Understanding the Complexity and Depth in Abstract Art
abstract art



When it comes to expressing the non-figurative, indescribable, and conceptual aspects of human experience, abstract art stands alone. Often misunderstood, regularly underappreciated, abstract art invites us to transcend the boundaries of traditional aesthetics, to roam in the realm of pure form, color, texture, line, and emotion. It is a manifestation of Caliban beholding his face in a mirror and not recognizing the reflection. This article will ponder upon the complexity, depth, and significance of abstract art and attempt to decrypt its enigma for those who find it difficult to comprehend.

Abstract art, alternatively known as non-representational art, non-objective art, or non-figurative art, withdrew from the objective world’s portrayal to create visual renditions that do not represent concrete realities or narratives. Born out of the cultural, philosophical, and artistic transformations at the onset of the 20th century, it stunned the conventional art-world with its audacious departure from representational art, which had ruled unquestioned hitherto.

A significant branching point in art history, abstract art necessitated a new visual language shorn of the traditional shackles of representation and naturalism. A sense of disorientation when viewing an abstract painting stems from the natural human tendency to seek recognizable figures, objects, or narratives in a visual composition. But in abandoning representative fidelity, abstract art challenges the viewer to find the meaning in the minutiae: in the idiosyncratic brush stroke, the melodic dance of colors and forms, and the erosion of pictured space.

Moving beyond the physical representation of the world, abstract art attempts to capture the world’s emotional, mental, and spiritual aspects, which can’t be encapsulated in quantifiable terms. It fundamentally works towards evoking feelings and expressing concepts that are universally significant but personally divergent, in what can be termed as subjective universality. For those who embrace its aesthetics, abstract art is visceral, forcing the viewer to confront the essence of the art – its color, shape, texture that hit the eye and stir the soul – bereft of the detractions of form and narrative.

The complexity of abstract art revolves around deciphering its veiled metaphor and the semantics of the personal visual language of the artist. It presents itself as an open-ended conversation, a dialogue where meanings aren’t delivered but discovered; they are equivalent rather than descriptive. This is not a one-way, vertical transaction from the artist’s canvas to the observer’s mind. Instead, the interpretation oscillates horizontally, resonating with personal experiences, emotions, and thought patterns, making every encounter unique yet shareable.

The depth in abstract art comes from the interplay of various elements and principles of design such as color, line, form, texture, composition, balance, and rhythm. The deliberate or spontaneous manipulation of these elements by the artist and the viewer’s emotional, psychological, cultural, and intellectual reaction to these manipulations provide the depth.

Consider Wassily Kandinsky, often considered the pioneer of pure abstract art. Kandinsky drew his inspiration from music, especially the non-representational nature of symphonic compositions. In his masterpieces, colors and forms do not represent or narrate any recognizable objects or stories, but they achieve a harmony analogous to a musical symphony, evoking emotional responses and spiritual experiences. His iconic ‘Composition VII’ 1913, can be likened to a visual orchestra, each stroke contributing to an overwhelming whole while maintaining their individual identities, mimicking the interplay within a symphony itself.

Similarly, American abstract expressionist Mark Rothko’s colossal, color-field paintings compel viewers to immerse themselves into the work. Rothko aimed for the self-encounter of the individual beholding his art through the primal purity of color, unrestricted by form. His ‘No. 61, Brown, Blue, Brown on Blue’, epitomizes his notion of art as an “adventure into an unknown world,” enveloping the audience into an enveloping, mystical universe of color and emotion.

Understanding and appreciating abstract art isn’t about ‘solving it,’ like a riddle or a mathematical equation. It rather resembles understanding and appreciating a poem or a piece of music. It is about exploring and experiencing the feelings and concepts it evokes. It impels us to abandon our reliance on the concrete, the explicit, and invites us into the world of the implicit, the abstract, the ineffable.

It offers an aesthetic experience where the viewer, rather than being spoon-fed meanings, becomes an active participant in identifying and concluding those meanings. It is as much a journey within oneself as it is a journey within the artwork, requiring openness, patience, empathy, and engagement. The ability to appreciate Abstract Art is a true testament to the human capability to think and feel beyond the tangible.

However, admittedly, to ‘read’ an abstract painting is challenging, especially for those unacquainted with this art form or those unaccustomed to deep emotional, intellectual, or spiritual introspection. But this journey of decrypting the symbols encoded in colors, lines, forms can be rewarding, revealing insights into our subconscious mind, our emotions: our joy, our pain, our fear, our desire, our spirituality, and our existence.

The mystery of abstract art lies not in its departure from the objective realm, unlocking vistas otherwise unseen, unfelt, and unheard. It lies in its pioneering exploration and pioneering expression of the ‘abstract,’ transforming the esoteric into the explicit, chiseling the mass of our ineffable emotions into a discernible, communicable form. The complexity and depth of abstract art, therefore, reflect the complexity and depth of the human experience itself.

Nonrepresentational art represents the liberation of the human spirit, challenging the norms of expression, comprehension, and communication. It paves a fertile ground where new artistic concepts can germinate and grow, proving that art, like human experience, dreams, and imagination, is boundless. Embracing the aesthetic of abstract art is to celebrate the infinite mystery of human existence, in all its profound, transitory, and poignant glory.


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