintings cannot communicate with and move people. When asked about subject material, the Abstract Expressionist artist Jackson Pollock said, “I am just the topic”. Pollock’s statement is not only true, it is inevitable.
The experiences, personality, memories and mood of the abstract artist cannot help but be fed into the painting if the artist approaches the task inside an open and honest way. I do not require an outside subject or idea before I will create Hand Painted Oil Paintings – I simply begin. The fact that I am just me without any-one else is what makes my work different to anyone else’s, and also the same wzjtrs true of all the artists. The colours I choose, the marks a make, the accidents I choose to depart, or even to obliterate, these are generally all things that I choose as a result of who I am.
If you were to present many different artists with the same basic design over a canvas and ask them to get a brush and develop the painting, the differences in the things they would decide to do could be enormous. I actually have watched other abstract artists at work on paintings and thought “I would personally never in a million years have chosen that colour and put it there.” Not because I believe it is wrong or bad, but as they are who they really are and (to quote that other leading artist, Morrisey!) “only I am just I”.
Abstract paintings – There are numerous great types of painting available, as a result of a rich art history that has seen movement after movement. The word abstract art is usually used a blanket term to explain non-representational art – this is the lack of recognisable subjects. Abstract art was connected to the rise of modernism over the past century, getting into the mainstream with abstract expressionism in post-war art but still continuing to influence artists today.
What brought regarding the qualities we see in abstract art? The flattening of the artist’s canvas surface is one major quality, as artists moved from a convincing illusionism towards broader-minded thinking. With all the invention of photography releasing the artist from painting as a method of recording reality, they began seeing the canvas surface being an object in its own right, using the canvas being a single, flat expansive surface. Paint ‘acted’ and affected the flat surface and began to form its own qualities in accordance with the actual way it was handled. The paint could exhibit ‘personality’, it had their own dimensions and exposed an array of different techniques we see in artwork with the last century. One of many reasons artists began Contemporary Abstract Painting inside an abstract way was the opportunities for greater creativity. It allowed to get a greater range of expression and the creation of ideas that had been not dependent on representing reality any more.