Abstract Art? Ya gotta be kidding!!

By Sharon Brown (Sharon) on March 28, 2010

You've already decided you don't like abstract art, you'd never be caught with it on your walls or even lining your kitchen cabinets? Oh, but wait! Here's a fast little article that might make you change your mind. You'll never know until you take a look.

I was visiting Indianapolis Museum of Modern Art a few years ago. It's made up of rooms, you walk from one exhibit to another through wide open doorways, much like in a home. So I was wandering around in a room filled with Van Gogh and Monet paintings, thoroughly enjoying every one of them, until I walked through another doorway. At the far end of the room I entered, there on the wall in front of me was a painting. It was enormous, covering the entirety of one very large wall. I walked toward it, the colors were shades of mist and perhaps the pale blues and lavenders of wisteria blooms in the early morning light. As I got closer, the painting seemed to envelope me. I felt as if I were walking right through a misty garden of wisteria, I could almost smell the scent, feel the mist on my skin. 2010-03-28/Sharran/de2e6f

Now I must tell you that at that time I had taught Art History for many years. I'd led the students from cave paintings right up to the contemporary art of today. But I did not know a thing about modern or abstract art until I saw that Jackson Pollock painting hanging on the wall in the Indianapolis Museum of Modern Art. I had never liked Jackson Pollock, nor had I appreciated any of the more contemporary abstract art styles of any other artist. 

Like most people, I thought abstract art was just a passing fancy, here today, gone tomorrow. Little did I know, until I met a Jackson Pollock painting face to face. I'm going to tell you what I learned. It's a pretty fun concept, so don't stop reading just yet. 

A lot of people place value on art based on the photo perfect reality captured by the artist. They might say if it isn't picture perfect, it's no good. But the abstract artist does not2010-03-28/Sharran/2ead1f paint what he sees on the outside, he paints what is felt on the inside. And that is the key to understanding abstract art. What did the artist feel when he painted the picture, or what do you feel when you see it? That's the key.

There are many levels included in abstraction. Many artists take a realistic subject and paint it the way they feel it. The subject might remain recognizable, yet distorted. I paint in that style quite often and my attitude is usually, 'what can I do to make this painting unique, what can I do to create a feeling while still retaining some form of realism?' That's the way I painted the red daylily you see in this article. The color made me feel good, but the realistic details are not there. It's slightly abstracted, not quite realistic.

Other artists don't even try for any reality, they simply attempt to paint a mood, a feeling. They are the ones who depend on color, not shape or form. Shades of orange, yellow and purple might represent a sunset, and if it is a huge painting it could make the viewer feel that he is gazing upon a most gorgeous work of nature. The key there is it makes the viewer 'feel'. So is it a good or bad painting? Who's to say? If he viewer enjoys it, then for him it's a wonderful painting. If the viewer is color blind, or feels nothing, then perhaps he'd turn his head and walk away.  2010-03-28/Sharran/98bd20

So back to Jackson Pollock. Did you ever find yourself lying on your back beneath a tree, looking up through numerous layers of branches searching for the sky above? Pollock's repetitive sweep of the paint, his accumulation of paint layers, is similar to the very same patterns found in nature. That's what I felt when I looked at his painting. Did he plan to make me feel as if I were walking through misty wisteria? Probably not, but that's what I felt when I saw it. 

My slightly abstracted red daylily is nothing compared to Pollock's work. They are both on opposite ends of the abstraction plane. The daylily is only slightly abstracted, and Pollock's paintings are abstracted to the extreme. But in between you'll find other artists who use various levels of abstraction. Picasso, Klee, Mondrian, Leger, Shapiro, Matisse, Kandinsky, all are abstract artists. Look for them as well as others, and look long at them. If they create a response in you, then the artist will have succeeded. And if your response is positive, then you might just be hooked on abstract art!

The first painting is one of Jackson Pollock's. It is not the one I saw when at the museum. The second painting, the red daylily, is my own, and the third is an interpretation of music by Kandinsky. The use of these paintings falls under the fair use law within this article.

No part of this article can be reproduced without permission from the author.

Related articles:
abstract art, art, art history, art movements, artists, emotional art, Jackson Pollock, Kandinsky, Klee, Mondrian, painting, painting feelings, paintings, Shapiro, talent

About Sharon Brown
Sharon is a retired art and humanities teacher. She is also a writer and has a deep love for gardening. She has written a series of articles about the history and medicinal value of Kentucky wildflowers, and they tell of growing up in the mountains of southeast Kentucky with her Aunt Bett. She currently lives in western KY.

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Comments and discussion:
Subject Thread Starter Last Reply Replies
A Collector's Perspective drdon Apr 2, 2010 7:41 PM 3
Kandinsky clintbrown Mar 31, 2010 4:41 PM 1
Sharon... Katg Mar 30, 2010 12:10 AM 1
Untitled Audrey Mar 29, 2010 8:50 AM 1
Untitled valleylynn Mar 28, 2010 11:56 PM 1
Loved it! Seray Mar 28, 2010 2:17 PM 3
All right Ridesredmule Mar 28, 2010 10:28 AM 3
Very interesting article PollyK Mar 28, 2010 9:52 AM 3

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