Visual Arts

How Do I Understand Abstract Art

Producing abstract art is not an intent to produce conceptual understanding. In fact, I believe that any visual art that first asks for conceptual understanding has failed. The desire to understand is a mental need.

On the other hand, abstract art deals more with pure perceptions that exist prior to such a mental need.

Visual art appeals first to senses, not to sentience. It appeals to eyes, not to points of view. Instead of trying to force conceptual meanings in visual art, simply experience the colors, shapes, textures, and relationships, as they exist. Do you like these? If you do, then you “understand”. This pure sensory understanding is sufficient. If you also find personal, symbolic content or familiar formal meanings, then you have found bonuses, but these are secondary to the primary effects, like children playing with shapes of animals in clouds of an already-beautiful day.

All Art Is Realism

Or all art is abstract, since no artwork captures the infinite depth of the reality that it might represent. In a written work, to use an analogy, an “abstract” is a summary of the whole composition – it distills important elements into a containment that you can grasp in a convenient measure of time. Any artwork distills important elements too, always leaving out details that exist in the reality that inspires it. Even the most realistic painting leaves out something. For example, a landscape painting leaves out cellular anatomy, molecular composition, atomic and sub-atomic structure. Consequently, there is no such thing as art devoid of abstraction.

Popular Conceptions

One popular conception characterizes abstract art as vague, hard to understand, and created for the purpose of expressing undefined, pent-up emotions in need of releasing. This conception in no way encompasses my own practice and view of abstract art. Instead, from my experience, abstract art allows pure sensory engagement, both for the artist and for the viewer. The artist engages with contrasts, colors, curves, areas, and relationships between shapes, material textures, and other visual harmonies. The artist’s aim is to produce compositions that capture peaks of these primal qualities of human awareness. The viewer then observes these primal peaks, feels them, enjoys them, and appreciates them.

Contextual meaning is not necessary. Intentional emotional representation is not necessary. The artwork does not have to be about anything other than colors, shapes, and their appeals to our raw senses. Similarly, a person does not need to understand chocolate to like it. Instead, a person tastes it, and simply likes it or dislikes it.

Foundations Of Reality

Abstract art deals with the most basic, real components (or tastes) of human sensory experience. In this respect, it is the most basic realistic art form. It deals with the most basic foundation upon which all formal representation rests.