Abstract art is difficult. It is difficult in the sense that it requires artistic discipline, knowledge and a certain amount of expertise in painting techniques, usually acquired through training in more formal aspects of art. Abstract art does promise more freedom of expression. It does allow a more expansive and intuitive play of creativity. The reason why many students fail to find it satisfying is that abstract art can all too easily result in a mess without any inner cohesion.
Still life with skull by Paul Cézanne
Abstract art has been around for a long time. Cézanne painted essentially abstract art even though his subject matter was ostensibly realistic. Abstract art is linked in the past century to a much larger movement. This was the modernist movement against representation.
Representation was the unwritten belief that art was meant to reflect or represent what there was in the everyday world. Artists rebelled against this restriction and especially against the idea of art only as imitation. The idea of art for its own sake began to develop in the middle of the nineteenth century. In other words, art no longer had to refer to something in the everyday world. Colour and form could express feeling or states of consciousness that were personal not necessarily “realistic.”
Artists like Paul Klee developed his won vocabulary of form, symbol and colour as well as new techniques to express his inner vision.
Visual Mucsic by Paul Klee
Picasso is probably the innovator who did the most to popularize and give legitimacy to abstract art. Also generally classified with abstract art are figurative abstractions and paintings which represent things that aren’t visual, such as emotion, sound, or spiritual experience. Figurative abstractions are abstractions or simplifications of reality, where detail is eliminated from recognisable objects leaving only the essence or some degree of recognisable form.
Rebellion by Picasso