When you visit our gallery, you’ll see all kinds of paintings hanging on the walls. Beautifully painted landscapes and still lifes. Seascapes and skyscapes. Elegant florals and evocative figures. And plenty of abstracts, too. We love the mix and we’ve learned over the years that the key to understanding and appreciating abstract art is to quieten our minds and let our instincts and senses do the talking.
Abstract art, by definition, is a painting, sculpture or installation that does not depict a person, place or thing of the natural world. Huh? Believe us, we get lots of questions about the abstracts in the gallery and they usually sound something like this:
“I don’t get this. What’s it about?”
“My five-year-old could paint this.”
“I like paintings I can understand.”
To all these comments and more, we say: we understand you and we totally get where you’re coming from. Art can be intimidating and scary and leave you feeling unsure and uneasy – all of which goes against our grain at Huff Harrington. So, here are a couple tips to make the whole process of understanding abstract art more enjoyable and rewarding. And, watch out. If you’re not already, you may become a convert.
I’m Nervous! Yes…abstract art can be a little nerve-wracking. And that’s because the responsibility of understanding it falls directly to the viewer. When this happens, we like to gently lead the client into the painting with this analogy: imagine the painting is a symphony. Instead of closing your eyes and listening to the music, try closing your ears and just look at the painting. Explore the painting on your own terms and come to your own conclusions. Abstract art is all about form, line, palette and composition. And when those elements come together on a canvas, the results can be magical.
What’s the Right Answer? There’s not a right answer and there’s not a wrong answer either – but you may have to work a little bit to figure that out. Because there’s no familiar image to relate to while viewing an abstract painting, you really have to open your mind and re-align what you’ve been taught about art. You have to let go of pre-conceived notions and let your sense take over the driving. We’ll hear this: “Is the artist trying to convey water or a wave? Because I’m not sure if that looks like a wave but I really like the way he/she put the paint in that one spot.” That visitor to the gallery just got an A+ for looking at the abstract painting for what it is, not what it’s supposed to be. It’s all about being open to interpretation.
Make It Personal: It’s best to see abstract art in person. Because there’s often not an identifiable subject in the painting, the nuances that create the painting can be lost in photography or on the internet. Because abstract art is rooted in non-tangible subjects, the technical aspects of the painting become even more important. The use of media can add texture, depth and dimension – all of which could be lost in a photograph. Even better, try to meet the artist. Ask lots of questions. You’ll begin to understand the reasoning behind the creativity- and the artist will be thrilled to talk about it.
My Five-Year-Old….: it takes great skill to create a meaningful abstract piece. And what may look like random squiggles on a canvas or blotchy areas of paint are actually the result of a perfect little storm of composition, form and aesthetic. Study an abstract that you’re drawn to for a while and all of sudden it all makes sense.
Let Your Heart Guide You: Art’s all about the emotional tug at your heart and if it’s a calming seascape, an intriguing figure or an elegant floral that sends you to your happy spot, that’s wonderful. Don’t force yourself to love something that scares you or makes you uneasy.
But here’s our little suggestion: give it some time and keep your mind open. Live with it for a day or two. Remember it’s a visual symphony and let yourself soar with it. And, who knows…you may end up loving it. That’s the elemental beauty of art: you just never know where it’s going to take you or when it’s going to steal your heart.
P.S. visit our website to see more Art Talk Tips….