I can do better! : A simple Guide how to understand and to love abstract art!

I can do better! : A simple Guide how to understand and to love abstract art!

Author / Irina Rusinovich @irinarusinovich

Abstract art becomes more and more popular among connoisseurs of art. Numours exhibitions around the globe make their input to the public perception but as popularity rises so rises a debatte, as the artistic merits of works sometimes resembling a children’s scribbles and cast doubts even among the professionals.

In fact, the aura of “inaccessibility” of abstract art is easy to dispel — in this manual I have tried to explain why abstraction is called “Buddhist television” and what is the best way to approach it.

 Don’t try to find out,what the artist wanted to say

Almost any viewer who looks at a work of early Renaissance can easily say what is depicted in the picture — people, fruit or sea, what emotions the characters experience and whether there is a plot in this work.

Botticelli La Primavera 1477-82

Whereas infront of the paintings of Rothko, Pollock or Malevich, we feel not so confident — they do not have an object on which you can concentrate and talk about it, like in school, “what the author wanted to say.” This is the main difference between abstract or non-objective painting and the more familiar figurative one: the abstract artist does not seek to depict the world around him, he does not set himself such a task. Well that where a nightmare starts in which every lover of contemporary art can find himself: imagine that you are standing in front of a delightful, as it is written in the guidebook, picture of Agnes Martin and do not feel anything at all. Nothing, but irritation and light sadness — not because the picture makes you feel this way, but because you do not understand what is drawn here and where to look (you are not even sure that the curators hung the right side of the work). In such a situation, a formal analysis is in a hurry to help, from which it is necessary to begin acquaintance with any work of art. Exhale and try to answer a few children’s questions: what do I see in front of me — a picture or a sculpture, graphics or painting? With what materials and when it was created? How can we describe these shapes and lines? How do they interact? Are they moving or static? Is there depth here — which elements of the image are in the foreground and which are in the background?


Agnes Martin


The next step is also quite simple: listen to yourself and try to determine what emotions you have is what you see. These fun red triangles or anxious? Do I feel calm or is the picture pressing on me? Security question: am I trying to understand what it’s like, or am I letting my mind freely interact with color and shape?

Remember that not only the picture is important, but also the frame — or its absence. In the case of the same Newman, Mondrian or “Amazon avant-garde” Olga Rozanova rejection of the frame — a conscious choice of the artist, who invites you to discard the old ideas about art and mentally expand its limits, literally go beyond.

To feel more confident, you can remember a simple classification of abstract works: they are divided into geometric (Pete Mondrian, Ellsworth Kelly, Theo van Dusburg) and lyrical (Helen frankenthaler, Gerhard Richter, Vasily Kandinsky).

Piet Mondrian


Gerhard Richter


Do not evaluate “the ability to draw»

“My child/cat/monkey can do better ” – a phrase that is pronounced every day in every Museum of modern art. An easy way to respond to such a claim is to roll your eyes, complaining about the spiritual poverty of others but a more productive one would be to take the issue seriously and try to explain why the skill of abstractionists should be evaluated differently.Many abstractionists have a classical education and excellent academic drawing skills — that is, they are able to draw a nice vase of flowers, a sunset on the sea or a portrait, but for some reason do not want to. They choose a visual experience that is not burdened with objectivity: artists seem to facilitate the task of the viewer, not giving him a distraction to the objects depicted in the picture, and help immediately immerse themselves in an emotional experience.

Remember that all art is abstract

If your brain is ready for a little overload, think about the fact that all art is essentially abstract. Figurative painting, whether it is a still life “Boy with a pipe” by Picasso or “the Last day of Pompeii” by Bryullov — is a projection of the three-dimensional world on a flat canvas, an imitation of the “reality” that we perceive through our vision. The objectivity of our perception is also known  — because the possibilities of human vision, hearing and other feelings are very limited, and we can not evaluate them ourselves.

Picasso “Boy with a pipe”


The Last Day of Pompeii is a large history painting by Karl Bryullov produced in 1830–1833

Slow down

It is always better to pay attention to a few works you liked than to run through the Museum at a gallop, trying to embrace the immensity. Professor Jennifer Roberts from Harvard makes his students look at one picture for three hours — of course, no one requires such resistance from you, but thirty seconds for a picture of Kandinsky is clearly not enough. In his Manifesto — a Declaration of love abstraction known art critic Jerry Salz calls hypnotic paintings Rothko “Buddhist television” — implies that you can look at them endlessly.

Try to do this at home

The best way to test the allring idea “I can do better”, which sometimes occurs in professional art critics, is to dot an experiment at home. That is also the reason why abstract techniques are most often used in art therapy: they help to Express complex feelings for which it is difficult to find words. For many artists suffering from internal contradictions and their own incompatibility with the outside world, abstraction has become almost the only way to reconcile with reality (except for drugs and alcohol, of course).Abstract works can be created with the help of any artistic materials — from watercolor to oak bark, so you will surely find a technique that will appeal to you and within your means. Perhaps you should not immediately start with dripping, the famous technique of Pollock — paint yourself and everything around

There is no “right” and “wrong” way to experience an abstract work — and therefore, you can not be afraid to make a mistake.


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