I feel as though, as I get older, I understand this concept more and more. I always considered abstract art as a bit of a fad as I was beginning my career in art. The world became flooded with bad copies and misinterpretations, I saw artists using it as a crutch and claiming that if you didn’t understand it then you weren’t part of an elite group of intellectual beings. The truth is that abstract art is an incredibly complicated and tremendously difficult thing to do well but when it is done well it can be some of the most impactful pieces of art you will ever come across.
One of the simplest forms of abstract art and perhaps the one I have appreciated for the longest time is Japanese calligraphy. Having never understood the characters for their traditional meaning, the canvas speaks in a different way. It evokes emotion simply by the manner in which the words were written, through the composition of the positive and negative space, the motion and nature of the strokes. You can see below how the abstraction from traditional characters can suddenly be interpreted as a landscape. The image suddenly conjures figures and trees or perhaps resting animals.
My favourite modern artist utilising this form of abstract art is Cali Rezo. At it’s simplest and rawest form there is just something very pleasing to me about these works.
Franz Kline, an artist associated with the Abstract Expressionist movement of the 1940s and 1950s, is an artist I have recently found. A few years ago I don’t think I would have been able to appreciate his work. It’s more about representational ideas, there are no images or symbols within his work but the mind tries to interpret them as such. The interplay between the negative and positive spaces evoke a sense of time and place within the viewer. Perhaps it’s better to consider them as a form of Rorschach test.
This technique can be used for composition within art, animation and film. below is an image from the artbook “Framed Ink” by Marcos Mateu Mestre and through the abstraction of the finished image you can see how the composition works from multiple abstract forms, the tonal interplay and the gesture. When using the abstract form to generate your composition the artist has control of the emotions they are invoking from the audience long before any details and story have been displayed.
For the longest time, abstract art sat in a delicate position to me, partly because I don’t fully understand it, but I know when I like it. I am learning to adapt the process into my work and use it as a compositional tool to drive my art and animations, I’m also discovering that I have a lot more fun working this way too. There are many pieces that I will never understand, and maybe that’s the point to a lot of them. They aren’t meant to be understood, just felt.