My husband used to love my art. It was mainly flowers, and sometimes had a bird thrown in. A butterfly was appreciated too. He understood the flowers and birds, and loved the pretty colors. Easy peasy.
Then I started painting abstracts and he would stare at a piece, wondering, “What is it, exactly?” Sometimes he’d find something to grab onto, and say “It looks like the ocean in turmoil. I like it!” If not, he was often at a loss for words.
A very simple way to understand abstract art is to think of it as the visual opposite of realistic art.
Realistic art focuses on every wrinkle in a piece of clothing. Before photography, it was the only way to capture and record images.
Once cameras were invented, some artists reacted against academic painting and realism, and wanted to look beyond what we physically see.
They wanted to paint things they felt, and translate emotions onto the canvas.
When you look at abstract art, the focus should not be on what is represented, but in the use of colors, lines, shapes and textures to evoke an emotion.
The emotions could include serenity, joy, excitement, or wonder.
Art is not what you see, but what you make others see. – Edgar Degas
There is no code to crack
Many people think that if they can only “crack the code” and figure out what it means, they will understand abstract art.
The most important thing to understand is that abstract art does not have to have a meaning, or even a specific explanation.
A painting is not a picture of an experience, but is the experience.
― Mark Rothko
The main purpose of abstract art is to encourage involvement and imagination. By appreciating the depth and layers of a painting, a color palette, or the lively energy of lines or shapes, viewers have the reward of finding their own meaning.
The experience may be completely different for each person depending on their personality and state of mind.
What kind of art excites you? Are you attracted to bold, vivid colors, serene landscapes, minimalist shapes, or graphic patterns?
There’s no right or wrong answer. There is art for everyone.
Let me know what you think in your comments below!