“Everyone wants to know art. Why not try to understand the song of the 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 you approach abstract paintings. Many people think that abstract paintings must have a certain concept of some kind, that could be clearly understood and articulated if perhaps they knew how. This misconception will not be helped by the endless flow of people prepared to spout nonsense as to what believe that the artist was attempting to say. The almost inevitable consequence of this situation is that people either can feel as though they may be being excluded from sharing in certain secret knowledge, or alternatively conclude that Contemporary Abstract Painting is in fact all a sham. In any event, the result is the fact many people do not feel well-disposed towards modern art or abstract paintings.
I certainly identify with Picasso’s remark in terms of my own, personal paintings are concerned. Basically If I enjoyed a specific message or a which means that I was able to articulate in words, i then would articulate it in words – the painting would have no purpose. The entire reason for creating an abstract painting is that it embodies something that only it can, in a manner in which cannot be put in words. It is not an essay it is a painting – it encompasses and expresses things in a language that is unique for the medium of paint. For this reason we need to not try to ‘understand’ abstract paintings in how people sometimes feel they ought to be able to.
The viewer must not choose a clear narrative within an abstract painting – it is really not going to tell a tale, or make reference to an outside ‘subject’ in the same way which a figurative painting will. But that does not necessarily mean there is not any meaning or no subject, or that abstract paintings cannot communicate with and move people. When asked about material, the Abstract Expressionist artist Jackson Pollock said, “I am the subject”. Pollock’s statement is not just true, it really is inevitable.
The experiences, personality, memories and mood from the abstract artist cannot help but be fed into the painting when the artist approaches the work in an open and honest way. I do not require an external subject or idea before I will create Contemporary Abstract Painting – I simply begin. The fact that I am just me and no-one else is why my work different to anyone else’s, and also the same wzjtrs true of artists. The colours I choose, the marks a make, the accidents I choose to leave, or even to obliterate, these are generally things which i choose because of who I am.
Should you present several different artists with similar basic design over a canvas and ask them to pick-up a brush and develop the painting, the variations in whatever they would choose to do would be enormous. I have watched other abstract artists at the office on paintings and thought “I would never in a million years have chosen that colour and place it there.” Not because I think it is wrong or bad, but as they are who they are and (to quote that other leading artist, Morrisey!) “only I am just I”.
Abstract paintings – There are lots of great styles of painting out there, as a result of a wealthy art history which has seen movement after movement. The term abstract art is usually used a blanket term to illustrate non-representational art – which is the lack of recognisable subjects. Abstract art was linked to the rise of modernism during the last century, getting into the mainstream with abstract expressionism in post-war art and still continuing to influence artists today.
What brought about the qualities we have seen in abstract art? The flattening in the artist’s canvas surface is one major quality, as artists moved far from a convincing illusionism towards broader-minded thinking. With the invention of photography releasing the artist from painting as a way of recording reality, they began seeing the canvas surface as being an object in their own right, using the canvas being a single, flat expansive surface. Paint ‘acted’ and affected the flat surface and started to form their own qualities based on the way it was handled. The paint could exhibit ‘personality’, it had its own dimensions and opened a multitude of different techniques we percieve in artwork with the last century. One of the primary reasons artists began Hand Painted Oil Paintings inside an abstract way was the opportunities for greater creativity. It allowed for any greater range of expression and the growth of ideas which were not dependent on representing reality any more.