My 5-year-old Could’ve Painted That
This month I am embarking on an exciting new project to create a collection of non-objective abstract works. While flowers will continue to be one of my biggest sources of inspiration and favorite subjects to paint, I am excited to explore the world of abstraction on a much deeper level.
This whole process has got me thinking about how some folks just “don’t get” abstract art. I wanted to write this post to give you some insight as to why I love it so much and why you should too.
Abstract art requires you to have both an open and inquisitive mind; you must look at the painting and see where it takes you. The painting tells you where to go versus a realistic painting screaming “THIS is what I’m about!” Abstract art gives you the freedom to explore and assign your own meaning to the piece. This is why art is truly an experience to be felt. This is also why many people are uneasy about abstract art. Perhaps they aren’t free themselves or their minds are too closed off to allow the painting to speak to them.
Realism is a window- the artist shows you what they want you to see. Abstract art is like a mirror. You have to look within yourself and interpret what you see and what you feel. This can be too much for some people.
People are afraid of abstract art because they don't automatically know what the art is "about". Because it doesn’t depict recognizable subjects it can be very confusing, to those who are not used to assigning their own meaning to what they see before them. They don’t “get it” it because they think it needs to be defined and understood in the first place.
“Everyone wants to understand art. Why not try to understand the song of a bird? people who try to explain pictures are usually barking up the wrong tree." -Pablo Picasso
I think our friend Pablo has a point- why do we try and assign an exact meaning to everything we see? Why can’t we just let it be without defining it? Art cannot be explained adequately in words but must be felt with the soul.
When we listen to music we don’t try and interpret and define all the notes in the song we just feel it. Art is the same. When looking at a painting, just take it in, let it wash over you and see how it makes you feel. A good abstract painting will force your eyes to dance around the piece and discover every nook and cranny.
“Painting, like music, has nothing to do with the reproduction of nature, nor the interpretation of intellectual meanings. Whoever is able to feel the beauty of colors and forms has understood non-objective painting.” Hilla Rebay
I have really grown to love and respect abstract artists once I started painting. I will admit I am guilty of looking at seemingly simple paintings and thinking “I could paint that.” Fast forward years later and boy let me tell you, it is wayyyy harder than it looks. In fact, I’d love to challenge you all try and paint abstractly and see what you think! :) How do you paint a feeling? Abstract art is truly making something from nothing- that is so much harder than painting from a photograph.
Art Critic Jerry Staltz explains abstract art so beautifully in his abstract manifesto when he says:
“Abstraction is staggeringly radical, circumvents language, and sidesteps naming or mere description. It disenchants, re-enchants, detoxifies, destabilizes, resists closure, slows perception, and increases our grasp of the world”
“Abstraction brings the world into more complex, variable relations; it can extract beauty, alternative topographies, ugliness, and intense actualities from seeming nothingness”
“Abstraction is something outside of life that allows us to be present at our own absence or alternatively absent in our own presence”
I also love that he points out that “Abstraction is as old as we are. It has existed for millennia outside the West. It is present on cave walls, in Egyptian and Cypriot Greek art, Chinese scholar rocks, all Islamic and Jewish art — both of which forbid representation. Abstraction is only new in the West”
All of my “realistic” pieces have an abstract flair to them and are embellished in some way. I think it’s just so much more interesting that way- to put certain colors (like pink) where they “don’t belong” or add wobbly shapes instead of perfectly straight lines. If I wanted art that was 100% representational and accurate I would just take a photograph – or better yet-hire a good photographer.
Some folks will never understand or appreciate abstract art and that’s fine; it’s not for everyone. Maybe 5-year-olds can make beautiful abstract art and maybe it’s a compliment to be able to connect with your inner child and paint with reckless abandon!