What Is Abstract Art?

Alright, all you lovers (and merely friends) of Art….

Yesterday, my SEAG blog was about Infinity. As you can see, most of of the images are abstract, i.e., art that does not attempt to represent an accurate depiction of a visual reality but instead use shapes, colors, forms and gestural marks to achieve its effect (per Tate Gallery).

Now, I am a landscape scenery kind of aficionado — a fan of surrealistic fantasy scenes and purple skies. But I want to feel comfortable around abstract art. I may not understand it, but I often get a “feeling” from it.

From those of you who appreciate abstract art…what it is about it that you like? What part of it do you understand? What does it MEAN?

Although it may look to the contrary, abstract art is not just someone spatting paint on a canvas. There is a reason, an emotion, a question the artist is trying to convey.

How can you learn to appreciate it, though?

Through the Gallery years I have shared what I thought was creative modern art. I read about the artists, got an idea what he was trying to convey, and shared their work so that you could get a different taste in your mouth.

But I’m sad to say I don’t quite get it. And I’m not making fun of abstract art. I’m just trying to understand it.

I suppose it’s like poets writing free verse poetry. To me it sounds like creative writing broken up into stanzas. There are only a few poets that write like that that I truly feel are sticking to form. But I love what I read, so the style doesn’t always mean as much.

So all of your modern art affectionados — how do you look at abstract art? Or minimalism art? What do I look for? How do I understand it?

Any clues you can give me will be appreciated.

As long as they’re not abstract thoughts…


Upper Right Painting

Vir Heroicus Sublimis (1950–51), Barnett Newmane

22 thoughts on “What Is Abstract Art?

  1. What an intelligent response, my friend. Maybe that’s why I struggle. I’m trying to make sense out of something that was not created to make sense of, so to speak. They are indeed reactionary; I decide instantly if I like a modern painting or if I don’t. It takes more time with traditional paintings, letting my own judgment of colors and the scene itself make the decision if I like it or not. Modern art is so much more responsive. I will keep your explanation in mind as I move forward in my art discoveries.


  2. I personally feel that abstract art is the easiest to like. Its the most fluid of all art forms. Its sort of like water – it takes the shape of the vessel it is poured into. With the art being water and our minds/hearts being the vessel. More than being the easiest to like, abstract art is the easiest to develop an opinion about. Because (according to my personal belief), you don’t really need to know anything or hold any opinions about anything to enjoy it. In fact, I’ve always wondered if abstract artists intend for us to keep their opinions and thoughts in mind when we’re viewing their works. But something makes me feel that they don’t. The beauty is in finding meaning that was hidden even from the creator.


  3. I think that’s the beauty of art. I’m surprised at the odd things I love, along with the regular scenery images and unicorn pictures. Ha. But we need to pay attention when we are attracted to a piece of art and ask ourselves why. We might not get an answer, but it could prove interesting.


  4. ps i have pieces that i have loved and hated as passionately and the only thing that changed was time. so somehow we need to be factored into the equation.


  5. a good piece of art, abstract or other, will stand on its own merits. the words don’t exist for its effect or the attempt to categorize or explain it. you either feel it and you get it, or you don’t. everyone has an equal opinion and the jury is always out.


  6. I agree whole heartedly about your point of view. All art comes down to what is pleasant to our senses. But I wonder..do those who love abstract in all its forms understand each other? That I leave to the abstract artists.


  7. Abstract Art or any art for that matter is purely down to personal taste.
    Some abstract art I can enjoy looking at, see some level of skill or technique that was involved in the making. Other abstract art just leaves me with a void and no sense of connection. Ultimately, we should decide for ourselves and not be too swayed by so-called experts.


  8. I think the word “art” is different for everyone. I too have problems with “silly art”, it is alas a trend at the moment, the crazier the better for some people. For example ; a beautiful cake with nice decorations and whipped cream (yum yum !!!) and rusty nails on top of it, was considered as great art a few years back over here as no one “had ever done this before”, I call it ruining food and disrespect for the baker !!!!!! And what about smoked ham glued to pilars of a building on the outside ????? That makes me mad !!!!


  9. I thnk you are right! Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, is it not? I just wanted to see what makes abstract art click. Maybe that’s my order vs. my chaos.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Yes it does! I so agree about abstract art is a different side of the thing you are looking at. It is more a personal interpretation of whatever the artist wants to showcase. What I don’t understand is how a painting that is all one color or one circle in the corner of the room is art. I understand the red dot in the middle of a canvas might represent someone’s home or country or a stab in the heart. But how are we supposed to know what its supposed to mean? I know…I know…it will mean something different to everyone who looks at it. Do I sound more confused? Maybe I’m actually understanding more. I so appreciate your sharing.


  11. Oh but you do help! I agree that there has to be something that calls to your inner artist. There are abstract paintings that I really like just for the colors and dizzying designs. Like Jackson Pollock. I don’t really know the feeling or the meaning he wanted to convey, but I love some of the colors and the splatter designs. I liked the abstract paintings I used in the SEAG blog. Like you say, they just must have made me feel. But then there are those (like the one I used in this blog), the big red painting, that I just don’t get at all.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I loved Catwoods explanation. I think you have to be in the head of the artist to know what the painting means. What the artist sees.


  13. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your explanation. I agree that all paintings take only certain elements from nature. Even what you and I see are different. I think the problem comes when you, as an outsider, look at a painting (like the one I used in this blog) and wonder what the artist saw when they painted it. THey might have seen a fiery red sunset or two cardinals on a tree branch. But you as the outsider never saw what he saw, so you cannot relate it to your own experience. I know thats a lot of babble, but I guess it comes down to not being in the head of the painter to begin with. At least when Georgia O’Keeffe painted flowers you knew they were flowers.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. When I was taking art courses (a long ole time ago) abstract expressionism was considered the most important contemporary art. I didn’t really relate to it much but learned to appreciate some of it. My later drawing and painting didn’t resemble it but was semi-abstract, containing direct references to actuality. All paintings take only certain elements from nature or reality and few are a match for what humans actually see. Even cameras “see” differently from the human eye and record a different image than we see. So maybe abstract art lies at the extreme pole of a continuum that begins with absolute representation. Underlying structures, colors, surfaces, etc. With Rothko I can imagine standing at a window and relaxing my eyes and just noticing the depth and dazzle of light. But maybe that’s bringing too much reference into it, I don’t know. The paintings are different when you see one in an exhibit or museum. Actually seeing a Jackson Pollock made me appreciate his work in a way I hadn’t before. That could be because I enjoy seeing the fine details of paint and the way the painter built the surfaces out of paint though!


  15. I will be anxious to hear instruction in this area. I can’t say I understand these types of art either, but would like to know what I’m missing.


  16. I look at art and sometimes it just makes me feel. I wish I could explain it better. Sometimes it calms me, or makes me smile, or sad….even when it’s abstract it often brings up something. There are pieces that just appeal. I know I often like abstract art cause it seems logical and analytic. I know I didn’t help you at all though….


  17. Making abstract art is not as easy as many people think. We were told at art school that before you can make abstract art you have to be able to draw really well, I mean drawing the things as you see them, abstract art is showing a different side of the things you are drawing. Many people only like something that is drawn so precise like a photo. That was really good and usefull in a time photography did not exist, we now know a lot about the old days thanks to those accurate drawings and paintings. At the moment it is super easy to make a photo of whatever you want, anyone can do that. When you draw abstract you draw the character of the subject or how it makes you feel to look at that subject, it is like writing a book, the writer is free to let his/her characters do what he/she wants them to do. I hope this makes sence to you ? 😀


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