Abstract and non-representational art

Overview of Abstract and Non-representational Art

  • Abstract art is a genre that moves away from portraying an accurate representation of visual reality. Instead, it uses colours, shapes and forms to achieve its effect.
  • Sometimes, abstract art might start from a concrete subject, but the resulting work is distorted or simplified so that it becomes unrecognizable.
  • Non-representational art is a subcategory of abstract art, where the artwork does not represent or depict a being, place or thing in the natural world at all.
  • Abstract and non-representational art can be both non-objective, where it doesn’t represent anything specifically, and objective, where it is an abstraction of a real subject.
  • The emotional and sensory impact, rather than visual imitation, is often the focus of abstract and non-representational art.
  • Artists like Wassily Kandinsky and Piet Mondrian were pioneers in the development of these genres in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Techniques in Abstract and Non-representational Art

  • Artists can freely experiment with various mediums and techniques in creating abstract and non-representational art, including painting, sculpture and even digital media.
  • Colour theory is a key aspect, with artists often using colour to evoke emotions or create a certain mood.
  • Composition is vital, with lines, shapes, and forms often arranged to achieve balance, unity or contrast. The relationships and tensions between these elements are often key to the work’s effect.
  • Artists might employ techniques like impasto, dripping or action painting, adding to the emotional intensity and visual complexity of the piece.
  • This genre often employs non-traditional materials and methods, which challenge conventional notions about what art should be.

Evolution of Abstract and Non-representational Art

  • The development and rise of abstract and non-representational art can be linked to the broader modernist movement in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
  • Russian artist Wassily Kandinsky is often credited as the pioneer of non-objective art, with his work moving towards increasing abstraction in the early 20th century.
  • The De Stijl and Bauhaus movements in the early 20th century further solidified abstraction’s place in modern art, with a focus on geometric shapes and primary colours.
  • Artists like Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko were key figures in the mid-20th century abstract expressionist movement in America, exploring non-representational, emotionally charged compositions.
  • Contemporary abstract art continues to evolve, with artists playing with representation, physical shape of the artwork, and digital technology, pushing the boundaries of what we understand as ‘abstract’.

Analysis of Abstract and Non-representational Art

  • Interpreting abstract and non-representational art can often be challenging due to its inherent ambiguity, and requires an open, subjective approach.
  • The relationship between colour, line, shape, form, and texture and their emotional resonance should be considered during analysis.
  • Consideration should also be given to the composition, including the principle of balance, contrast, unity, variety, and depth.
  • The artist’s choice of medium or materials, any visible techniques used, and the scale of the artwork can also provide context for interpretation.
  • We must also consider the broader historical, social, and cultural context within which the artwork was created, even though the art may not represent these elements directly.
  • It’s often important to research the artist’s own commentary or philosophy, if available, as it can provide key insights into the artwork.