Abstract Art: It isn't what you think it is

“Form itself, even if completely abstract ... has its own inner sound.” - Wassily Kandinsky

Not interested in Abstract art? You might be and just not know it. Perhaps there are elements of it you like but you still want to recognise a figure or object in the painting; that's where semi-abstract comes in. 

Today we’re discussing the differences between representational and non-representational art; where abstract falls between them and the beauty of the work that incorporates elements of both figurative and abstract art

What’s abstract and what's not? It's a misleading term, the majority of art is an abstraction, even the most hyper-realistic works, there are imperfect renderings of our three dimensional reality. Despite it meaning different things to different people, many see abstract work, no matter how abstracted from reality it may be, as rooted in a representation of something that exists in reality. What makes it abstract is the artist’s deliberate detachment from a realistic or recognisable depiction. 

Figurative or representational art is intended to portray a figure, object or scene in a level of accuracy and detail that allows the viewer to recognise it, thus eliminating the need for base emotional interpretation, and introducing themes that often include politics or religion. 

This can evoke emotion and make bold statements through the depiction of classical, biblical or everyday scenes and objects. 

Non-representational work however is a visual manifestation of something that exists outside of our tangible reality, a drawing of anger for example. Non-representational art allows for a huge level of interpretation from the viewer, as the artist is relying on form, shape and colour to evoke and trigger base emotions. 

Chuck Close painting from his wheelchair with an easel in front of him

Obviously, it’s not as black and white as this. So why the huge differentiation between works that are ‘abstract’ and those that aren’t? Abstract and Figurative are often presented as opposites, and sometimes they are, take Chuck Close for example. Some of the artist’s work depicts a clear, concise representation. However some of Close’s later works adopt a Divisionist branch of Pointillism, utilising broad or square-like brush strokes to suggest a figure in an abstracted way.

In fact, any pieces of art include elements of both and many artists transcend the divide of these genres, we think there’s magic to be found in this beautiful grey area. Middlesbrough artist Kerr Ashmore creates encapsulating abstract landscapes which suggest the image of a place, but speaks more to a memory or emotion evoked by the landscape than a technically accurate depiction of the place the work is inspired by. 

Atmospheric oil painting by Kerr Ashmore, dark rich grey tones with warm tones in the centre

Andrew Hood’s work arguably provides a more realistic representation of a landscape in the sense that physical buildings, figures and plant life are suggested in the artist’s mark making. On the other hand, it could be argued Hood takes a more abstract approach than Ashmore, where the artist incorporates splashes of unexpected colour and shape into his work. 

Dusk from The Tate Modern painting by Andrew Hood

What is certain, is the technical skill and undeniable creative instinct with which the two produce their independent works. Furthermore, the subtlety with which both artists allude to a time or place opens an accessible portal to the viewer, wherein they may interpret a piece differently to their peer, encouraging a stronger emotional response to the piece and allowing the viewer to connect on another level than they likely would to an exact representation.

If you’re in the market for a new piece of art, don't be intimidated by the abstract work you’ve seen in galleries or museums. Something more recognisable or picturesque that includes abstract elements could be just the thing you're looking for.

Book a consultation today and speak to an expert who can guide you to the perfect semi-abstract piece for you.

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