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In abstract art, the artist uses a visual language of shapes, forms, lines and colors to interpret a subject-matter, without necessarily providing the viewer with a recognisable visual reference point.
bstract art can be a painting or sculpture (including assemblage) that does not depict a person, place or thing in the natural world - even in an extremely distorted or exaggerated way. Therefore, the subject of the work is based on what you see: color, shapes, brushstrokes, size, scale and, in some cases, the process (see action painting). Abstract art began in 1911 with such works as Picture with a Circle (1911) by the Russian artist Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944).
Kandinsky believed that colors provoke emotions. Red was lively and confident; Green was peaceful with inner strength; Blue was deep and supernatural; Yellow could be warm, exciting, disturbing or totally bonkers; and White seemed silent but full of possibilities. He also assigned instrument tones to go with each color: Red sounded like a trumpet; Green sounded like a middle-position violin; Light Blue sounded like flute; Dark Blue sounded like a cello, Yellow sounded like a fanfare of trumpets; and White sounded like the pause in a harmonious melody.
These analogies to sounds came from Kandinsky's appreciation for music, especially that by the contemporary Viennese composer Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951). Kandinsky's titles often refer to the colors in the composition or to music, for example "improvisation."
The French artist Robert Delaunay (1885-1941) belonged to Kandinsky's Blue Rider (Die Blaue Reiter) group, and with his wife, Russian-born Sonia Delaunay-Turk (1885-1979), they both gravitated toward abstraction in their own movement Orphism or Orphic Cubism.
Understanding abstract art is easy: all it requires is an open mind and a big imagination. When you look at the painting on the left, what do you see?
Swirling shapes, an array of colorful patterns... The path of a flowing river cutting through fields of lush vegetation... or maybe you see pure energy and cosmic flow?
There is no right or wrong answer to this question. Abstract art is open to interpretation, and that is one of the beautiful things about it. Abstract art doesn't jump out and declare "THIS is what I'm all about." Instead, abstract art requires you to have an open, inquiring mind; you must enter the painting and see where it takes you. Abstract art gives you the freedom to explore the artwork and assign your own meaning to the piece. This intensely personal process enriches a viewer's experience of an artwork.
Understanding abstract art does not come naturally for everyone. It is the kind of art that makes some people scratch their heads and say, "My 5-year old could do that." What people don't realize is that the best abstract artists have excellent drawing skills, a finely honed sense of composition, and a deep understanding of the workings of color. Most abstract artists have the ability to draw a perfectly rendered rose or a realistic portrait, but they choose not to. Instead they choose to express their creativity by creating a visual experience that is more free and unencumbered by the weight of objects.
Abstract art can also make people uneasy because they don't automatically know what the art is "about" just by a cursory glance. Or they assume that because it doesn't look like anything, then it is not "about" anything. Abstract art doesn't contain recognizeable objects, so there is nothing to grasp or hold onto. This can be very confusing, even threatening, to some who are not used to assigning their own meaning to what they see before them.
The truth is, abstract art is not "about nothing". At its basis, it is about form, color, line, texture, pattern, composition and process. These are the formal qualities of artwork, because they describe what the art looks like and how it is created. Abstract art is an exploration of these formal qualities. Meaning is derived from how these formal qualities are used to create a visual (and/or visceral, cerebral, emotional, etc) experience.
Art with no defined meaning. Its purpose is to let the viewer interpret its meaning for him/herself. More often than not, abstract art is a collection of meaningless shapes and colors thrown onto a canvas. The intellectual art community, however, looks at this and calls the author a genius, promptly shelling out tons of money to buy a mess that could have been accidentally created by a two year old.