After visiting the Impressionist exhibition that I wrote about here, I went upstairs to see a collection of 70 paintings from the foundation’s collection, which gathered together 23 international artists, from the 1960s to the present day.
Figure in the Woods, Alex Katz.
Some of the paintings were figurative, many were abstract. The objective of the ensemble was to show the ways in which painting never ceases to reinvent itself and transgress its own rules, drawing on current techniques for reproduction.
Red House 3, Alex Katz.
The Wikipedia definition:
Abstract art uses visual language of shape, form, color and line to create a composition which may exist with a degree of independence from visual references in the world.
I enjoy abstract art. Certain paintings quicken my heart and make me happy and enthusiastic. I love colour, textures, shapes, the unlimited possibilities of what you can see and imagine in an abstract painting. Imaginings that may change from day to day, or from one moment to the next.
Tilleul, Joan Mitchell.
In Western society we tend to think that abstract painting arrived on the scene at the beginning of the last century.
During the 1912 Salon de la Section d’Or, a collective of painters, sculptors, poets and critics associated with Cubism, František Kupka exhibited the abstract painting Amorpha, Fugue en deux couleurs (Fugue in Two Colors, 1912) below.
The poet Guillaume Apollinaire defined this new style as,
“the art of painting new structures out of elements that have not been borrowed from the visual sphere, but had been created entirely by the artist…it is a pure art.”
Red Tree, Joan Mitchell.
The Invention of Photography.
Photography radically changed the future of painting.
Ideas for this new technique were fermenting in several different countries around the same time, but it was in 1839 that Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre started manufacturing and selling his daguerreotype (below), the world’s first commercial camera.
Two Sunflowers, Joan Mitchell.
Photography democratized art by making it more portable, accessible and cheaper. Photographed portraits were far cheaper and easier to produce than painted portraits. And so photography both forced and allowed painters to express their craft in new and different ways.
Paesaggio 2, Ettore Spalletti.
Photography liberated Art from Reality.
Wald 3, Gerhard Richter.
Shape, line and colour.
However, painting and drawing that relies on shape, line and colour has always existed.
Much of the art of earlier cultures – signs and marks on pottery, textiles, and inscriptions and paintings on rock – used simple, geometric and linear forms which might have had a symbolic or decorative purpose.
It is at this level of visual meaning that abstract art communicates. You can enjoy the beauty of Chinese calligraphy or Islamic calligraphy without being able to read it.
Immortal in splashed ink, Liang Kai, China, 12th century.
But many people’s reaction to a piece of abstraction is:
“What is it?”
“What does it show?”
Our brains are problem solving machines for survival, so the desire to understand what an image represents is only natural. Not being able to identify something, not being able to compare an object or an image to something from our known experience is frustrating, even frightening in some circumstances.
Wald 3, Gerhard Richter.
But … the freedom of not understanding ….
Like a child that has not yet internalized what is right or wrong, what is safe or dangerous, what is normal or not normal ….
making abstract art or discordant music or writing whatever comes to your mind and calling it poetry or inventing a new dish form what you have in the fridge or the pantry ….
Detail from Red Tree, Joan Mitchell.
Playing like a child ….
Isn’t that just magical and joyful and fun.
For me abstract contemporary art is interesting, because there is not necessarily anything to understand. I love colour, more than anything else in a painting, and like a field in different seasons, an abstract painting can evoke different feelings, from the joy of sunshine colours to the cold chill of winter tones.
Sometimes, I do wonder whether the contemporary artist is in fact taking the piss … being provocative …. seeing what he/she can get away with, like this piece …..
But why not challenge the establishment or public opinion?
Jesús Rafael Soto.
My own photography now, tends towards the abstract.
Partly because I’m a frustrated painter. I can not as yet paint what I can create with my camera, although I’m getting there.
Also, because I want to play and invent and experiment with my camera.
Some of my prints.
When I was starting out with digital photography, I would point and shoot and come home with hundreds of photos after a couple of hours. Then I had my figurative phase, when I concentrated on still life. Now, I’m more selective and only use my Nikon for pre-prepared projects, as my phone camera is perfect for daily photo journaling*.
I create peaceful, calm and relaxing images for myself firstly and to offer that same calm and zenitude to others.
Seascapes, Brighton Beach, 1.
Take Care of Yourself,
* See #mymorningwalk posts in the French countryside, on FB here.